Category Archives: Personal
I’m still working on some other posts, but in the meantime for an update’s sake, here are some of my favorite photos from Saturday/Sunday’s NYCC 2019 cosplay (you can see the rest on my Tumblr):
A few minutes ago I was of a generation that saw the World Cup qualifiers as a gloomy cloud. Now, I can finally take that away from me. VAMOS PERU A RUSIA CONCHESUMADRE.
November is an interesting month for me, personally. I always try the NaNoWriMo thing (never completing, because it’s just not something that works for me but hey it’s fun). But also that it’s also Epilepsy Awareness Month (because that that’s not so fun, but hey, it completes me as the person I now am).
One day, I probably should combine the two. But I don’t know how. Some ideas have popped into my head, but they’ve all come out like both writing a novel or having a seizure – erratic, auric, and confusing. In the meantime I’ll just ramble on this month, working on both with one on haikumixtape and the other perhaps here, perhaps on things that will never see the light of day.
I have a new job, one that has me leaving the house after years of working in my pajamas. So that means a commute, which I’m comfortable with. This has afforded a small moment of peace, as turbulent as that sounds, since I am away from the family and the office for a combined eighty minutes give or take when the next train comes. So, of course, I write. I keep three notebooks in my bag along with all my other items. Lately I’m using one of the smaller ones since I’m working on my new Haiku Mixtape project, which doesn’t really need a lot of real estate as far as paper is concerned. The larger notebook comes out rarely, but when it does it’s only when I can sit down waiting for the next train, and when i really need to put down something long and drawn out.
This isn’t a new thing, I’ve been doing this for years. What makes it different is the ritualistic nature of it now. The pulling out of the black book and pen, the faces of daily commuters surrounding me becoming small easels for facial descriptions, etc. It isn’t like the weekend train ride. there’s a permanence to it now. This continued mobile isolation of sorts will be a productive one, hopefully. Until the job drives me insane.
(Note: parts of this were made in repeated drafts written on the PATH train on Monday and Tuesday of this week.)
[This is a repost from my Tumblr from something that happened two years ago. I decided to put it here just in case something happened to the other site in the future.]
The heat of the 9th Street PATH station was the least of my annoyances that night. I sat down on the only free spot of a bench with no back rest, next a loathsome group of men in pastel polo shirts and women in garish colored tight dresses. The ladies’ voices dripped with superficiality and their conversations were infested with horrible pop culture references and appending “hashtag” to meaningless words. It reminded me why I never understood the newfound attraction people have in moving to Hoboken and become like them. The train on route back to New Jersey came in, and I entered few cars away from that group. It made no difference – this time a group of completely hammered Hispanic men and women stood a couple of feet to my right, swaying near a connecting door, slurring lyrics incoherently as loud as possible.
As I am wont to do on late-night trains, I activated the gentlemanly part of my mind that I had shut down earlier at the club. I let the elderly and women exhausted from their own partying take any seat that could have been mine. Tonight I was especially urbane, as I needed atonement for a brusque exchange with a lady in the mood for a dance or two. Those dances did not happen, of course.
I kept to myself, holding a pole and hearing the conversations around me. Three men gave someone directions to Newark Airport. I looked over to see who was on the receiving end of the advice. A girl about my age sat at the end of a seat. She had a light frame and wore a short black jacket, holding on two pieces of rolling luggage that if stacked on top of each other would block her out of view completely. She had wavy reddish-brown hair with black roots that looked natural-colored. From my preliminary look at her I saw that her skin was a healthy white, but she was not Caucasian – perhaps a mixed race Asian. She had a tired look on her face.
I waited until the stop the Hoboken purged the generic party crowd before I walked over to the pole nearest to the girl. My second examination made it clear the she was Arabic, Turkish most likely, from the deep black eyelashes surrounding hazel eyes and full lips that were amazing in spite of no lipstick.
“You’re trying to get to Newark, right?” I asked her.
She looked up wearily but with enough energy to smile. “Yeah,” she said.
“Just follow me then, we’ll be at Journal Square soon. OK?” She nodded.
The rest of the ride to the transfer station consisted of making fun of the drunken Latinos. They were amusing until one of the men who decided standing between the cars and bouncing around was a sane idea.
“Hey dumbass, get back in here, I don’t want a delayed train!” I shouted. I turned back to the girl. “I promise not everyone from New Jersey acts like them,” I said.
“Well, that’s good,” she said. She didn’t stop smiling.
The seat next to her cleared on the next stop. I sat down and finally asked her name.
“What does that mean?”
She laughed. “It’s a bit embarrassing, actually.”
I told her mine.
“Like, Jesus, Jesus?”
“Yup. So trust me, your name won’t make me laugh any more than people have laughed at mine.”
“Well…my name means something like “woman so revered that kings would fight over her.”
I looked at quizzically. “How is that a bad thing?”
She laughed and shrugged.
The rest of the trip to Journal Square I let her tell her story. She was on her way home, in Vancouver, to visit her parents before visiting family in Montreal – I told her I had family there as well. After that stop, she said “I’m going back to uni in Istanbul. I have to learn more Arabic.”
“Why? What are you going to school for?”
“I want to be a war correspondent.”
The image of this shy and beautiful young Turkish girl wearing the stereotypical bulletproof vest, with her hair tied down but still moving to the winds created by jet fighters and mortar fire, appeared in my mind. I pushed it away to listen to her internships – one at Reuters, another for the Associated Press – and her experience in a boot camp created to prepare journalists for the dangerous areas ahead in their careers.
“The first things they gave us were a bulletproof vest and a helmet,” she said, and her excitement from the memory increased the broadness of her grin. “And the only thought I could think of when they gave it to me was… awesome.”
The train stopped at Journal Square. I moved into gentleman overdrive and reached for one of the luggage pieces and pulled it in the open door’s direction. She tried to dissuade me with the oh-you-don’t-have-to’s and are-you-sure-you-can’s but I calmly told her I couldn’t just leave her dragging those beasts on her own. This was one of the few times I was glad the late night Newark train took its sweet time.
I kept my answers to her questions brief. I used my San Francisco card rather well, and she asked about my immigrant story. The only thing question that caught me off guard was:
“Well, now that you’re back in New Jersey, do you think about leaving again?”
I paused and gave her some vague answer, but I know that the true answer is yes, I do always.
We reached Penn Station and after passing by a toothless homeless woman throwing obscenities at the two of us, I hailed a taxi for her and let her go. She hugged me and I gave her a quick kiss on the cheek – I have absolutely no idea why I did that. I was picked up by my normal ride, and in hindsight I should have asked if she wanted a ride, but that would have been a very suspect proposal.
It’s been a week and she is still on my mind, with that sheepish smile. I think she will have more men fighting over her soon – this time with actual guns.
So there was the memory of the 1999 Chemical Brothers show burned into my memory that I described in the first part of my love letter to electronic music. That night is ingrained in my musical DNA like an aggressive gene therapy created by the beats and sights of glowsticks and dancing. That’s about as deep as the scar on my left knee from the two surgeries needed to reconstruct it. That’ll never go away.
My sister took me other shows afterwards of course and I was very lucky for some of those experiences. One in particular was seeing the sweat come off Tiësto’s brow in an incredibly small rave tent in 2002 as he waved his hand at these two blonde girls that had the even smaller waists. This was years before the dudebros and guidos in the Tri-State Area found him and Tiësto started filling up US arenas like he did the ones back home in the Netherlands.
High school shifted the taste dramatically. It was a change made from the angst-ridden years where my mind and body wanted songs from men like Andre 3000, Christopher Wallace, Maynard James Keenan, Chino Moreno, and Jimmy Page. That big rock and hip-hop kick for most of high school, filled with all the introspection and manufactured anguish an introverted nerdy guy is generally known to have, washed out a lot of drum and bass and trance music from my MP3 players and CD mixtapes.
It wasn’t that something switched in me overnight and I just hated EDM. What occurred was just that there was a mental disconnect, at least to me at the time, of being a fan of high tempo dance music while being a moody little shit, you know? And it was a bit hard to keep your headphones on playing Orbital while your friends blasted screamo and the pop-punk du jour. I stopped going to electronic shows, started going to rock concerts. I loved them as well, but looking back they’ve yet to burn into me like the raves tents and dance clubs.
What kept my body sing electronic, even though I sat in my room alone with my headphones on, came in the gust of one particular song – it keeps happening that way with me, as you’ll see in the next part of this series. That song kept coming to me in small parts placed in scenes of episodes on TV or movies. The bass line crept up slowly until the snare drum came in, then the languid sample loops and fuzzy guitar riff in the background. Then the lyrics came on.
“You…are my angel…”
The song is menacing as all hell while maintaining a seductive cool from the juxtaposition of Horace Andy’s voice. And from there I delved into Massive Attack and by that path I found trip-hop, downtempo, ambient, and all the slower undercurrents of electronic music. Here’s sampler of what I was listening to.
There’s a reason why I bring all this up. It comes because of my writing. As far as I can think of, most of my earliest writing came from the sounds of songs like the ones from the playlist above that came from Bristol or many other parts of the aural umbra. There are times when I hear the rhythmic drums in “Inertia Creeps” that take me to places to stories that are far and away from the song’s lyrics about sex. DJ Shadow’s “Midnight In A Perfect World” served as the theme for a lot of my old poems, if that makes any sense.
Even if all of the stuff I made from that time was garbage – and it was, of course – the music helped start it all, and it was this particular type of music that was the hymn. That was my soundtrack when I was sixteen and an insomniac with too many things that needed to be poured out of my head and onto the screen.
I did eventually get to hear “Angel” live, in 2010 at the Warfield in San Francisco – luckily someone put up a YouTube vid of it. The entire show helped me feel young since I remembered the album came out in 1998 and the crowd must have at least been 35-plus in age. I’m soon to be 27 and I’m listening to “(Exchange)” the final song from Massive Attack’s Mezzanine. Seems like a pretty good way to cap off the post.
A friend invited me to explore the Freedom Tunnel in NYC a few weeks back. For those that don’t know, the tunnel is a part of the Amtrak rail line near Riverside Park. It was known for its shantytowns and massive assortment of graffiti. Her and I, along with two of her classmates, bundled up on a cold Thursday afternoon to go around and take photos (and not get smashed by on coming trains, of course).
I had been to smaller conventions before – The Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition in 2011 and PAX East this year, but New York Comic-Con was the first time I almost felt overwhelmed going through crowds of cosplayers, garden-variety geeks, and bewildered parents of tween Homestruck fans (which I honestly don’t get, or maybe I really am old). I didn’t really take in the full con at first due to working on Thursday and my Friday was severely cut from an immense pain in my feet from a beforehand walking from the New York Public Library down to Union Square in a “team-building” exercise for work.
I did manage to get a primary target out of the way on Friday despite the pain. I wanted to get my copies of Pax Romana and The Nightly News signed by Jonathan Hickman, the writer/artist of the books. For those that don’t know, both are indie graphic novels in which the former’s premise answered the question of what history would be like if the Middle Ages had never happened, and the latter involves terrorists against the media. Hickman’s current run on Fantastic Four was pretty good as well, seeing as you know, actually got me to read FF comics for the first time without tossing them back into a bin somewhere.
When it was my time to speak to him, I told Hickman as he signed my books that his run on Fantastic Four was the first time I had ever cared about them.
“Me too!” he responded.
I had my friend Phil take a photo of me with Hickman.
Oh, one more Friday photo of note is that of writer/artist and Kabuki creator David Mack.
Saturday was the true slog, however. I had convinced to take my mother, sister, and brother-in-law around the convention to their first huge convention. I had no internet/phone service from the moment I got within yards of the Jacob Javits Center, and after finding all of them more than an hour later, I lost them in the first fifteen to twenty minutes of walking around with them. I knew it would be pointless to find them in the crowd, so I walked around until more of my friends showed up. From there on out I walked around, taking photos of cosplayers. Here are some of the greatest hits from the entire con:
The above photo is a good segue for an interesting part of my con experience. I am fascinated with the steampunk scene. I used to own these great goggles but I lost them in the move back to Jersey. I saw this old man from Michigan selling them at a reasonable price (as if there is a reasonable price for gear of that sort) which included magnifier glasses. Phil said something that proved to be correct: ladies love cool goggles:
To be a complete attention whore about my new gear, I kept them on my head. even when I left the con to get food. I had a female tourist sitting outside a restaurant ask about them, and I had a group of women staring at me the entire time I was at a nearby dive bar. I wasn’t in the mood to start a conversation, however. The real test of the theory though? Her:
She politely complimented me on my goggles after I took this photo. That pretty much validated the purchase.
My final (and probably most important) target of the convention happened on the final day. I wanted to meet Phonogram and current Journey Into Mystery writer Kieron Gillen. To put it simply, Gillen is one of my new heroes. Gamer writer (he founded Rock Paper Shotgun), music geek on a level I’ve never been to (seriously, read the original and see just how much Britpop you really know), and apparently pretty solid at conventional comics seeing as the line in the 3:00-4:00 time frame comprised entirely of his fans, mostly young teenage girls obsessed with his Journey Into Mystery run. I normally like to chat with people in line, but seeing as I along with my associate Rob were probably a good ten years older than the people behind and in front of us, we both kept quiet.
I had brought two things for him to sign: one was a trade of his short run on the quickly cancelled SWORD from Marvel, and his sequel to the original Phonogram, The Singles Club. When it was my time to speak, I had put the SWORD trade on top. I slid them over to him and said:
“I bought the first one to keep the Marvel thing going but..”
I then slid it over to show the Phonogram trade. He smiled and did that British thing where they tip the side of their nose. I went off and told him that Phonogram was my Velvet Underground (to understand that, there’s this old anecdote that the first VU album did not do well financially, but it helped inspire and start many bands) in that he helped validate some of my old ideas of the connection between music and magic. I also told him he stole my idea of using TV On The Radio’s “Wolf Like Me” as a story title and premise. He told me that the same thing had happened to him, only that it was Alan Moore of Watchmen and V for Vendetta fame that took it.
“I took that as compliment,” he said. After that, he asked me if I’m still writing, which is very much the case. He signed my copy with the words “WRITE!!!” and “Music=Magic”, which is the tag of the entire Phonogram series. Rob took this photo of me with Gillen:
Afterwards, I walked around and bought more random stuff in the name of consumerism and went home. Overall, I had a blast. Can’t wait for next years.