Thursday, July 30, 2015

Introducing The KFC Memory Casket

By: Ben Johnson


Fuck. You can’t even mention a gruesome, horrific corporate branding engagement thing without helping it accomplish its goal these days. You can’t even call a stupid thing stupid. The only thing you can do is try to help the second worst people, stall for time that way.


You can’t even say anything about the food industry, specifically the chicken industry, and its crimes against man and nature, without somehow also reminding people that fried chicken is fucking delicious. That's the level of cognitive deficiency we're working with. Right now, writing this, I am craving fried chicken.


You can’t do anything but try your best to ignore everything. Everything ever. This will not make it go away, though. This will only make it louder. Monetized advertising culture is screaming at you like a jet engine. It is a desperate, cornered animal, surging ahead in all directions with an all-consuming need to show growth to shareholders. It will break into your home while you sleep, violating the sanctity of your mind, and urge you to buy fried chicken. Its uncomprehending amygdala cannot feel shame or process consequences. Advertising is like an unstoppable disembodied sexual predator with unlimited funding and a fetish for control. If advertising had its way, it would strap you to a chair in a basement and torture you until you begged it to force feed you hormone-injected blood chicken. It would get off on this.


If you do anything involving Instagram at the request of a chicken company, you are a fucking moron. You are taking a picture of yourself for the express purpose of having that picture spit out of a chicken bucket that only exists to capture your personal data and use it to sell fried chicken to young people.


You could die and it wouldn’t matter. The world has over 7 billion people in it. That is probably too many people. Current world population growth is not sustainable. One way or another, billions of us are probably going to die in the next couple hundred years. We’ll starve. We’ll go thirsty. An out of control environment will swallow us whole, the seas rising up to drown us, storms unchecked by the regulatory effects of a healthy biosphere will wipe us off the planet’s surface. It’ll get bad. We, the industrialized capitalist nations of the world, have already decided who’ll be getting the worst of it, and they are poor people in other places far away, but there are a lot more of them than there are of us, and we should fear the rise of their desperation, especially since it is righteous and justified.


We invented the photo-printing chicken bucket.


The photo-printing chicken bucket is called a "Memory Bucket."


One day we'll all be in the Memory Bucket. Our whole species. We will have come and gone without meaning. There may come a time in the distant future when archaeologists of another species discover our ancient, poisoned wreckage, and they will find us amusing and primitive, and as they piece together our story and gradually figure out what happened to us, they will not be able to believe how stupid we were. They will see that we knew what we were doing wrong and knew what had to be done, and didn't do it because we couldn't agree to do it. It is tempting to project that we'd seem tragic to this future species, but this future species would likely not have the same emotions we have, or else they'd be as doomed as we are. They would probably not be able to comprehend tragedy. We would probably drive them crazy, and they would determine that being driven crazy is not helping them, and they would agree to gather and incinerate all of our garbage, and thus we will be destroyed a second time. And we'll deserve that too.


We deserve to burn in hell.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bleedin' Armadilla #4 - Plantain & Rudy Stone @ Saturn Bar

Upon moving to New Orleans from Brooklyn, Kelly McClure and Lindsey Baker noticed a lack of music blogs featuring New Orleans music blog type things. This is a music blog type thing called Bleedin' Armadilla that will be a regular feature here on Total Bozo. This music blog type thing will focus on shows we see here in New Orleans, both local bands, and bands that tour in the area. Disclaimer: do not look to this music blog type thing for "actual' music coverage. We'll mostly just be talking about ourselves, and what sort of emotions, grievances, etc. we happened to have during these shows. Thank you. This is Bleedin' Armadilla.

Last night Lindsey Baker and I had plans to see a show. We knew that these plans had been made between ourselves, and spent the majority of the day still knowing that. Meaning, we went about our individual days, together, knowing that we had a plan for that evening, and that plan was to go to a show. 

As is often the case with us, the closer we got towards leaving for the show, the more we did not want to go. Not because we didn't want to see the show per se, but because we simply did not want to create a situation for ourselves where we were all of a sudden not in our house anymore. 

Around 9pm or so, yesterday evening, we rode our bicycles to Saturn Bar, which is a place not too far from us that I had not previously been to, and Lindsey Baker had only been to once. Scheduled to play at this particular show were Plantain, Outdoor Velour, and Rudy Stone. We stayed for all three bands and here's what happened:

Why do I even bother trying to take pictures?

We were very excited to see Plantain because our new friend James Fenwicke is in the band. James gave us a ride home from a different show last week and aside from being a very nice guy who gives people rides home for no other reason than because it's a nice thing to do, he's also a very good musician.  Prior to his set, while we were all standing outside smoking cigarettes, we learned from James that the majority of the songs he'd be playing were entirely new. Right before starting up one of the new songs, James announced that the song was written from the perspective of a spider and then the following audience person + performer transaction took place:

Audience Person: "What kinda spider?"

James Fenwicke: "That's a good question."

Turns out the spider at hand was a Hillside Spider. It's also entirely possible that I completely misheard what sort of spider it was. Later I heard James Fenwicke say something about a California Newt. 

Outdoor Velour on what we think may have been their honeymoon.

The next band to play was a touring band from Indiana (aprox. 859 miles from New Orleans) called Outdoor Velour. The name of this band is oddly difficult to say out loud. They have a professional looking website which you can see HERE. The gentleman in this band has a mustache.

This band made a lot of different instruments come out of nowhere. During their set we snuck out for another quick cigarette and could have sworn we heard a jaunty saxophone solo, but no visible saxophone could be found. Outdoor Velour are musical magicians who evened out talent levels with visible happiness. We went so far as to suspect that they were perhaps on some sort of Kickstarter driven musical honeymoon. Isn't that nice?

Rudy Stone

The last band to play was Rudy Stone. Rudy Stone played a song called "Donut Money" and when he announced the title of the song Lindsey Baker turned to me and said "Joan Crawford?"

Rudy Stone reminded us a lot of Brooklyn. At one point during his set he said something about being from Brooklyn. 

I read on the internet that this was Rudy Stone's first local show with an actual human band. 

Rudy Stone also had a mustache. 

This guy was there.

After the show Lindsey Baker and I rode our bikes back home. We saw our neighbor out front of our house and he gave us a lime.

Monday, July 20, 2015

I Actually Went To Pitchfork Fest This Time

By: Ben Johnson

Photo courtesy the internet

My plan for this past Saturday was to go to a dental appointment at 10:00am, which involved getting fitted for a couple of crowns, and then go from there to the Pitchfork Music Festival. It was a stupid plan. But that was my plan.

I’d never been to the Pitchfork Music Festival before, despite living in Chicago for that event’s now 10 year run. I never wanted to go, especially. I don’t like crowds or heat or standing around for hours on end looking at people who are just playing guitars or drums or singing. I’m a grump that way, I guess. I’d like to not be, but you don’t always get to choose everything about yourself.

I didn’t really want to go on Saturday either, but there was like this situation with a person I was dating, who was going to be in town for Pitchfork, and who is more fun than I am, and this person said “don’t be a stupid grump, this is a fun thing for fun people to enjoy, get over yourself. I will be there and we will have fun.” So I bought a one day ticket for Saturday, and then shortly thereafter I started not really dating this person anymore. I’m pretty new to dating. Apparently this is something that happens in it.

Anyhow, this is how my day went:

Dentist’s office, 10:00am-12:00pm

I should have flossed more diligently in my 20’s. It’s really not all that big of an inconvenience. You can do it on like the couch or in bed or something. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a mouth full of goop that tastes like spackle-flavored chewing gum, laying back in a dentist’s chair watching Jeff Corwin talk about turtle rescues. Jeff Corwin has put on weight.

Is that tooth dust I’m breathing? I think I’m breathing my own tooth dust. Whatever.

Pitchfork Music Festival, 12:30pm-???

Oh, it turns out I am way early for this. There are not many people here yet, and no music acts have started playing yet, and so far it’s not bad. I visited the various tents with people and things in them. My friend Jac was in the book tent. My buddies from Permanent records were in the record tent. There was a free things area where you could interact with youth-targeted brands, who would give you free things and ask you to hashtag anything whatever them and add them on Snapchat. Snapchat is for dick pics. I have been dating THAT long. I don’t want to see a yogurt company’s dick.

Jimmy Whispers played. I saw him. He played. He was flailing around in the crowd and singing badly about raping your mother, which I did not mind so much as it was just too bright out to listen to. I decided to stop seeing him, and walked back to the record tent to look at more records. A couple of people from the Drag City table informed me that they had plans in the works to reissue old Flying Saucer Attack records sometime in the next year. This news made me happy.

Protomartyr played, and I went to go watch and ran into my friends Matty and Mary, who are great. I was not familiar at all with Protomartyr, and I liked them. They seemed utterly miserable to be playing outdoors in the heat of summer. Their front man was openly disdainful, wearing a black suit coat and sunglasses and saying things like “alright, we’ll get through this together” in between songs. I liked him. But I didn’t make it all the way through their set because it was too hot, so I went and stood under some trees, then went and sat on a couch in the free yogurt tent for like 30 minutes.

Then a bunch of other shit happened. My face regained enough feeling for me to get some food, so I got some food. I went back to the record tent, and a friend gave me some Excedrin for the somewhat painful sensation my face was now capable of feeling. Then it rained, and I got rained on. Some people were taking shelter from the rain inside of port-o-potties. That seemed stupid to me.

The rain cleared up, and the Excedrin kicked in, which is basically low grade speed, and I started just walking around from thing to thing, not really liking being anywhere, checking the festival schedule a bunch of times just to see if there were any musical acts on it that I actually was very excited about seeing, kind of in the same way you stare at an empty fridge for too long when you’re hungry. It was starting to get more crowded. I vacillated between wanting to get closer to the front to see whatever musical act was on a stage, and then wanting to get the hell out of there. I had no plan. I was quantum. Panicked.

At one point I bought a vegetarian cheesesteak and the person who gave it to me wanted to make sure it didn’t get tarp drip on it, and I leaned my head into the cheesesteak tent and said “just put it under my face, I’ll protect it with my head.” And then ducked out of there with a cheesesteak very close to my face, and ate it hungrily under a tree. That was kind of a fun interaction, I guess.

Then I ended up close to a stage where some hip hop dude who I’d never heard of was about to start doing music, and the voice of a British woman came on the loud speaker and said “due to forces beyond our control, the Pitchfork Music Festival will be closing in 20 minutes…” Immediately after which I was on my way to the nearest gate to escape. Immediately after THAT, the sky opened up and dumped several cubic feet of rain down on everybody. There were a lot of squealing, sad, wet white people running around. I was not squealing or sad or running. I was a happy wet man, and I was walking home.

Leaving the Pitchfork Music Festival, 3:45ish

That person who I was kind of dating but then kind of not dating called me while I was walking back to my car, and my phone was too wet for me to swipe the “answer this phone call” option. That’s a funny thing that phones do sometimes, is just become total useless due to your hands being a little wet. I was eventually able to fix the situation due to some napkins I had in my pocket on the suggestion of the cheesesteak person, who said “keep some napkins in your pocket so you can use them on your glasses.” That cheesesteak person was a smart, helpful, kind person.

It turned out the Festival was due to open back up in not much time, and then do all of the Festival-like things it was originally intended to do, and that I'd be more than welcome to go back to it and hang out and be at it and prove to the world and myself that I am not a grump, that I am in fact fun as defined by being a person who goes to a thing like this and hangs out with people. But I was soaked, for one, and also as I was growing increasingly frantic and desperate for relief in the few moments leading up to the storm, it was hard not to see this deluge as a message from God. “I hereby release thee, my son.” And the decision to just go home felt like the best decision I’d made in a very long time.

I hopped in my car, which I had parked pretty far away, and took Ashland north, did an end-around some heavy traffic by turning right on Cortland, then left on Elston, then up to Damen, right on Diversey, left on Paulina, right on School, then left on Ashland again which by then was manageably thinned out, and during this deft maneuvering, which I had the ability and the knowledge to pull off, I decided to listen to Black Vinyl Shoes, which is an album I like by the band Shoes, very loud. It turns out this was also music. And I was sitting down while listening to it and enjoying it, and paying nothing for the privilege other than whatever gas money I burned through while deftly piloting a 2000 Volkswagen Shitbox through the backroads of Chicago’s North Side.

I stopped at the corner store and bought some ice cream for myself, and then plopped down on the couch and watched movies for the rest of the day, and it was the best. It was better than a thousand festivals all lined up in a row. I cannot hesitate to recommend going home from the Pitchfork Music Festival for no better reason than to just not be there anymore. It’s the best event of the summer. If that makes me a grump, well, too bad. I get to decide what kind of life makes me happy.

That's my review of Pitchfork Music Festival. It is, in a way, less relaxing and enjoyable than dental work, and it is by far not as good as not it. To me.

13 Reasons Why Everyone is Such a Goddamn Idiot All the Time

By: Kelly McClure

Here's a true fact about me, just to kick things off. I work as a music publicist, but I wouldn't call myself "a publicist" personally. If I'm in a situation where a person is like "what do you do for a job?" I usually say something like "I split my time pretty evenly between helping bands I like with PR, and writing stuff." Do you see the distinction there? I can explain it more.

Publicists get a bad rap. A lot of publicists are considered money grubbing business folk who want to squeeze your dreams for a few bucks, but don't really give a damn about your band, or you, or what you want at all. When I'm meeting with a band that I might potentially work with, this is one of the first subjects I tackle. I go to great lengths to distance "ME" from "THEM." I try to do this by telling the band I'm speaking or emailing with, "I don't own a blazer. I don't go to brunch." And, I mean, I DO actually own a blazer, but it's just the one and I bought it for a speaking event I did. It's not even a real blazer. It's a jersey blazer. I want to make sure you know that I'm cool. Okay? And yeah, I DO go to brunch, but only ironically and because I like to drink in the day.

Coming right out and saying "I'm a publicist" could get you punched in the nose. Nobody likes publicists. They email people all day. They're "paid to like things." When a person is "paid to like things" how can you ever believe what they're telling you? What witchery? What trickery? I mean, a person's ears and brains can do nothing but surrender in the face of such door to door brainwashing, etc. 

So, yeah. I'm different. I only work with bands that I like, and most of them are friends and/or referrals from friends that I continue to work with no matter who or what I'm working for. It's all very organic. It doesn't feel gross. YOU'RE gross, okay? YOU are! 

At this point I also wish I could do a poll of anyone reading this and be like: "Raise your hands if you know what a publicist is?" I'd ask this because in the past month, when answering the question "what do you do?" I had to explain that I don't personally write about every band I work with, I don't "throw parties," and I don't publish music, whatever the hell that means/does. 

Here's a great thing I wrote about what a publicist is, read it and then let's not worry/wonder about it anymore. HERE

Everyone is such a goddamn idiot all the time. 

My main reason for writing this thing doesn't really have anything to do with anything I've written so far.  I'm just trotting out the horse, so to speak. It has to do with THIS

Over the weekend I was tagged in a Facebook post of a link to a shittily written (and I reserve that phrase only for things that are truly, in every essence, shittily written) thing titled "13 Reasons PR Girls Are Going to Take Over the World."

Say who now? 

Let's walk through this together.

1. "They never stop working. You will receive an email from them at 6:30 AM, presumably sent from the gym. You will receive an email from them at 11:45 PM, likely sent from their table at a fusion restaurant. Both emails will be perfectly-written, and full of whatever pertinent information you didn’t even realize you needed. PR girls never sleep, only close their eyes for a few minutes at a time and then get back to work."

Who's "them?" I mean, I know this article is all about "PR GIRLS," but the use of "them" here makes it sound like the writer is giving tips as to how to locate a rare bird in the woods. "One way to find the rare shittily bird in their natural habitat is to crouch down in a bush and wait for them to come out in search of straight up nuts and balls and dicks and such. Watch for them. There "them" go."

Also this: "Both emails will be perfectly-written, and full of whatever pertinent information you didn’t even realize you needed." So this writer is like blown away by someone being able to write a thing that doesn't read like horse shit. We're getting to the root of the issue here. 

2. "They look good while doing it. One way to spot a PR girl is to check for the three S’s — statement necklace, strong purse, shiny hair. They pull off the chunky J.Crew-style necklaces like no one else in this world. They are always carrying the purse you have been coveting, or something just like it (often, it’s this one). And their hair reflects every nuance of the sun’s light in its Garnier Fructis commercial shine. Always."

Look me in the eyes and say "statement necklace." I dare you. 

A few years ago at SXSW, which is a nerdy band camp thing that all us "PR GIRLS" have to go to, except I didn't go this last year because I'm a "PR WOMAN" now, a male publicist approached me in the wild and said something about how it must be so easy for "PR GIRLS" because we can just use our sexuality to get 14-year-old music editors to write about our bands. I was wearing a Beavis and Butthead baseball t-shirt when he said this. Later on that night someone asked me to go get a sandwich for someone. 

3. "They’ll network you without you even realizing it. You think you are having a normal conversation, but they are evaluating and planting ideas and harvesting information. And it’s not insincere — they are just operating on a totally different wavelength from you."

I am earnestly wondering what "a normal conversation" would be like for the writer of this article, or for anyone else really. One time I was at a music festival/camping situation with a group of friends and I was having a hard time making convo with strangers. One of my friends told me that making convo is easy and that I should try just going up to people and saying any random combo of words. Like whatever words pop in my head. Just now, while writing that, I thought about how I listened to Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" while having my morning poop. Are we networking right now? Honestly though, did I just plant an idea in you?

4. "When they get a goal in mind, nothing can stop them. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a dedicated PR girl’s efforts to make something happen — anyone who has suffered that barrage of perfectly-worded emails — knows that nothing can stop them. They will walk across hot coals to get their press release in the right hands, and somehow not mess up their pedicure."

What about a "PR GUY" though? Do they barrage? Do they hot coals? Everyone knows that we all only exist inside of computers, right? Like at what point during my day of 100% computers would I be having these hot coals and pedicures? Tell me when.

5. "They rise with the sun and engage in power breakfasts. I once attended a breakfast panel at a hotel where I was unexpectedly seated at a table with almost all PR girls. Aside from feeling like being in high school and somehow getting to sit with the popular, pretty girls at lunch, it was unbelievable to see their level of readiness. They were there twenty minutes before everyone, awake and alive, blowout on point, with questions to ask and people to talk to. I have never experienced anything more intimidating. While I was busy shoveling free carbonara breakfast pizza (!!) and french toast onto my plate, they were not touching their frittatas because there was work to be done. And I have nothing but respect."

I rose with the sun today and my wife made me breakfast and now I'm making fun of this horse shit. For the past 17 years I've chipped away at the limestone to arrive at my end goal: working from home and not having to listen to bafoons tell me to do things in a way more shitty way than I'd do them on my own accord. I'll touch my frittata all I want. (!!)

6. "They have already fused with technology. While we’re trying to experiment with Google Glass or Oculus Rift or whatever, PR girls have already been synthesized with their devices since the debut of the Palm Pilot. Their iPad is an extension of their soul, and it will never leave their side."


7. "They know everyone. Name any person in your industry. They know them, and have had at least one “very productive” phone call with them. Yep."

One time I forgot to turn the sound off on my iPhone after watching a video and later that day my phone rang and I literally screamed. Also every time I get a voicemail I laugh about it for anywhere upwards of two weeks. One time some friends of mine asked me if I had ever been raped by a telephone. 

8. "They are always in peak physical condition. They have a yoga class, and a Soul Cycle class, and an entire drawer full of Lululemon. They eat salads and drink juices and take supplements. They must be in prime email-sending mode at all time, and that demands physical fitness."

I'm mad about something all day long. 

9. "When it comes time to go out, they go just as hard. Perhaps the only spectacle more intimidating than a group of PR girls at an important industry function is the same group, three hours later, at a club. They embody the “work hard, play hard” ideal, and pursue “drinking lychee martinis and grinding to Beyonce” with the same vigor they pursue “following up on important emails.” Never get in their way on the dance floor."

Sometimes when my wife comes home from work I feel like I can't focus my eyes or form a normal sentence, on account of being a computer all day. It would not be unusual for me to go almost a full work day without saying a single thing out loud. And on the weekends, when I go out, sometimes I feel so sweaty and dizzy that I almost fall down. 

10. "They know their environment like no one else. There is no better person to ask for a restaurant or bar recommendation, because they know their cities like the back of their manicured hands. They have the good shopping streets, the best happy hours, and the latest restaurants all stored in their mental rolodex of socializing."

A week or so ago I Google mapped how to get to a coffee shop that's down the street from me, like ten minutes away. I was like "I can't picture it."

11. "They form power couples. When they choose to date, their boyfriends often work in finance or at least, on some more vague level, “business,” and the two of them form the kind of couple that makes you feel like you’ll always be an overgrown child spilling juice on yourself."

Almost every person I've ever dated has either been an almost actual prostitute, or the kind of person who gets mad if they have $5 and I have $10. The first person I met who wasn't like this, I married. 

12. "They travel in packs. They form migrating goose-like formations as they walk importantly down city streets. You cannot break them up, and you cannot come between them — in any sense."

When having an in-person convo with someone, for every minute of eye contact I make I have to look at something else for a minute. Look at your face, look at my shoe. Look at your face, look at the table. Look at your face, look over there. Etc. If I don't do this I start to feel like I may just fall right down.

13. "They are always judging. Even if they’re much too diplomatic to actually say anything, they always have an opinion. They are always observing, making judgments, and deciding their next move. They can be the coolest girls in the world to hang out with, but you will always want to be just a little more on your game in their presence, because they will be judging. With love, of course."

*Fart noise*

*Audible groan*

*Slide whistle noise*

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Everything I Don't Want to Be

By: Kelly McClure

I wrote this for an anthology of essays I've been working on with a friend over the past year, but now it seems past it's expiration date so I want to throw it out into the world before it turns to yogurt. The girlfriend I mention in it is now my wife. The Mom I mention in it is still dead.

I never once felt my age until my Mother passed away on October 31, 2013. At the time of her passing I was 36, and she was 62. Six plus three is nine, and six plus two is eight,  which is a digit of difference, but that doesn’t mean anything in the context of this story. 36 flipped around is 63, which is again, one number off, and one ahead, but it’s a random detail, and that’s all. To go further into it, adding up the individual numbers of 31,2013 makes ten, bump that up to the numerical for October, which is ten, and you have 1010, which is the address of my Grandma (my Mother’s Mother)’s house. 1010 Prince Valiant Ln. (And VALIANT no less!)  I was born on Friday the 13th, and my Mother died on Halloween, creepy, but again, doesn’t mean anything. Everything is symbolic if you want it to be. And at the same time, everything can mean absolutely nothing if you look at it long enough. Enough focus directed at any idea or thing just blurs the edges. Blurs the edges until they close in and in and in, and it’s all just static. And maybe that’s for the best. It’s too painful to think, well, to know, because you do, that everything, and I do mean everything, means way too much. Oh so very very much. And all of the time.

What could possibly mean something is the fact that months before meeting the woman who is now my live-in girlfriend (and future wife) I sat in the dark on the bloated, cracking hard wood floors of my studio apartment in Brooklyn with a pad of paper, a pen and a candle. I sat with these things, idle, only briefly, because I had a plan and there was no reason to sit there and think about anything. I knew what I intended to do, and I did it. I lit the candle, I can’t remember what kind it was, to be honest, could have been a cheap vanilla scented thing from the corner store, it doesn’t matter. I lit the candle, took the pen in my hand, moved the pad of paper closer to me, where the sprig of light illuminated the page just enough to see what I was writing, and began to make a list of all the qualities I would want in an ideal mate. After I had written everything I could think of that would be of the utmost importance in someone perfect for me, I read them out loud until I felt like I had read them out loud enough to make whoever was listening know that I was serious. When I was done reading, I blew out the candle and went to bed. 

Months later. More than one, and less than five. I had a girlfriend. A girlfriend who I knew upon sight, was going to be the last girlfriend I ever had. On our first date, which was in early October of 2012, she brought me a mini pumpkin. I can still see her smile in my head, and how she looked - shy, and a little nervous, as she pulled it out of her bag and set it on the bar we were having drinks at. I kept it on my work desk until it rotted, and then I threw it in the East River - upon her request. It was a sacrifice. A way of closing a circle. A way of giving thanks for a wish granted. And also just a fun way to dispose of a rotten pumpkin. I can’t help but wonder, as I’m sure you would too, how much of a sacrifice it really was. 

November 17th, 2012 I asked my girlfriend to officially be my girlfriend while standing at the foot of Elvis’s grave in Memphis, TN where we had traveled to celebrate her 30th birthday. Elvis died in 1977, which is the year I was born. Reading all this now as I’m writing it, I know I’m straining to piece these things together and make signs out of coincidences, but you have to admit … there are a lot of them. There always are, if you look hard enough, which makes the world seem so much bigger than it is. Or smaller, depending (as always) how you look at it. 

The piece of paper I wrote my wish list on still exists, and is kept by my girlfriend in a wooden box tucked away in her bookcase. The paper has bite marks out of it because there was a time when we thought that maybe she should eat the paper. Seemed fitting since what I wrote came to be - and she was the fruit of that. The side of my family on my Mother’s side were all farmers, so I’ve learned from them that naturally, all fruit comes from soil that is tampered with, altered, to insure a particular result. Dirt is prodded and poked to yield fruit, and then seeds of that fruit go right back into the dirt to make more. And on and on and on. Like a magic that vaguely makes sense to us in an ingrained primitive way. The box that this nipped at paper is kept in, in the bookcase, is beneath and to the right of my Mother’s laminated obituary, which is pinned to a wooden bird house that’s filled with little things that I collected from her house after she died. The tree above the fruit that fell from it, and we’re holding onto the seeds, just in case. There’s all different kinds of farming. I know that now. I taught myself that. It wasn’t until recently that I took the piece of paper out to read what I had written and reminisce about it that I noticed I had put a date at the end of it, a deadline for when I’d meet this person I was listing all the qualities for. The date I had put was October 31st. 

I spent the night of my 30th birthday at a dive bar in Chicago, Illinois with a girl I was dating who I didn’t like all that much, and a friend who I was embarrassed of. I had attempted to throw a party for myself, which never works anyway, and this time it especially fell to shit on account of it being Mother’s Day. Everyone who I invited out was occupied with Mother’s Day activities, or so they said, and I wasn’t, and wouldn’t have been even if it hadn’t of been my birthday, because I hadn’t spoken to my Mother in months. My most vivid memory of the night was playing a game where we pretended to be zombies by filling our mouths with beer, swishing it until it turned to foam, and spitting it at the window when people walked by on the sidewalk outside. No one even looked or seemed to care and I’m pretty sure, even if I’m remembering it wrong, I thought something along the lines of “this birthday was supposed to be special.” 

I don’t remember my 31st birthday, my 32nd, or my 33rd, but I definitely do remember my 30th, and not because I had left my 20s and was now this age that some consider “old,” I’ve never felt “old,” and I still don’t. I remember it because I was disappointed in a way that I hadn’t been on previous botched birthdays. Turning 30 seemed like an opportunity that could have been had, but wasn’t. I felt like I could have done more, but didn’t have the proper tools to do so, and I hate that. It has never felt good to me to, even loosely, be in situations where I need anything outside of myself to make something more enjoyable, or more tolerable. If it didn’t come from me, it wasn’t dependable. That’s what I believed, and in a way (though a much healthier way now) still do. Still makes for difficult party planning though. 

I have spent my life as an only child, raised in well decorated, quiet homes, in various parts of Illinois and California. Almost every childhood memory I have revolves around only me. Me trying to secure a sun bleached board in between two branches of an apple tree to sit on and read during a hot summer day. Me setting up my Garfield tent in the front yard of our house and singing to the orange stray cat that came around sometimes. Me roller skating in the garage with the door pulled down, listening to the Dream a Little Dream soundtrack on my silver boom box. Me swimming in a pool and trying to remember to not surface anywhere near the dead wasp that was floating in the middle while the only sound heard was faint traffic noises in the distance and the rustle of breeze in our magnolia trees. Most people would be lonely, or look back at a childhood like this and think “those were lonely times.” I consider myself lucky though because what it’s hard to realize, if you didn’t grow up like I did, is that being raised like this trains you to never fully know what “lonely” even feels like. There’s no alternative, so nothing seems at all wrong with it. You’re just alone and that’s the way it is. You learn to find and feel love like it’s the rising or setting of the sun. It’s a warm feeling that’s out there, and it’s just as much yours as anyone else’s - all you have to do is aim yourself towards it when you want it to touch you, and when you feel like you’ve had enough, you go inside. 

Pretty early into my teenage years I started noticing that the way my parents did things was not like the way I did things, or, since I was too young to have really done anything, different from the ways I saw myself doing things when I became an adult. They relied on a lot of ignoring. All kinds of ignoring, of just about everything. I started having a dream around this time that I still have every now and then more than 20 years later. I would dream that I had a cat that I forgot about, and forgot to feed, so long that one day I found it nestled amongst the stuffed animals on my bed, long dead and decomposed. I don’t like how it feels to ignore things. It feels like intentionally making ghosts. It’s very easy, I learned from them, to choose not to live your own life, but just sit calmly and wait for it to be over. I liked quiet, but I had had enough of quiet being enforced like a rule upon me. I started studying apartment classifieds in the daily paper at the age of 13, and moved out at 17 the week after I graduated high school. I’ve never been anywhere near as alone since.

The day before my Mom died I wrote this as a status update on Facebook: “While standing in the kitchen smoking a cigarette and heating up a pizza in the oven I stopped to ponder the fact that when my mom was my age I was eleven years old.” I can specifically remember, more so than any other age she was, aside from maybe 62 because it was her last, my Mom being 36. She smoked like a chimney, had shoulder length blonde hair - poofy like a yard weed, and her mouth and everything in her pockets and purse smelled like mint gum. She seemed old, like mom aged. She seemed like a person who hadn’t done much in life, and didn’t care. I could not relate to her at all, and she knew absolutely nothing about me and didn’t care to ask. She was everything I don’t want to be, and although she didn’t teach me much, actively, she did teach me by example that ignoring things is a childish trait that one should aspire to grow out of. She taught me young that although everyone alive does have a life, it’s not going to live itself.  Sure, it’ll live in the sense that it exists and is the opposite of death, biologically, but if left unmotivated, it’ll drift away like one long, hot, exasperated breath. 

As a kid I always assumed that you were owed certain things in life, and that all that was coming to you would come to you when it was supposed to. I saw life’s pre-arranged milestones as being spaced out finish lines, presenting little treasures that the map of your personal existence led you to in a casual way. Blips in time where you’d pause, acquire new tools and knowledge, and move on to the next level. I’ve come to learn that getting what you want out of life is less like treasure hunting, and more like milking a cow. You gotta squeeze it out. I didn’t learn this when I was 30, and I didn’t learn this when I was 35. I learned this, concretely, when I was told by my Dad over the telephone on the morning of October 31st, 2013 that my Mother had died, slumped over on the love seat in their front room. Upon hearing these words, with no wishing or thinking of my own, the gap of difference between the age I felt and the age I was came together like the loud clap of two sweaty hands. My childhood, though I never really had much of one to speak of, was over. My Mother, who, with the help of my Father’s seed gave me life, floated away somewhere I couldn’t follow. And with all the symbolism I can force, allow, or realistically recognize, I’ve turned the rotting pumpkin shell of her life into love. Love pulled out of nowhere. And I know what to do with it now, and I know the words to keep it warm and safe. It took me almost 37 years. I am just now the adult that I’ve always wanted to be. Oh, and three plus seven is ten. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Nobody Reads Total Bozo Magazine, And You Shouldn’t Too

By: Ben Johnson

At this point there should be a word that means “a link to something came to my attention via social media today, and I am about to talk about that now.” It should be German, probably, or maybe Japanese. Those languages have the best words for concepts that definitely exist but that English-speaking people would rather explain to you than just say. Today, thanks to my friend Mark Colomb, I saw this piece. It appeared on a website. It’s about one particular website, The Awl, and about websites in general.

“What the hell,” I thought, “might as well read this thing about websites.” I have a website. You’re looking at it right now. It’s… you know, it’s a website. It’s not doing much, just sitting there being a website, kind of, but it is at least a website. So that’s something I have in common with the website guys the article is about. Maybe I can learn a thing or two I hadn’t thought of yet on the subject of websites and website-having.

What happened next left me speechless. Specifically, what happened next, was that my tenderloins, or whatever those muscles are that run up your back on the sides of your spine, constricted and my breath got all sparse and starry. In other words, what happened next was the same thing that happens whenever I find myself stuck in a long grocery store line with a cart full of microwavable garbage, waiting for more well-appointed shoppers to buy their organic produce, wondering what kind of space alien has the confidence to purchase an actual jicama without apparent foreknowledge of its inevitable crisper-drawer rot stink. This article, about some website guys who have a website, is dread, and not that theoretical existential-style creeping dread of alienation, but rather that I am going to die right now, “oh my god oh my god I am dying” dread that possesses your actual body and explodes in your brain and turns your vision gray.

What part, though?

It for sure wasn’t the part that talks about the future of online content, how much of the internet is being strained through these social media platforms, whose minor algorithmic adjustments create entire content-providing ecosystems that spring up, thrive, and die, like whatever weird, indistinct individual creatures feast on geothermal vents and whale carcasses on the ocean floor. That part was interesting. So was the part about the stratification of the human experience into ever more finely tuned revenue management guidelines, about how human life and labor is slowly and inexorably being converted into data, how data processing stratagem will eventually become the shape of our society, how the individual is dying in that way too, and will continue to commensurate with increasingly sophisticated modeling and a few flops of Moore’s Law. Spooky, but interesting. Fun to think about, even. Humanity’s satisfying denouement, even better in the book than in the movie.

The part of the article that puckered my sternum was the description of who these people are. Of course they are white people. Of course they are based in Brooklyn. Of course their professional backstories are a byzantine recap of internet publications large and small, and of course they have names that sound like herbal tea variants, and of fucking course they’re listening to Destroyer in their cramped but stylish office. It didn’t make me roll my eyes, because my eyes were too busy being coated in socksless boat shoes, and my vertebrae were too busy fusing into a fetal position, and I was too busy locked inside my mind screaming “get a job” to nobody in particular like the ghost of an apoplectic 1950’s Brooklynite concierge.

Like I said, I have a website. I’m white. I’m not based in Brooklyn or, worse, San Francisco, but I live in an urban center, in a Chicago apartment that’s walking distance to two dildo stores and a gourmet hot dog place that puts Foie gras on duck sausage, which I eat the shit out of (the duck sausage) just about every chance I get. I can’t play the “I’m different” card while talking about the Awl guys with any outward credibility, except in that I am less prolific and less popular and don’t make a dime from my website, and, aside from whatever back-end justification you want to attach to amateurism in art, all that means is that I’m less ambitious and likely also less talented than they are. Maybe the landscape of my “trauma” and resultant neuroses is a little different too, but we humans are not in the business of giving a shit about that. The basic demography is roughly equivalent between me and the Destroyer-listening Brooklyn fuckwads depicted in this article.

The eyelid palpitations I get from the section that lists off respective CV’s harbor plenty of jealousy vibes. I’ll concede that. I’d like to write or work for one of these places, probably. It seems nice. In theory. I’d also like to have nicer clothes, and seem generally fuckable to attractive and intelligent potential mates, and have my well-articulated opinion on matters of the day valued and financed by the world at large, and embody a sense of writerly craftsmanship, and be applauded by peers I respect, and otherwise have all of my pleasure centers tickled by whatever manifestation of purpose-affirming capital suits me best.

Most importantly, I’d like to like myself as much as these people seem to, and have an interviewer note how self-effacing I am at the interview and photo shoot I am currently participating in. I’d like to be able to say “did you read that piece in The Verge about The Awl?” and more or less leave it at that without my psyche crumbling into some panic-stricken wormhole through which my fears are transmuted into the unintelligible torrent of words you are now reading. But hey, that’s just not me, I guess.

I think The Awl is a pretty good website. For all I know. I don’t read it. I think the New Yorker and The Atlantic are probably pretty good magazines too, and I don’t read them either. I’m not a great reader. I think there are probably a lot of amazing things in this world that I have not been able to latch onto or participate in because my teeth vibrate like a tuning fork every time I hear them described, and I’m trying to be alive, and all this, being a website, talking about websites, reading about websites on websites, living within the race of humans, specifically young urban white people who are striving to document and amuse themselves out of a self-perpetuating stupor of late capitalist and postmodern alienation with “content,” just that one word “content,” now meaning “non-nourishing informational slurry,” feels very unlike living. It feels, in a few bare moments of experience such as the one I just had reading this thing about the thing, like a goddamn boa constrictor around your neck. It feels like possibilities dying. I hate it.

It’s good to remind ourselves, and this is a good time to do it with the New York Stock Exchange seizing up yesterday in what was except for probably a few not very good anyway rich people a total non-thing, that these social media platforms, like the “content”-generating providers that feed into them, are still optional. We can still get our information from wherever we want. And we can also choose to get no information. Or a slow drip of it. We can decide against any information, and might benefit from doing so if the only people giving us “content” that’s “worthy of our attention” happen to be walking postgraduate barracudas in bespoke trunk club trousers, experimental haircuts, and vintage blazers, people who unselfconsciously use the word “optimization” like they are somehow exempt from this doomed species of ours and therefore do not need to cut the shit and/or get real. Maybe instead of hearing everything processed through the filter of these people, we can stick to basic human truths as a more enlightened news source.

Today’s hot content: Pam seems upbeat today. Eugene told a funny joke on the elevator. You are at your desk in an office, or on your phone on the train, or in bed on a tablet, and people are everywhere, all around you, just through the walls, breathing in much the same way you do. Talking to them  and living with and among them (even if they totally suck, and most of them do) rather than merely harvesting their diluted essence through manufactured screen-bourne consumables is not just life affirming for you, but maybe more beneficial, it’s also an opportunity cost for some hapless caffeine addict currently sitting in an ergonomic chair in an office with exposed brick, listening to New Pornographer side projects all day long, on an infinite deadline. Instead, Pam wants her husband to build a trellis to screen her patio, and you can tell her that seems nice, because it does.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Late in Life Drug Use is Terrifying

By: Kelly McClure

This is a photo of me on actual mushrooms. I'm laying in the corner on the floor.

I did drugs. I have previously been on drugs. Over the weekend, I was 100% under the influence of drugs. 

(It's so embarrassing.) 

4th of July was a holiday. 4th of July is, and was, a holiday that took place this past Saturday. My wife and I had plans for the day and they included: setting up our new patio furniture, having breakfast while sitting at the newly put together patio furniture, packing up picnic lunch materials and fireworks and then riding our bikes over to the waterfront area near our house to loiter around and wait for it to get dark so we could see the fireworks like two normal ass married people who are normal and don't do drugs on holidays. 

One activity that definitely wasn't on the list of activities planned for that day was: Kelly doing drugs and melting into the dirt, thus ruining the 4th of July for everyone, God and America included. 

Holidays are really important to me. Any holiday. I know they're stupid, but I don't care. It's a holiday. It's a day intended to be different than any other day, and that's a day that means something to me. I like special days. I like days to be special. I like days to be FUCKING PERFECT AND SPECIAL OR ELSE! Holidays are very important. 

I get this from my Mom. My Mom would purchase large quantities of decorations for every holiday there is and throw them all over the house, inside and out. Plastic turkey? Sure. Inflatable Easter Bunny. Got it. Light up stuffed snow man that's also a hat? You bet. One year my Dad and I were unable to make it to my grandmother's birthday party (her b-day is on November 16th, which is close to the climax of holidays, Christmas) and to punish us, my Mom fled our home, unknown to us, sometime before we woke up Christmas morning, and didn't return until the next day. My Dad and I spent all of Christmas that year sitting in chairs and talking about her, and where she could be. We made mentally exhausted attempts to have a normal, good day. But we couldn't pull it together. Later we found that she had stayed in a hotel that day. My Dad saw the charge on the Visa bill when it came in the mail. I thought about this on this past Saturday while I was on drugs and even made a point to say something about it to my wife. 

"At least I didn't do this on Christmas."

I spent several hours towards the end of my 4th of July this year (which is definitely a holiday, although not Christmas, which we just established is the most important holiday there is) flopping around on the floor, crying, and repeating to myself inside of my foamy goop brain "you ruined the 4th of July. You ruined the 4th of July. You ruined the 4th of July.) I texted my friend Ben, "I ruined the 4th of July," and he replied that I hadn't actually done that, and everything was fine, and I was okay. This brought me comfort for a few seconds, but then my phone started making me nauseous. Because that's a thing that happens when you're on drugs. My phone was making my stomach hurt, and this one night lite was trying to fuck with me. I don't know. It was though.

So yeah, I did drugs over the weekend. I don't know why I did them. I just did. The earlier part of Saturday (which was 4th of July. Known holiday) was good. We had our picnic by the waterfront, drank red wine out of plastic cups we got and then kept from the time we went to see Rocky the Musical in New York, when we still lived there. It was a good day. 4th of July was looking good. Then our friend showed up and mentioned that he had acid and mushrooms. Hearing this news, for no known reason, my brain was like "let's do drugs!" I asked my wife if she wanted to do these drugs and she said no. She also said that I personally was not allowed to do these drugs, but then, after thinking about this, my brain was like "drugs!" and I turned to my friend and was like "I want your drugs!"  I was given a bag of mushrooms that I clumsily shoved in my backpack, and then proceeded to shove into my face. I didn't know exactly how many I was supposed to take out of the bag, so I made a big point out of not taking "them all." I left about 4 crumbs. I did too many. I forgot what doing drugs was like. 

The difference between doing drugs when you're younger, as opposed to when you're pushing 40 lies in the difference between what your young brain was holding onto under the floorboards, and what your pushing 40 brain is now holding on to for dear life. And granted, the last time I did mushrooms (not this very last time, on the 4th of July, but the time before then) was only a few years ago, but a few years ago is still younger. A few years makes a big difference. 

During the majority of my previous drug experiences, and there honestly haven't been that many, my primary thoughts/rambles, were something along the lines of "let's walk really far!" Or, "Let's say something awkwardly poetic about dirt!" This most recent time they were more like "There's dishes in the sink, I can't even clean my house anymore." And, "What if this makes my wife fall out of love with me?" I was also extremely concerned with losing or damaging things that cannot be easily replaced, if at all. I kept trying to hide my phone from myself, and I hid my wedding rings and then announced it to my wife by saying "I put my rings in the thing!"

On drugs as an adult my house smelled funny. My back hurt. I couldn't figure out how to put a shirt on. I looked at my face in the mirror and my imperfections made me cry and feel afraid. What had I done to myself? What was I currently doing to myself? When was this going to be over? 

I watched a video on my phone, I think it was an ad for something on Facebook, it showed young people teaching old people how to use the internet. I kept watching it and then sighing and crying. Crying and sighing. I thought about my Dad. I thought about my Mom. I tried to summon the ghost of my Mom and then got so scared that it would actually work. I was afraid to touch the cats because I didn't want to hurt them. And something was menacing behind the bedroom door. 

Drugs are whatever. Drugs are a thing you can do. They're not bad and they're not good. I guess I just taught myself over this holiday weekend that doing drugs when you have a lot to lose, and also a lot you actively try NOT to think about, isn't anywhere near euphoric. It's terrifying.