My Heart Could Use Some Glasses

The moments of happiness that crack us are powerful because they aren’t breaking things down, but breaking things open. I don’t want to rebuild the fortress around my heart.

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We are broken people. I can only speak confidently about Americans in this instance, but for the most part, despite being a relatively wealthy country with access to the essentials for survival, as well as oodles of distraction and entertainment, pleasure and leisure, were all pretty fucked up. I don’t know any one who I would say has good psychic health. Everyone I know suffers. There are many reasons for this. We are an emotional country despite what we tend to project and expect of each other. And perhaps that’s on purpose as our movements to emote are defiance against a culture that doesn’t want us to express our feelings.

My experiences with being emotional are increasing. No, I don’t count passionate ranting and raving as emotional. That is my dictatorial side emerging in an effort to browbeat argumentative opponents. Or so I will state. But in all seriousness, situations that require me to have intense emotions are not something I do well with, either positive or negative. Happiness and sadness are two extremes that I would rather not engage in. I’d rather remain neutral, like I have been taught. I guess in some cases obedience is the way.

As has already become theme here in the relaunch of the Korrupt Yrself Corporation for World Domination Propaganda Department, talking about the ass whopping that 2016 has rendered upon myself and others I wanted to once again explore this idea of slowing down, offer an anecdote, some insight perhaps, into just how slowing down the speed has offered new perspective. Gaining new perspective seems to be a large sacrifice of the time and work that needs to be done as Nazi’s invade our government, take over our psyche, plant fake news stories to distract us by means of creating paranoia and other such horrifying shit that is still to come. And as much as I want to talk at length about #pizzagate and NODAPL, things that affect me directly in indirect ways, today I want to give you, dear reader something a little more heart warming. Because in a moment where-in I was blindsided, my heart broke in one of those great and beautiful ways.

Since town crier, ranting lunatic, public nuisance, soapbox syndicate and asshole are not jobs I can claim nor get paid for, I have to work (at least until you all make me a famous author. Buy my stuff here, here and here). Currently I am employed by a community college as a person who takes notes for people with various disabilities. I did  not pursue this job at first because I am a kindhearted person who wanted to make a difference while earning a less than livable wage. I needed a job. This one is one I knew I could do successfully. It was short-term solution to a long-term problem of previous, though enjoyed, unemployment. In other words, altruism is not one of my key motivators. I could give a fuck about people. Or so I thought.

You wouldn’t think something as simple as showing up for community college courses and copying down what teachers say would be so substantial to a person’s life. For the most part too, our work often goes relatively unnoticed as it is. Which is good. I like when my work is seamless and unnoticed when I have to make money at something that doesn’t concern me personally. It makes for a pleasant employment experience where the time I trade for money is finished at the same time everyday and no one talks to me about it and I don’t think about it when I get home. Sometimes however, someone does recognize your work. This is a short story about this happening to me.

One of my students, I won’t talk in detail about her, but she’s young and newly in college. Of her many traits two are important to this story, she is cute as a button in that way that people can be cute like teddy bears and kittens and puppies. It’s not human, but comforting and forces you to smile. Part of what makes her this way is she always smiles. Based on the very little I do know about her, this is meaningful. Her life was and is filled with more obstacles than mine for many reasons. And yet, every day, she smiles. She is proud and happy to be doing what many people have probably told her she would never or could never do. That is a reality about people with disabilities that most people don’t share. We assume that their different traits prevent them from achieving what is totally obtainable. It’s fucked up and ugly and it pisses me off and has propelled me in new directions I never considered before. This young lady has conquered that. If anyone has the right to be proud and happy for themselves it is her.

My job does not require me to interact with the students I serve. I like this. I’m not a people person. I don’t mind serving the public and others, but I don’t generally want to interact with them or know them. I do not have to interact with this student. I sit in the back of her class, listen to her teacher talk and give instruction and write it down. Then I leave. So, when she approached me on the last day of class I was at first confused.

Another thing you need to know about me is that I don’t like cake. I find frosting to be a displeasing texture, one of the few food stuffs that I find off-putting because of that quality. And cake is just gross. Somehow it’s both moist and dry at the same time and is always over flavored not matter what. Fuck cake.

But I ate cake the other day. Happy and with tears streaming down my face in courtyard outside on a cold December day. Why? Because when this young woman came up to me to thank me for the work I did, which in the class she was taking was honestly not that much, I gladly and fully accepted. Look, I’m not gonna lie, the presenter had a lot to do with my acceptance of and following reaction to the cake. Even just the gesture in this case cracked through all the protective layers, fortitude, walls, security and roadblocks I have put up around my heart. The cold chill of isolation was evaporated by the warmth of her thank you. My heart tore open, over flowed with emotion and gratitude and a thousand little fairies exploded into the air reciting the lines to Promise Ring and Braid songs of yesteryear. And yeah, I cried a little bit. Not in front of her. Science No! That would be embarrassing. But I did, on a cold bench, sitting and staring at a piece of chocolate cake with pink mousse frosting as a few strangers walked by looking at me like the idiot I felt like in that moment.

I was just doing my job, one I fully believe is thankless. This is necessary work to provide equity to those our culture casts aside and designs in spite of. While I do wish I could get a livable wage to do it so that I could do this for the rest of my life, I have no other complaints about my job. I honestly love what I do and that is reward enough for me. I think about my students, feel disappointed in myself when my own life gets in the way, as it had a few times this semester. When I wake up and my body hurts and it’s too cold or too hot and my depression is fully set on my shoulders I think if I don’t go to work the burden of providing this equity is stressed even further. My work means more than just what I get out of it and that fuels me to do it, even at the expense of my own desires and dreams. My student didn’t need to thank me. I was just doing my duty to my community in one of the easiest ways possible.

I’m not fully recovered from this. Much like the loss of my two pets, the crushing fear set in by some fat fascist winning a presidential election, friends suffering and all the other shit 2016 has decided to throw at me, I am effected by this. Yes, it’s a positive, reassuring and beautiful thing, but it moved me from my norm during a time when my norm has been disturbed and shifted quite a bit. So I am taking the time to reflect on this, very deeply, because I never, ever, ever want to forget the smile on that young woman’s face as she expressed her thanks and offered me a small token of her appreciation in the form of pink frosted cake. I need to reflect on this moment, memorialize it because I am going to need the image of that smile to be able to be recalled quickly in times of stress, self-doubt and duress since those moments are likely to increase in the coming months and years.

The moments of happiness that crack us are powerful because they aren’t breaking things down, but breaking things open. I don’t want to rebuild the fortress around my heart (with apologies to Ida Maria). I want to look at the rubble with pride that something so simple could catch me off guard and release the best part of me even if I feel unsure and vulnerable. I want to be that smile for others. I want us all to be broken this way.

Quick Music Reviews

This is a list of stuff I am listening to at present. I am going to jump around a lot here. Short or long or whatever. Like the back of a punk magazine. You know, you should read one.

Bad Banana – Crushfield  – Self Released (FREE). I downloaded this ages ago and just listened to it now, tonight. It’s one of them Crutchfield sisters projects you’ve read about in the NY Times and shit cuz being a hipster treasure now makes you news worthy (not a diss on them or their music, but I bet a lot of dick heads are already talking about what sell outs they are). Anyway, the production on this demo sounds pretty low fi, and if you like that stuff, then you’ll love the syrupy pop-crunch punk with almost 90’s indie sound. For me it worked better for Waxahatchee, the low fi production made it intimate. Here it sounds like something they’ve already grown out of and forgotten.

Propagandhi – Failed States Epitaph Records. I want to love this album like I love the last three albums by Canada’s greatest export (next to toothless hockey players) but I am having a hard time with it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the Prop, so it hits all the points you’d expect. But that’s kind of the problem, it started out with a soft little intro and got all melodic and explosive just like I thought it would. It’s a predictable listen which is not what one expects from these angry anarchists from the north. I love the licks, the riffs, the vocals and the lyrics, but it sounds like the corresponding b-sides to Supporting Caste rather than a fresh effort. I’m trying to find its voice, but I’ll never give up on this band.

Big Eyes Back From The Moon 7″. Grave Mistake Records. There is a comic in Razorcake #69 by Liz Prince who writes the most crush-worthy comics ever. She loves pop punk. She wrote this comic about seeing Big Eyes in NYC. I hate NYC, but I checked out this single and I love it. It’s got that fresh but familiar energy of The Ergs. All the best parts about pop punk and indie rock that makes bands awesome. I also checked out there LP from 2011 (Hard Life) but I like this a bit better. The two songs on this 7″ have a great bit of energy and are just a bit crisper. But you should get into this band if you like to bounce around your living area in your underwear listening to music singing into a hair brush or at yr cats.

White Lung Sorry Deranged. This album smokes. I love this band. This is what music is supposed to be. Energetic, frightening, desperate. White Lung takes you to the edge. I don’t know if I want to kill or cry when I listen to this album. I feel alone, wandering the streets with no purpose, desperate for anything, hand on my pocket knife. No rules. No Cell Phone. Nowhere to go. A lot of bands get recognition outside of punk that is often unwarranted. There are bands that people who have listened and dedicated themselves to the genre know are just temporal and luke warm. White Lung sounds like nothing else and deserve to break the genre ghetto of appreciation. Devastating times call for damaged music. This is what I will be listening to when they finally start that war that ends us all. It’s coming. Here is your soundtrack to die to.

Kamikabe Abberation of Man Unique Leader. This is pure fucking awesome Death Metal and I love it. Working on a metal show I’ve gotten into death metal again and have been revisiting lots of Obituary. This band sounds nothing like them, but reminds me of what it is I first loved about Obituary (who isn’t just one of my favorite metal bands, but one of my favorite bands and Allen West is one of my favorite guitar players). Anyway, Kamikabe kicks it in the face. The kids would probably call this technical death metal. It has some great elements that remind me of Dying Fetus, Cattle Decapitation and Pig Destroyer. But make no mistake, this Pittsburgh five piece is their own band. It’s hard to stand out and be distinguishable in a genre of music that has so many rules and where being tech is so important, but Kamikabe stand out from the crowd.

Aesop Rock Skelathon Rhyme Sayers. It’s an Aesop Rock record, alright. You can’t really say this guy sounds like anything. I don’t even know if it’s hip hop. The musical language that Aesop Rock speaks is his own. And this truly is his album. Almost all the beats, lyrics and sounds are his. Aside from a few vocals from a few other people, he did it all. And it’s a sad sounding album. The Ian Curtis of rap. The Joy Division of hip-hop music. I worry about Ian Bavitz, then he puts out a record and goes on tour.

Swearin’ S/T Salinas Records (FREE). This is a first listen review. Literally listening to it for the first time. It did not come with a download code when I bought the record so I had to find this on the internet, which I was able to over at http://www.ifyoumakeit.com for donation/free. There is a lot of hype about this record and it’s not unfounded. It reminds me off some Discount, Superchunk, The Promise Ring, and a lot of pop-rock indie music that I don’t listen to that much anymore. It’s got that same feel as early Lemuria singles before they went all weird. Swearin’ might be a braver bet, making music that is catchy and accessible. It can be hard to wade in waters already tread and try to find new, interesting stones, but Swearin’ here seems to have confidence in what they are doing. Great work on the warbling vocals too. Someone earns a gold star on mixing for this one. Best aspect of the production that is otherwise straight forward.

Stop Breathing S/T No Idea Records. CHUGGAGHUGGAGHUGGAGHUGGAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Are you looking to have your mind blown or are you looking to pedal your ten speed bike as fast as you can down your street like you did when you were ten? IF you want the later, this skate rock inspired, three chord SOCAL punk rock will make you wish for those endless summer days when you didn’t care about anything but 50-50 Stalls on the curb and building the worst launch ramps in history. Nothing fancy, just the essentials. Dated but still timeless. Get those rat bones out kid, yr gonna need the big wheels to grind those curbs.

Post-Teens The Heat No Idea Records. Post Teens has the guitar player from Asshole Parade/Dead Friends +more so I thought this was gonna be heavy, but it’s more like the sloppy, low-fi, pop punk for drunk old dudes that my man Todd Taylor is all into. Oh yeah a dude from Shitstorm/Torche is in this band too. But like they all switch up on instruments and shit. It’s just punk rock music. Six songs, six minutes, it’s a good quick fix. I still wish it was a grind record, but I get the point.

Low Culture S/T Dirt Culture Records (FREE). Ex-member of Shang-A-Lang from Las Cruces New Mexico where they have a place where bands come through and tour instead of Albuquerque because Duke City is a weird town with a weird scene. Jangly guitars, catchy little ditties with a bit of space in there to build some excitement. Gets a little late 90’s pop-emo (the break down in “I Didn’t Know”) for a moment. Bryan Adams would be proud. Or maybe Ryan Adams would be cuz I think these dudes would just be like fuck it. It’s kinda all over the place, kinda like the Ergs because they had a lot of influences. I think they are still exploring all the sounds they are capable of. There’s enough here to make me check them out in the future.

Dan Padilla Sports Fans Dirt Culture Records (FREE). Dan Padilla (the band, not the man) has once again put out an album you can get free. Which makes two in a row. Davey from Tiltwheel/Too Many Daves plays in this band. This album, not quite as exciting as As the Ox Plows. It’s a little too Tim Version without the grit and grime. I liked the hints of sounds and influences of the last album. But I’m just kind of luke warm to this one.

Heathers  Kingdom Aunthill Records. I’m pretty sure that Heathers are the biggest thing in Ireland now and it’s well worth it. Kingdom finds the Macnamara sisters reaching way far out from their humble debut Here Not There. Luckily for me (or them?) I am a huge pop diva fan, because they get in some territory I did not expect, but I love. The bare sound of  an acoustic guitar and vocals are all but gone here. Instead they go all out, relying on a heavy dose of piano and dance beats to make their music now. But the root of what makes Heathers a band that I love is the vocals of Ellie and Louise. The melodies and harmonies are beautiful and striking. So when the duo makes this obvious move to go bigger, they don’t really sacrifice what makes them great, empowering lyrics, solid songs at the core and great singing. I mean masterful singing. This album has been on constantly in my home over the last week and probably will be for quite some time. It’s proof that pop music can be big and grand and sound slick and still be good, if you know how to write a damn song. Ellie and Louise do. I can’t wait to see them rise to heights as great as their talent.

XX Coexist Young Turks. I haven’t been lucid enough before going to bed to really listen to this album the way I want to. But what I have heard so far, I love. I shouldn’t love this. It’s too pretty, weird, soft and subtle for a man in his mid thirties who still thinks BEING LOUD AS FUCK is a good idea. Other reviews that I have read call this record even more minimal than their self titled debut, but I don’t find it that way at all. I think there is a subtle quality to the production that is amazing. It also helps that this trio fell in love with Sade, whose work I am both familiar with and a fan of. The influence shines through on some of their “bigger” songs (“Swept Away” and “Reunion”). This album also has a shit load more space in which the band finds a grove. The debut, while beautiful often felt restricted. For all its empty space, Coexist sounds like a big record. I need to spend more time with this, I feel like it’s getting lost in my collection and I’m pretty sure I love it as much as the first album, just like everyone else.

Tooth Soup Casting off Curses Plan-It-X (only $.66). Chris Clavin is back with a new punk band, but it sounds more like a collective effort then many of his previous works. He’s letting the influence of the other members into his music, songs and lyrics and it’s refreshing. He does what he always does best with the boy/girl vocals of hope, optimism, angst and disappointment wrapped up in a cutting but pleasant bit of pop punk. Tooth Soup probably won’t be your instant favorite, and it wouldn’t be the album I would use to introduce Chris’s work to others with. But it shows maturity in sonic range and will grow on you quickly. The other thing I like is that each member gets a track to share their individuality. All the members have other projects and each gets to display their singularity. It’s a great way to show how it all comes together, how each members sensibility and perspective comes together through insight, communication and compromise to make a whole. That’s pretty damn daring.

Verse Bitter Clarity,Uncommon Grace Bridge 9. I’m not really sure how I feel about this band. I must like them because I keep finding my way to this album. I haven’t looked at a lyric sheet yet, but it feels like that awesome La Dispute record that came out last year that I am in love with (Wildlife, get it here for $8 you won’t regret it if you like stories and came of age in the 90’s). But it feels like this dude has something to say, I just wish I would take the time to figure it out. It’s definitely an album that’s all connected and shit. The songs don’t stand on their own, but become something as a whole piece. There is something distinct and exact about this album that I can’t quite put my finger on. Lots of guitar solos too, which seems weird yet weirdly works here.

Gaza No Absolutes in Human Suffering Blackmarket Activities. From Salt Lake City, Utah, I was really stretched (and still am) how a band could call themselves Gaza. I haven’t done my research yet, but a few people assured me this wasn’t a bunch of straight edge mormon dip shits playing at hardcore and considering my tastes for metal and grindcore I would probably dig this. It’s not the most slaughtering music I have ever heard and it gets a bit metalcore at times (which is a BAD THING) but when they decide to be brutal and awesome and dig the grind, it’s something my ears and angry heart are attracted to. The verdict is still out (two songs reach over six minutes, which even at pummeling speeds seems excessive to me) because I just can’t blindly trust a bunch of privileged white boys who call themselves Gaza. That’s some heavy geo-political implications they are making there. Takes balls. Lets see if they have the ovaries to back that shit up.