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My father is a magician.

My mother learned witchcraft during my lifetime.

I was blessed, truly blessed, to grow up in a household where occult practices were taught to me from a very young age. As I was growing up I was not only taught why magic works, the nature of metaphysics, the history (such as it can be properly known) of magic and HOW to do magic that works. That was a big thing that will come into this rant later. I did magic. It worked. This was assumed to be the norm. Magic isn't just a noun. It is also a verb. Very important, that.

I was given, and came to reaffirm, a literalist view on magic. Spirits are real, objective intelligences that exist primarily on the astral plane and beyond but can have limited physical manifestations. Magic that you do works on levels beyond your psychological self. That kind of view makes up how I feel about magic.

Imagine my shock and hurt feelings when I finally grow into my mid teens and meet other people who do magic. Now, granted, I had to take a bus into the city and find the occult shop which was giving a six PM class on the Goetia. That was perfect, thought I, since I'd been working with evocation from the Keys of Solomon since I was fourteen. I had two years of worthwhile experience, I thought. My biggest worry was that I'd still seem like an amateur to most people there who I assumed would be rather like my father: A successful and skilled magician.

I was there for about a half hour before I realized that something was less than I expected. Everybody kept talking about Crowley's intro to the Mathers translation where he suggests demons in the Goetia are just a part of people's minds. I am asked two questions. The first question being why I am there and whether or not I realized that you had to be eighteen to sit in and the second being what I thought about that. I remember my response perfectly and how logical it sounded (and still sounds) coming out.

"I take that to mean that Crowley wasn't a powerful enough magician to actually accomplish evocation properly and said this to not only save face with the magical community but to continue a largely iconoclastic personality cult he had going for him at the time."

Perfect, academic, pompous prose from the sixteen year old me with his hair down to his waist and his TOOL hoodie.

In the next hour everyone in the room, all beautiful, gothed-out people by my estimation, yelled at me. I was mad to actually take it literally. It's all code, after all. Everything I believed literally was only figurative and happened on a psychological level. To make matters worse, all the ritual I'd been doing, all the tools I'd built, they didn't actually do anything but re-affirm the psychological models in my head which allowed the magic to "work."

I went home and cried like a thirteen-year-old stood up on a date. I actually went home and cried to my parents for fuck's sake about how mean and wrong everyone was. My father shrugged and laughed and asked me what I expected. How much had I read about that very common theory of how magic works and how often had I proved it wrong myself? My magic, he reminded me, had tangible, documented results honed through experimentation, daily meditation and the focus on building it like an artisan hones his craft.

After that I very rarely talked to anyone about magic for a long time. This stopped when I fell in love with someone enough to try and prove it. I'll spare you the long, sordid and silly tale of me falling for this person and them convincing me to try and prove it to them. Skip to the attempt... I failed. I did magic I'd done a hundred times in the privacy of my own sanctum sanctorum and it had zero effect. I was summarily dumped and years passed, I moved on, and I never tried to prove it to anybody again.

The thing that cuts deepest is the reason why it failed. It's simply metaphysics, of course. My focus was not on the intent of the ritual but on proving the ritual worked. I'm not able to bifurcate my mind and do both at once and achieve success. It makes so much fucking sense and, yet, is the explanation that falls perfectly flat on its face every time under the scrutiny of any who don't do magic.

It's a truly damning artform, isn't it? The Hermit card in the tarot deck makes so much sense all of a sudden. I can picture, just out of frame, a bunch of delinquents fucking his yard up and he's waving his lantern about menacingly decrying "those damn kids." That makes me laugh. It also makes me want to cry a little.

The question that rattles around in my head is this: Why don't you, Mr. Magus, use the magic to change your shitty life situation? Why is it that we as occultists always shy away from using magic to bring us our own comfort?

I think media is to blame. SO many of our novels and television shows frown on magic users who use the HIGH AND MIGHTY ARTS OF MAGIC to make themselves happy on a selfish level. I don't know where this came from because old, medieval grimoires have zero fucking references to karma and all the references in the world to "so-and-so demon giveth riches and shit, dawg." So, that said, what's my problem? Why am I being such a coward and why don't I step up to the plate?

I think it's because, given the life I've lived this far, I've never had to do anything like this with magic. It's daunting. I don't know how to do it right, necessarily. That means I have to figure it out.

My apologies to anybody who feels the way about magic as did those people in the occult shop I visited nine years ago. I don't mean to shit on your beliefs. I just know my experiences have taught me otherwise. You could be existential on so many levels and ask me how I know anything is real, etc, etc, but I feel like that's too much effort. I'd like to be able to agree to disagree with people or even have been told it'd be inevitable and they'd still probably think I was insane.

Heh. Chaos magicians think Ceremonial magicians are batty. The Cryptozoologist thinks we're all fucking lame.

Unrelated news: I decided to try and grow a beard. This is a horrible idea so far. It's itchy and feels like razor wire is growing out of my face. I've never had more than three day's facial hair growth at a time before. I hope this doesn't end up sucking.


Jan. 10th, 2013 05:05 am
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I've mentioned my coworkers before.

I've mentioned how a number of them are miserable fucks. The most recent trend in their miserable fuckery is that it seems that they remembered that I'm only in my mid twenties where the youngest of them is in his late forties. This makes me still fall squarely in the range of "those ungrateful kids."

This title comes with everything you'd expect it to. I don't respect my elders based solely on the fact that they've seen more sunrises than I have, I don't follow pre-prescribed life paths to success, I have no intrinsic respect for the institution of marriage and I don't go out of my way to kill myself at any job thrown at me. All of these apparently make me a moral reprobate.

I feel like I'm fifteen again yelling back at some highschool teacher who is half as smart as me on a good day but... yeah. All of these things are true and for damn good reason.

Fuck you and your narratives, I say. They aren't valid out of hand any longer. Give respect to those who earn it, for sure. Never be afraid to ask someone who knows more than you, yeah. Don't be an idiot overcome by pride, definitely. But do not, under any circumstances, just assume that the way it was done before is the only way to do something.

I try and reason that the world is much changed from when they were children. I admit, though, that we are kids for longer now. Hell, I may be a kid forever in a sense beyond simply that of never losing the scope of wonder in the mind's eye to apathy. But, in the sense that I need not do the biblical "putting away of childish things" when it comes to what makes me happy or what I dream of doing, I may be forever immature.

I try to reason with them that life has to work with me if not for me. They still come from a time where one did what life laid out without question, it seems. They talk tall talk about how when they were coming up the world was some utopian place where nobody knew depravity and now the world is so encrusted with filth that it's not recognizable anymore. These are trite arguments and, yet, I allow myself to be pulled in. I fight a useless fight.

The only way I can win that fight is not find myself on their end when I reach that age.

On a note that is both related and unrelated at once, I broke up with my girlfriend three days ago.

I haven't mentioned her because I want to keep this blog as divorced from the people in my life as possible. I want to use it as a sort of venting journal as well as to restore some of the nostalgia I had from using livejournal years and years ago. I find it helps me to arrange my thoughts this way. It's helped in most aspects of my life, to be honest.

I broke up with her because she told me she wasn't getting what she wanted out of our relationship. I had no car. I had no glorious job. This left her to do all the driving and left the wage gap between us fairly obvious. She said she didn't want to keep wasting her time and I told her I'd do the kind thing and make it so she didn't have to. She intended to motivate me, obviously. She intended to spur me into action and fight for the right to be with her.

I just shrugged internally and let her down as gently as I could. I don't want that life. I don't want the life of a normal but slightly strange couple that she wanted. It would have led to moving in together, marriage (which is the last thing I want right now, personally) and scrubbing down all my eccentricity and slowly turning into something too boring for me even to hate.

Reading that back, it reeks of melodrama. Honestly giving it and her some thought... I find that it's probably true. She was the most normal, the most safe person I've ever dated. I dated her for years but during the whole of it she just stood out as the exemplified nature of opposites attracting. I mean, fuck... she'd never even been drunk before and she's twenty-four. She'd only had one other sex partner before me. She'd never been in a fight, stolen something or done anything wrong. Squeaky clean, that one.

Those are all perfectly valid life decisions but even I found myself wondering, sometimes. Now there is no wondering. It's done and over. I intend to still be a friend to her but I look back and wonder sometimes at how I should have ended it sooner. No changing the past, though. I can only focus on the present and future.

New year. New potential.

I'm going to have to get a fucking car or something, though. I very dearly don't want to as they do nothing but suck money away from people who own them and they need to be repaired every other week (or it seems so, anyway) but there may be no avoiding it.

Finally, since breaking up with her I've done more writing and practiced more per day than I did on any given day in the last year. That might be a good sign.
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"You're not really doing so well, are you?"

That's what Chelsea asked me just tonight. I wanted to lie to her and tell her that I'm fine. I wanted to say that I'm just moving forward slowly but the gradual progress is enough as long as it's present and that my life doesn't feel like a prison. I wanted to say that, even though life isn't perfect, I count my blessings and that makes it okay.

I wanted to tell her these things but I decided to tell her the truth. I always end up telling her the truth and I feel terrible because it ends up worrying her. I could hear it in her voice over the phone. She had this strained kind of yearning to hug me and to fix my problems. It hurt her to know that she couldn't. It hurt me that she isn't the kind to bitch me out for being sad.

I could be crippled. I could be blinded, in a wheelchair, without hands to do anything. I could be so much worse off than I am. I'm warm, I'm safe, I'm in a place that requires nothing of me with parents who, despite being at odds with one another, are more than happy to give me incredibly expensive things. I know I have no right to be sad and, yet, there I am.

I'm gaining weight because I eat instead of exercise. I'm watching too damn much Netflix because I tell myself I might as well get use out of it while I can before I cancel the thing. This wastes time. I'm practicing less than I ought to and I barely write anymore. I just sit and convert oxygen into carbon dioxide in front of an admittedly impressive monitor and wallow in my own negative feelings.

I can already feel myself getting repetitive on this blog. Life is sad. My circumstances are stifling. I complain, I cry, I gnash my teeth and pace the floor and stalk the four corners of the cage my dumb ass constructed around me. I should have been smarter. I should have known this would happen.

How do I find my way out of this? I'm tired of waiting, I'm tired of growing older. There's got to be a way.

Forgive the pathetic nature of this post. This journal is mostly a venting outlet, you see.
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I am the shameless dude in his mid-twenties who doesn't hold back when his parents, with whom he lives, decide to shower him with gifts as though he had only just started high school.

They decided to get me, among other awesome things, a new computer.

It's a PC. I've been accustomed to a Mac for years. So far, though, with the exception of the fact that no music recording software is quite as intuitive for me as Logic (hence the name) it is superior in every way. I'm going to be using Ableton for the time being and I hope it's as solid as Logic was at least in most regards. I know it lacks the instrument library that Logic has but I think I can get plugins for that.

I hope?

I'll figure it out.

It's a desktop where before I had a laptop. I will shamelessly admit that this 21" monitor is epic for watching porn. I just couldn't resist. If you're one of the sort that CAN resist that temptation, I salute you. You are built of stronger starstuff than I. The difficult decision was mostly what sort of porn to watch first.

My only complaint is that the internet connection in my house doesn't seem to be super reliable tonight. It keeps bugging out

It's a typical Pittsburgh winter here. Gray and full of freezing rain. It's misty and spectral to my eyes and depressing to the eyes of most people I know. The solstice happened. I took advantage of the long night's potent energy but not as well as I intended. Oh well, next year. It's an important night but one that only happens once in a solar cycle, as everybody knows. I'll have to make up for it by doing something important on New Year's eve.

I got to witness people making asses out of themselves around the time the world was supposed to end. That entertained me powerfully. I saw people max out their credit cards, steal things, get into fights, declare love for one another and


Dec. 17th, 2012 07:31 am
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I wish I could do away with Envy.

I feel it so damn often. It gets in the way of me trying to dig myself out of the life I blundered into. I wandered about only to realize too late that a cave-in has sealed me in here. So, here I am, playing music and writing not one but two novels. I'm a fool. I couldn't just keep up on the one. The second was crying to be born too loudly to ignore and now I'm trying to keep focused on all of it.

I know this girl Elle. She's the stereotype of the short, slight, Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope given flesh. Pink hair, hipster glasses and an absolute certainty that her off-putting and frenetic habits are what everyone wants to see. She's the kind of person who will look down her nose at you for not listening to X Indie Band composed of a ukulele and an out-of-breath singer or having read X Indie Novella that even the most pretentious Liberal Arts program would call tasteless. She's so many frustrating qualities that I could throttle her to death.

But she's free.

The other day I'm on facebook reading a self-indulgent, three-paragraph-length status update about how she quit her job because it was "bringing her down, man" and decided to leave her mother's house with a suitcase and a prayer and hop a train to a different city.

I was so furious with envy that, had she been in the room with me, I would have killed her.

Feeling this way makes me really think I'm pathetic and I'll never escape the underground of debt I foolishly buried myself in while I'm still young enough for it to matter.

Twenty-four years old and growing older by the day. How old is old anymore?

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I'm getting rid of my Netflix account after this month.

I nearly did when they doubled their prices and split the streaming and DVD rental services. I didn't and eventually ended up just nixing the DVD rentals because I rarely got to them in any kind of timely fashion. I have used the streaming feature quite a lot, though. That's mostly a problem.

In the last month I've watched three complete series on Netflix, one episode after the other, and it has seriously punched a hole in my productivity. Most times, I sit watching something with a guitar in hand running scales or noodling along with whatever music happens to pop up. It's a surprisingly good way to practice some things but it can't be used in place of proper guitar practice all the time. Additionally, my writing is really being neglected in favor of how easily distracted I am by moving pictures summoned up on my computer screen. It's like candy, dammit. I really need to put a stop to it.

Any time I neglect my arts I tend to beat myself up about not being good enough at them. This is a poison to me since I've often been so achievement-oriented in my life. I often worry that on some sort of objective basis I'm plain not skilled enough at the arts I pursue. I know this is by no means unique to me. I know, also, that others have it much worse than I do to the point of being crippled by it on a mostly full-time basis.

I just need to eliminate distraction is all.
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Two of my guitars are Gibson Les Pauls.

These guitars are iconic, they sound and play amazing and they serve a perfect coutnerpoint to a Stratocaster (my other electric guitar). They do tend to have one minor flaw, however, that proves to be an increasingly powerful headache for anyone who owns and loves one. This is that either the nut or the tuning pegs is typically flawed in some way that makes the guitar hard to keep in tune perfectly. If you strum some chords and play some jazz runs, you're fine. If you do big, Pink Floyd string bends and riff out like a stoner-rock guitarist, like I do, you're going to be having to re-tune several times in a song.

Reddit told me that using the graphite from a mechanical pencil to lubricate the nut (kinky, right?) might put an end to this. It did. I am thrilled. Otherwise I might have had to spend $150 for new tuning pegs, a graphite nut and the fee to install them. I am glad I could fix this problem for a meager $1.25 bag of mechanical pencils. I might have to re-do it every few weeks but, until I can make those expensive alterations to my axe, I am content with it.

Reddit is sometimes useful.
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I ran into someone I used to know maybe six years back today.

We talked for a bit and it didn't take long for the conversation to go down hill. I shouldn't have even bothered to have it. I took one look at her and had this dread that if I spoke to her I'd walk away irritated. I should have trusted my instincts, the magic in me that says "this isn't the best idea, man." The only problem with that is that this feeling often suggests I do things contrary to my attempt to be a largely egalitarian person.

In this case, it suggested I judge a book by its cover, so to speak.

Where she once had short, electric blue hair, rings of metal in her eyebrows and not a shred of colored clothing within fifty yards of her body, she now wore a yellow sweater, blue jeans and had a hairstyle I could only describe in my mind as "mom hair." Seeing her I immediately assumed she was not the same person I knew, had had a child and got married to the father and settled into a largely unhappy life. She probably gave up the photography, the ZINE-making, the radical politics and the feminism for Christianity and housewifery because it's what she assumed would be best for her child.

I told myself that was foolish. I scolded myself for thinking that I could assume by someone's style of clothing that they were one way or another.

I was right. I was ENTIRELY fucking right down to the last detail. When she was describing her life it was like she was badly paraphrasing the description I'd have written for it in my head. We spoke for about a half hour about her before she asked me. Again, I had a powerful urge not to say anything, excuse myself on a lie that I had other things to do and had to make haste away. Again, I ignored it. I decided to tell her about my life and how things were going.

She responded by telling me that she wasn't surprised. I'd always been an escapist, she said. I'd always be a dreamer and somebody who made up an artistic life to live so that he didn't have to face a real world life. After that we parted ways awkwardly and I didn't get angry until an hour later.

The fact is that I am an escapist in a sense. I love reading and writing my fantasy lit. I love losing myself in music. I love that I practice magic and how it reminds me how mystical and eldritch the world truly is. I remind myself of these things by doing them.

The more I thought on it, the more I realized that she was right but not in the way she thought. I do intend to escape. I seek escape from the mundane of the world. My escape could take any form, violent and explosive or covert and furtive, as long as it ended with me in the world I want. This escape is me trying to distance myself from everything I hate and thrive in an environment of my own making built of the things I cherish.

I wish I could just explain that to people. Instead, I clam up and just shrug and sigh.
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So, you know that feeling you get when a man you used to date and a woman you used to date both get married to other people and then the four of them move into a house together in Washington state?

I do, now, apparently? It's bizarre.

It's not like I think about them often. I actually hadn't thought about them at all until I had heard this. It brought back memories of me making mistakes as a younger man. I don't know if you can call the emotion guilt. It's more like a distant embarrassment and the fact that I am glad that those days are almost four years behind me, now.

Seeing photographs of them online is unnerving, though. They look so different. It's almost like I'm looking at a parallel universe and the people I once knew are in it but altered somehow. The woman has shorter hair and it's blonde where it was once black. The man has a shaved head and goatee, now. Neither of them looks bad but neither of them looks like who I once knew.

Four years have passed, I remind myself. You're just as different-looking as you were then. All that curly hair down to the middle of your back is gone, now. You've lost weight and your face is harder-looking than it once was. Sharper where it was once more rounded.

People change. The world turns on.


Nov. 27th, 2012 07:56 am
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The holiday came and went with not much to say. Thanksgiving in my house has always been pretty tame. My family was never much for spending time with obscure relatives we didn’t know or like. We mostly gather and eat like normal but with the typical turkey and stuffing and whatnot. I also had pie.

Things were a bit awkward around the table but by this point I decided to just shrug it off, eat and go back to what I was reading.

I went to see the World/Inferno Friendship Society with friends the other night. It was glorious. If you ever get the chance to go check them out, I highly recommend it. They are everything good about punk, about jazz and about rocking out all in one amazing package. This band has an incredible message of anti-authoritarian debauchery mixed with an optimistic gutter-poetry that suggests that everything will be okay at the end of it all.

I spent way too much money on mixed drinks and was so drunk that I had very little energy to do anything productive after the show besides sit in front of my computer, watch Adventure Time and read through the Xanga I had when I was in high school. It might be because I was so drunk but it was beyond hilarious to me. After it finished being funny it became depressing. I was so sure of myself when I was that young and my prose was an unmistakable shade of royal purple if you know what I mean.

That won’t be a mistake I make again.
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I have been in an unusually good mood all day.

Could be that Stephen Hunt's The Kingdom Beyond the Waves is quite good. I recommend it to anyone who likes sci-fi with a healthy nod to pulp adventure to it and well-done female protagonists physically strong enough to lift and throw a horse. I see nothing short of glory in all of that.

It could also be the fact that I got a new instrument the other day. It was a gift. It's the one in the middle, here:

It's a four-stringed little number about a bit longer than a mandolin is. Two of the strings, the two highest, are doubled-up in the fashion of a mandolin while the other two are standalone strings. It's a fascinating bit of musical wood that's surprisingly versatile despite being tuned to modes in D. I've got it tuned to Aeolian mode at present. Every time I see it I picture an old wizard walking through a sprawling forest with it strapped to his back. I wonder if it'll survive with me until I am that old wizard gone a-walkin'.

Once I get a better hang of the thing I might post a video of me playing it for your entertainment and amusement. So far the things I write on it manage to sound like the bastard child of medieval music and bluegrass. It's definitely unique.

Every now and then I remember that I am not only the youngest of my coworkers by far but that they may all, save for one, be bastards. I'll go through night after night with them and every now and then they do or say something to remind me that they're all bigoted old men. Let me give you a quick run-down, a dramatis personae of the night crew.

Larry: A miserable old man and a pathological liar. He claims to only work here for the health insurance. He also claims to have been in both the Army and the Navy, fought in wars, killed men and been in street gangs as recently as the mid-nineties. Nothing seems good enough for him. Not a night goes by where he doesn't complain about today's youth, how the warehouse is run poorly and how everyone else but him is an idiot. He is generally fond of me because, like me, he aspires to be self-employed. He has had some small successes at independent photography but his age is ever against him and he knows it. Feels all social programs of any kind should be abolished and that the handicapped need to "have a chat with Mr. Darwin and pack their bags." For all his rancor, he is very well-read and spends most of his time educating himself. Divorced for being a bitter fuck that can't be lived with.

John: The world's nicest racist. He will do impossibly kind things for me, always ask after my well-being and never hesitate to offer me a ride home if we happen to be getting off work at the same time (which is almost never as it happens). His racism, when it evidences itself, is sharp, sudden and caustic. If I were not a white man, I'd be garbage to him. It's also evident that even white women are suspect because they are all after my money and sperm, so he tells me. Divorced for infidelity.

Bill: My favorite co-worker. Mostly open-minded former contractor. He works here to pass the time and because he was never much good at sleeping at night. Sexist in the way most men in their sixties who come from working-class backgrounds are but willing to admit this is a flaw. He is often known to say he wishes he was a hawk because "then nobody could fuck with me except for jet engines. Let me tell ya, buddy, those engines eat everybody eventually, no mistake." He half-jokingly teases me about having gone to college and having multiple degrees but still working a job he refers to as "honestly blue-collar and beneath you, kid." Happily married.

Dave: My boss. Younger than the others in that he is in his late forties. He's in good shape for his age and has a really creepy mustache. He keeps photographs of naked women he downloads on the internet on his phone. Very quick to objectify women and qualify his value as a man based on the number of women he's slept with and continues to sleep with. Divorced for being unfaithful. He has a great sense of humor when he isn't being a sexist asshole, though.

And then you have me, the mid-twenties aspiring artist who graduated college with an armful of useless degrees, debt and a chip on his shoulder. An internet connection, a word processor, a pile of books and a heap of instruments stand between me and gibbering madness.

The Harrow

Nov. 13th, 2012 06:21 pm
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This seem strange even to type.

My parents are fighting an awful lot.

I type this and I feel like it is something a child would type. But, then, maybe a twenty-four year old man living with his parents under the crippling weight of college debt is a kind of child. Seems like one to me; at least right now.
Both of them are talking about divorce. I look upon this with a strange sense of faraway concern. While separation of married couples is by no means limited to people younger than them, it seems strange that my parents would even consider it. They’ve not just had a strong marriage but an almost absurdly strong one.

My parents are the only reason I believe in True Love at all. The two of them have, or had as the case may now be, the kind of faerie-tale love you read about and scoff at. They truly gave nothing less than the impression that they’d die for each other if need be. When my mother got cancer, my father wept in a way only a truly harrowed man could and then spent a titanic effort to help her through it. Years and years of countless displays of love, tests tried and passed and passion and, now, they seem to want to end it.

I think this represents a damaging of an assumption I have long held about love. Apparently love like theirs, rare and powerful, is not indestructible. Perhaps it was all euphoric recall. Perhaps they put on that show for the sake of my brother and me as we grew. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps and I’m drowning in my own brooding on the subject. It hurts to know they hurt. I am concerned for them.

That makes the thought process that comes next all the more disturbing to me. It’s like a cold washes over my emotions and I become calculating, like a spider. I look at them and try to predict the future, prepare to roll with the punches. Will they split soon? Will it take time? When they do, who will remain in this house and who will leave? Where will I fit in? How can I salvage my own comfort?

Next comes the deepening cold that realizes something crucial: my loans are in my mother’s name. Her own income is very insubstantial. It was my father that made the money. If they divorce, I can use her lower taxable income as a now single woman as a means by which to forbear the loans for what my research has shown me to be a number of years and, potentially, forever. Even if that didn’t work, the Income Contingent Repayment plans, on her modest salary, would mean I only had to pay a fraction of what I now do.

I realize their divorce could mean a kind of freedom for me.
This realization makes me sick inside because the part of me that is a beast restlessly pacing his cage stops and sniffs the air at the prospect. He knows this will be beneficial to him. He whispers in my ear that if it does happen there was nothing I could do to prevent it. If it does happen, he says, I might as well take advantage of it. No shame, he tells me, in looking out for yourself.

What am I to do? Am I damaged for the fact that the realization that their divorce would make my life profoundly easier is something I can’t shake?
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You ever look at someone and worry you may become like them if you're not careful? If you seriously aspire to a career in the arts, you've got to be ready to make sacrifices. Sometimes these sacrifices can take strange forms. Sometimes life takes a weird or horrible turn and you've got to adapt to it or fall victim to it.

Two such people come to my mind when I think about this.

One of them is a guy named Rowen. He's in his sixties and has been a musician since he was fifteen. He plays damn near anything that can even loosely be called an instrument and has gigged at least once a week since he was twenty. That's beyond incredible. He's a die-hard musician and, in so many ways, I respect him. He never gives up his standards and hasn't given up his goal of being a career musician even though it's yet to happen for him.

The aspect of the man I don't want for myself is his blindness to his situation. It's all well and good to be dedicated, even intensely so, to a dream. It's rather another thing to never change your approach. Rowen plays progressive rock where everyone on stage dresses like wizards and makes songs about the Sword of Shannarah series... Almost exclusively. Calling it a narrow focus is an understatement. The guy can't evolve and won't adapt. Truth told, I don't know how he gets gigs every week for his music, beautiful and well-constructed though it may be.

Hell, I remember once being paid by the man to help him lug his and his band's gear to a country music festival at a rural Pennsylvania county faire. I don't EVEN know how he landed that gig. The look of discomfort on the audience's faces, though, made it beyond worth it. That shit is hilarious.

I feel bad for Rowen because he is often the focus of a lot of shit-talking by people in my city's music scene. It's pretty well-known that certain things are assumed about you if you're an aspiring musician. Up until a certain age, somewhere between 35-45 it seems, you aren't given that much grief if you don't have your shit together. If you're poor, it's assumed and, if not celebrated, tolerated. After a certain age, though, people think you've got to give up the ghost and move on with normal life because you just couldn't hack it.

Rowen decided that he would thumb his nose at this. But, in doing so, he seemed to have to give up a lot. Never had kids, never got married and never owned a house. In my opinion, these things aren't so bad. To hear other people talk about him, though, you'd think he was the anti-christ that never grew up. You see him and ask yourself if you can really be that, forty years or so down the line.

Another guy I knew was rather different. His name is Steve. I met him when he had just turned thirty. He worked at the same place I work now and have since I was in high school. He had just transferred from the night shift to the day shift. I learned his back story over the course of the year I worked with him. It's fucking tragic to say the least.

So, he's eighteen, a heavy metal guitarist in the 90s era jackson-shred sort of flavor. He's got dreams of going to Berkley for guitar and he's just graduating highschool. Both parents die in a car accident. He, now a legal adult, inherits all their debt, a townhouse within walking distance of work, a job he has had since he was sixteen, and a whole world he isn't ready to handle yet. He has no driver's license and is terrified to move somewhere else. He takes the night shift because it pays significantly more, although, at the time, not enough to properly take care of his needs, and he goes about trying to survive.

Ten years pass. During this time he has been completely cut off from the world. He can't afford the cable bill so he keeps re-watching the same VHS tapes again and again. He can't afford but one new album every two months so his music exposure is suddenly hyper limited. He has to buy clothes from the thrift store that is an hour's walk from his home because he has no friends and no way of getting any farther than walking distance.

His experience on night shift isolates him profoundly. Music kept him alive, he told me, kept him from killing himself. The really tragic part of that, though, is that he practiced in complete isolation. This caused him to make very little improvement over those ten years. He had song books full of metal tabs. He learned them all. He taught himself every song on every album he owned by ear until they were perfect. When it came to metal, he was a machine. The sad part was, that's all he was.

I had a friend who was getting rid of an old computer, a PC that was maybe two years old. I convinced him to give it to Steve who just recently got a raise and, thus, enough money to pay for an internet bill a month. I had to teach him to type, what the parts of a computer were and how to use the internet. I remember him bawling his eyes out watching youtube videos of fifteen year old kids playing music that he, in isolation, with no help or other perspectives, wrapped in a cycle of depression from the loss of his parents, took him years and years to learn.

Now I work the night shift. I feel myself growing more isolated, sometimes. He walked the same windy corridor of a road to the same job that I do. He waited for the time to punch out and go home to his art, just like I do. I may do two arts instead of one but I feel it's the same. It kept him alive on bad days, kept him from killing himself. I've never been as harrowed as he was, I don't think, but I do have my darker days. On those days the only thing that keeps my mood up is the knowledge that I'll get a book to read, time to run my hands across the fretboard and the tick-tick of a keyboard as I spill my fiction into a word processor. It keeps me going.

I wonder, sometimes, if the night and the dark and the cold will swallow me like it did him. I remind myself that it can't. My parents are still alive. I have a support structure that exists for me and my debt-ridden and dream-filled self. I wonder if I'll end up old and unfulfilled in my dreams taking off like Rowen. I wonder if I will fall into the night and hermitage like Steve did.

I count my blessings, though. I feel bad that I always use Steve as a reference point for how bad things could get. Ten years without contact with other people and only a select few resources and no understanding of the world... As much of an old school Count of Monte Cristo fan as I am, as much as I have sometimes romanticized the idea of being imprisoned with nothing but time and learning materials for a period of time and being forced to become AWESOME, his story serves as the perfect counterpoint.

It also serves to show me how much I honestly love the internet. Six months after Steve got a computer he moved to Baltimore to join a metal band. He is now making a living off of music there. If his story didn't have a happy ending I really think that my perspective on life and music as a career would be a little different. But it changed his life. It let him reach out and reminds me that I can, too.

Forgive the disjointed nature of this post. I am exhausted and more lazy than I ought to be about my prose.
ghosthound: (Default)
My teeth hurt.

Before I sleep this morning I'm going to have to call and schedule a dentist visit. I hate doing that. I know plenty of people who really dislike the dentist but my dislike is really specific. I've only been three times in my life.

When I was growing up I had no dental insurance because my father and mother have always been self employed. Having crooked, ugly teeth never really held me back from anything in my life so I just didn't let it get to me. Then, maybe seven months ago, I get tooth pain. I go to the dentist for the first time ever, find out I have a dozen cavities and begin the expensive process of going on a payment plan to fix them. As soon as I do, more dental pain crops up. I sometimes feel like working to preserve my teeth (the three brushings a day, flossing and mouth-washing) might be a losing battle. Let's hope not. I really don't relish the idea of my teeth rotting out of my head.

It is an old saying in music scenes, though, that you can tell how successful a musician is by the state of his or her teeth. If they are struggling, dental expenses are usually the first health-related ones to be shoved to the side as long as they don't directly effect the front teeth. I just don't want to be one to prove that saying right in the worst way, you know?

I did put up that Craigslist add for musicians. So far the only responses I've received are from two automated services telling me to buy things. Still, it's only been two days. I will wait at least a month before trying again.

On Saturday I went and visited a haunted penitentiary in West Virginia for the hell of it. It's located in Moundsville, named for the Native American burial mound that is fairly gigantic and awesome located right by the prison. I only felt ghosts in two places, the isolation cell in the prison's psych ward, and a maximum security cell that saw the brutal stabbing murder of some member of the Aryan Brotherhood. Both feelings were very strong and sudden with tangible drops in temperature that saw my breath steam before my face. I was pleased.
ghosthound: (Default)
Sometimes the people I work for perplex me.

I'm informed that I have one more personal holiday I can take at any time... between now and November 5th. Despite the day itself being random, and potentially indicating a fear of masked terrorist-heroes, that's what it is. It has nothing to do with my pay period, it falling on a Monday and all. They also inform me that I can't use it to bolster my paycheck with eight more hours of money. So, in essence, I need to choose a day I'm already scheduled to work to just have off with pay.

That's fine by me, I say, I'll just not work on Halloween. I never have in my life and I see no reason why I should start now especially if I can be paid not to. Rain aside, I do live on the east coast but I am far enough from the storm in Pittsburgh to avoid most of the badness, I am sure I can find something to do tonight. Hell, even if it's just staying in and reading spooky stories all night by myself it's better than going into work.

The thing I find hilarious is that they got annoyed with me for suggesting this. When I explained to them that it's really my only option because if I don't use the day it vanishes, they got even more irritated. They eventually suggested that I just ignore it so their lives are made easier. I asked, then, if they felt this way why did they even bother to tell me I had the day to begin with? They didn't have to. That falls under the realm of "shit I ought to just know but totally actually forgot." They confuse me. Fuck 'em. I'm off tonight and they'll pay me to enjoy my most important holiday of the year.

I was thinking today that having a Tumblr is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it's amazing art therapy. Before I got it I was all "gee-wizz, you guys. I wish there was a website with an infinite scroll of utterly beautiful shit at my fingertips because Google Images kind of sucks." Turns out, it exists. Turns out, it's also a place to meet online friends. Turns out... some of them are fucking thirteen. I'm talking to this person who is over ten years my junior and wondering if I was that much of a tweaker at that age. I was probably worse, I always realize.

Another issue with Tumblr is that it randomly reminds me of what's wrong with the world. It's all, beauty, beauty, actually good and specific porn tailored to my taste, beauty, humor, guitar stuff, music gear, beauty, beauty, haunting beauty, BLUNT REMINDER THAT THE PATRIARCHY IS HORRIBLE, beauty, beauty, NEWS CAP OF HOMOPHOBIC HATE CRIME, Humor... and on, and on, and on. It's like a game of dice where I know I will eventually get a joy-killing punch in the soul amidst all that glory. Maybe I'm more of a masochist than I thought.

Well, I hope everybody who even causally glances at this blog has an epic Halloween.
ghosthound: (Default)
So, I accomplished fuck-all on my vacation.

I mean, I did STUFF. I went to two jam sessions, one of which had over eight musicians in it and still managed to sound good, I watched movies and all of Black Books (hilarious) and a season of the X-files (which I never got to properly see), I read, I went to a party and spent time with friends and I drank what seems to me to be all the booze.

I just didn't get anything really accomplished. Maybe that's for the best. For the first two days of my vacation I was just plain exhausted. Slept too much, ate too much, vegged out. I still managed to practice and to write some poetry and basic prose exercises but the prospect of doing anything else was laughable at best.

Drunk me is like me but farther away. I have to reach just a bit to get to the me inside. The world seems to be muted and pushed back. I am warmly happy with odd pangs of melancholy contemplation. Those pangs hurt me like shards of glass shoved right in my heart for how sudden they are.

I'm at a Halloween party. I'm laughing and having an utterly grand time. Someone made some buffalo chicken dip that would be barely a cause for a raised eyebrow if I was sober but, drunk, it is the most delightful food ever. I'm in the midst of laughing when I turn and see a couple sitting on the couch. Molly and Jordan, I think their names are, are sitting right next to each other and it's obvious that they've never been farther apart.

He looks away from her, far drunker than she is, and her face is screwed up in a look of frustration and emotional hurt. Maybe he drank more than he said he would. Maybe he lied to her. Maybe she is just too damn much for him and he spoke his mind, told the jagged truth. Seeing this makes me sad. It makes me want to go over there and--- what? Do something? I don't rightly know. Drinking is strange, don't you find?

One thing about it that profoundly annoys me is people who think that because they can drink more than other people, they're better, somehow. I mean, this is coming from someone who is freely admitting he's a lightweight but boasting that you can poison yourself longer than me before you call it quits and get sick for hours just doesn't impress me. I'm happy being a cheap date, thanks.

OH! My father gave me a new guitar. He'd owned it for a while and never played it. It's a Gibson Les Paul Jr. He just waltzed up to me, plopped a guitar case down and said I could get more use out of it than he does, obviously. It looks like this:

It's not my usual style. It's very vintage and the single p-90 pickup in the bridge is a blues/country machine. Not to say I dislike either of those styles. I'm one of those musicians who actually means it when he says he listens to some of everything. From Metal to Country to Folk music to classical to Blues, I love it all. I'm going to make good use of this new addition to my guitar family. I've already managed to tune out some meanness on it that I kind of like. It's great for playing slide, at which I'm still a novice.

In other news, my to-read stack of now 23 books is in a constant battle with all the books I want to buy but don't have. If I buy them, do I read them now and ignore the stack or do I put them in the back of the rotation and do as I promised I would? Tough fucking choices, man. Let me tell you.

In the event that anybody cares, my other guitars look like this:

Neat, huh? Forgive the pictures harvested directly from Google images. I'm too lazy to actually take them out and line them up right now. I will if anybody out there actually wants me to, though.
ghosthound: (Default)
Thus far I've managed to accomplished nothing of importance during my vacation. I still have four days and nights to go, though. I tell myself this but I've been so apathetic about actually producing anything that I worry I will accomplish nothing.

I've had lots of fun, of course. Two jam sessions, one party, much drinking and mischief. I've watched a number of episodes of Black Books (utterly hilarious) and a few movies. I haven't done any physical exercise and barely any meditation was accomplished. I'm also eating EVERYTHING I possibly can, it seems. Even typing that made me hungry again.

Maybe this means I need to restore myself. Recharging is important. Maybe I just need to do that until the end of this relaxation period. Mental health, you know?

Two things I will say are going splendidly, though, are my prose writing and guitar practice in general. I sit down to write some poetry and, BAM, first draft I come up with something I actually like. Perfectly transferring my feelings from soul to pen to page in one go. That's NEVER happened before. Additionally, I sit down to just noodle out something on guitar and, FUCK, gigantic shredfest of melodic bluesy, beat-the-fuck-out-of-that-axe musical fun time just spills out of the amp in colorful waves. I can't say that those two things aren't incredibly gratifying. It's just effortless this week.

I wonder if it won't be ten thousand times more difficult next week. We'll have to see.

As a bit of an aside, I should explain something. When I say that I "beat the fuck out of a guitar" people often look at me quizzically. My friend Quentin does this to a greater degree. I often say he punches a guitar and it makes sounds close to what he wants. I'm not quite that aggressive. This phrase mostly means that I strike chords and various notes aggressively when I am playing an emotive part. I know plenty of guitarists who are just as raw sounding, if not more so, who look placid as an untouched pool of water in a mystic woodland area. I just find that, if I am going to be mean about music for a minute, I ought to be all the way mean, if that makes sense.
ghosthound: (Default)

Shows you how much Black Sabbath not only inspired heavy music as we know it but that Ozzy really fucking understood alienation in a profound way.

This band does a lot of rock and metal covers. So glorious.


Oct. 17th, 2012 07:18 am
ghosthound: (Default)
Starting a band that lasts more than a few practices is difficult.

Hell, starting a band that makes it to a single practice after long sessions of "oh shit, we're so gonna do XYZ" at Denny's at 3am is difficult. All that said, getting a band together that actually pulls off regular gigs and, dare I say, touring, is a fucking miracle.

Guess who is forever trying to work miracles? It's lucky for me I'm a magician, right?

What kind of band do I want? A goth-rock band, I guess. That's the easiest way to put it. Psychedelic influences? Sure. Industrial drumming sometimes? Sure. Lots of guitar playing? Totally. Haunting female vocals? Yup. Synths? You bet.

I'm considering just biting the bullet and trying to put up a Craigslist add for this purpose. I've had mixed luck with such things in the past and, since I have no car, I am kind of a hassle to lug around. I like to think I make up for it in competence, ideas, willingness to go the extra mile in playing and frequent gigging. I like to think that others will think that, too.

The problem I have is often getting people to see past my inability to afford a car. I know it's a hassle but, believe me, I'd own one if I could. As it stands, I make so little money that it's just not in the cards and won't be for some time.

Someone called me a "wizard-punk genius" the other day. I approve of this and take it as a high compliment. I wonder if I could somehow work that into a lifestyle. It calls to mind images of an eccentric in a leather jacket with a patch of "The Magician" on its back. The hands of the wizard-punk are wreathed in iridescent smoke and a knowing smile plays on the lips. Something like that. I could do that, right? Here's to hoping!

At work I am the youngest person on night shift. Everyone else is at least twice my age. As such, I often hear them bitching about my generation and the one that will eventually follow mine. While I grant and fully admit that my generation has our share of problems, I can't stand when an older person waxes poetic about living in some blameless, utopian age where nothing bad happened and everyone was the hardest worker ever. Everyone, according to them, had the proper amount of respect for the right people, had wisdom beyond their years and was outright better at everything than me and my age group.

Fuck that. Euphoric recall isn't a good thing all the time. Hindsight is only 20/20 for a short time, I think. I don't mind my coworkers most times but the things they say are just asinine. It's what every person says to their kids. It might be what I say to kids when I am their age. That doesn't make it any less irritating to hear. This is made especially true by the fact that my quality of life may well not exceed that of my own parents. This is true of many in my generation. The world changed. Too few people will admit this.

To hear it said, everyone my age is a disrespectful punk who is de-sensitized to the world, doesn't have enough moral fiber, has strange and unhealthy ideas and... is young, more or less. That rhetoric is old. It needs to stop.
ghosthound: (Default)
Next week is one of paid vacation for me.

One of the few benefits of my job is that I accumulated a buttload of vacation. I am technically taking eight days, starting on Saturday and running until the following Sunday. It promises to be a good time. The thing about taking a vacation while working third shift, if my last experience was anything to go on, is that I feel like it stretches FOREVER. This is a good feeling when you have a lot to accomplish in the way of creative arts.

I've been noticing lately that in the last two months people have treated me differently. I attribute this to a haircut I got. I went from having long, curly locks to the middle of my back to having literally no hair on my head. It's since grown out to a short but existent length and I find myself the recipient of some unexpected social change.

In short, strangers are nicer to me now and more likely to ask me for directions or other aid. I suppose I look more clean-cut and less like an artsy music/writer type with no practical dreams or skills. All the worse for people who will find out the hard way, I guess. It seems I wore my oddity on my sleeve and now it takes a moment or two of conversation for people to find out. This may be an exaggeration but that's truly how it seems in some cases anymore.

I can't say that I didn't expect this. It doesn't exactly bother me as much as confirm what I already know about humans. Do I look better with short hair? Possibly. Probably, if I am to take the word of most people I know or run into regularly for it.

I'm up later than I normally am.


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