Friday, December 30, 2011

End of a Year: Smell Ya Later, 2011.

I've never been a big fan of the whole New Year's Eve thing. The partying, the booze, the arbitrary marking of time and reification of that limiting and often demoralizing human construct -- being an introvert, it doesn't really work for me.



I tend to refrain from celebrating or making any acknowledgement the 'new year'. (In the off-chance that anyone ever wondered, that's one of the reasons that I don't post end-of-year 'best of' lists on this blog, that and the fact that it seems like lazy journalism/information better kept to one's livejournal or whatever.) I might make resolutions, but I try to avoid the sort of empty reflection and premature nostalgia that the holiday calls for. Call me weird, but if I can be aware of both myself and the things happening around me, if I can be smart about my behavior, its consequences, and how to modify it for better future results, I'd like to be that way all year, rather than for one night or one week.

But the end of 2011 is shaping up to be the exception. It's been a weird year, people. It's been a long year. It's had its moments, but it was frequently unpleasant, and often lonely. It looks like it's going to have a relatively happy ending, but only after an inauspicious beginning and really difficult middle. So much has happened that it's hard to not look back on it. There's been a lot of change, and I feel like I've learned a lot, so for the past couple weeks I've been trying to process it and figure out how to make use of it all.

In terms of this blog, it's been a quiet year; I only managed to post a few times. I'd like to tell you all more specifics about everything that went down -- you know, a sort of explanation-slash-sharing of what might be helpful information for others who have dealt with traumas.

But like so many people, I'm kinda still tired from Christmas, so, I made a mix instead. There's a song for each month of 2011, to mark both how I remember feeling that month, and what I was listening to at that time. It feels like a bit of a copout, sure -- but to blog more in 2012 is one of my resolutions. So enjoy, and see you all then.

January: Mortals -- "Hellmouth"
February: Bikini Kill -- "Blood One"
March: Seven Year Bitch -- "Give It to Me"
April: Black Flag -- "Can't Decide"
May: Versaemerge -- "Figure It Out"
June: White Lung -- "Shoot"
July: Babes in Toyland -- "Ripe"
August: Sleater-Kinney -- "The Fox"
September: Warpaint -- "Bees"
October: Drive Like Jehu -- "Good Luck in Jail"
November: Refused -- "Tannhäuser/Derivè"
December: Sonic Youth -- "Genetic"

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Do you remember when we couldn't put it away?

I would have posted this yesterday, but I spent most of the day preparing for and then partying down at the (almost) last P.S. Eliot show, WHOOPS!

Back in October I headed over to Brooklyn Fireproof to support my friends and fellow volunteers in Aye Nako. Perhaps out of what could be described as professional habit, I got there early to check out the other bands. (Short report: Mitten dropped off last minute; Troubled Sleep and Once A Pawn? Both worth googling. I'm just saying.) But I really wasn't there in any kind of professional capacity. I was there for friendhangs, not for blog fodder.


[Image: A brown, wide-eyed stuffed monkey sits on a table.]
Flier for Brooklyn Fireproof show. And again, those bands are worth looking up!

So naturally, something reminded me of this internet space that I've been neglecting lately. I was at the merch table to say my good nights to the band when drummer Angie asked me, "So what did you think?"

When a person asks for your opinion like that -- or I guess when I ask someone for their thoughts on something I've done -- it's a request for some kind of reassurance, for support. It translates to, "I'm not feeling great about this, remind why I do this?" The idea of Angie, as in, "Angie Boylan (ex-Cheeky, ex-Very Okay, ex-Little Lungs, Each Others Mothers)", asking me for reassurance seemed bizarre. Trying to recover from my shock, I asked, "What did I think? Uh…why?"

"Well, I care about your opinion," she shrugged. Cue more shock. "You're probably the only one," I said, trying to play it cool. "I doubt that that's true," she smiled skeptically.

Standing at the merch table I considered those words. "Your opinion". There was no explicit mention of this blog, or of my pseudo-career as a music journalist, but those words made me think, Oh, right -- you used to have opinions on everything you listened to, you used to share them via this blog, and at one point it seemed like people actually wanted to know what you thought about stuff.

That time feels like a different life. Back then, I had the time and energy to go to multiple shows every week, to acquire and listen to countless demos and new releases every month, to record my reactions, and to update this blog every single week, sometimes three times in a five day span! I remember being able to do all of that, but only just barely. I certainly can't imagine being able to do that ever again.

But I do remember that I loved doing it. And after what has been a long and strange year, I'm finally starting to genuinely want to contribute to and participate in my community again. I'm slowly starting to remember what and how much all of this meant to me.

So I've quietly begun writing again, for other publications; writing your own blog is a pretty solitary pursuit and what I've needed lately is to work with other people. I wrote a piece for the recent issue of Hoax Zine. I've contributed two reviews to Tom Tom Magazine. Last month I read at Meet Me at the Race Riot: People of Color in Zines from 1990 to Today, and later wrote an as-yet unpublished account of my experience at the event for co-organizer and moderator Daniela Capistrano.

To be blunt about it: I've been really lucky. I'm fortunate enough to be able to do all of this, and to know cool people who are doing cool things, and who are willing to print my work. I'm lucky that after a year of being unable to write, I've started to recover my abilities, and that at least some friends are still interested in reading and hearing what I have to say.

But for as grateful as I am for all of the aforementioned opportunities, and as much as I love writing, I think what I've really wanted and what I've really struggled with is needing a very specific kind of validation from my friends. What I've really wanted is for someone to say to me, "You're going to be okay." I wanted someone to insist that regardless of what I do, whether I blog or not, whether I write I or not, that I'm going to figure things out and that everything will be fine, or some version of it.

No one has told me anything like this. I haven't really asked, because even though I think it's important to ask for what you need, especially emotionally, sometimes it feels weird to request that sort of validation.

What I have been told, more than once, is that I "shouldn't" need that sort of validation, that I "shouldn't depend on people" for it, and that I should be more self-sufficient. And yes, self-confidence and self-reliance are both really important But what I've learned in the last year is that support, especially when you live and operate alone, is pretty fucking important too. If you are fortunate enough to have family, friends, roommates, and co-workers that you see daily, if you haven't had the experience of really being on your own, you wouldn't know this. But I have been on my own, so I do know it.

But what I also know, passive aggressive-soap box-venting aside, is that you can get so wrapped up in what you need that you don't see what you have. I still want someone to tell me that I'm going to eventually be fine, and I consider that to be perfectly reasonable. But that doesn't negate the less direct support and validation I've received.

Friend, co-organizer, and community pillar Kate Wadkins asked me to read at Meet Me at the Race Riot, with the likes of Osa Atoe and Mimi Thi Nguyen, Kate believed that I belonged at that reading, even if I don't really. Friends in other bands have asked about my work, and about writing about their bands, surely out of need for publicity, but also because they must like something about what I do. My bff Cary bugs me about writing in particular on the regular. (Direct quote: "Update your blog, you daft wanker!")

I could write all of this off as empty talk. But, at this point, I choose not to. I choose, instead, to (at least attempt to) be gracious about it, and accept it as a compliment. It only took Angie Boylan randomly asking me for my opinion to get me to realize it.

To answer her question, Aye Nako's set that night was tight, if casual. The band seems to be writing new songs at the moment, and is gradually debuting new material at their local shows. There's a plenty that I could and would really like to say about what I've heard so far, but I think that that's a different post for a different day.