29 July 2019

10 June 2019

M is for Mudhoney and Middle Age


     I think it was the summer of 1989, I was on my annual visit back to the UK from Bahrain and went to visit my friend Matt in Newcastle. We were likely getting a bit bored of Bay Area Thrash Metal and New York Hardcore at that point and Punk was in between periods of interest and relevance as far I as I could tell. But really, I knew nothing. I literally lived on a desert island many decades before Google and seeking out meaningful counter-culture was an arduous affair. 
     I was on a quest for something new and exciting to listen to that summer. When I read in Melody Maker or NME about this thing ‘grunge, ‘where Black Sabbath met Black Flag, ‘ I felt the need to roll the dice on a couple of albums. So, instead of buying a back up set of Santa Cruz Speedwheels, I purchased Nirvana’s “Bleach” and Mudhoney’s “Superfuzz Bigmuff.” After several listens all the way through, I determined Nirvana were OK and Mudhoney were fucking epic. Then we learned Mudhoney were playing Newcastle that very week and of course we asked Matt’s parents if we could go. It would have been my first gig and I was ready to get tanked up on Newcastle Brown Ale and loose my hearing. However, these two sheltered fourteen year olds weren’t allowed to go loose their punk rock virginity just yet. So it was back to Bahrain we went with a couple of new albums but another dry hot year to get through getting increasingly thirsty for radical youth culture happenings that were so far out of our reach. 
      Before long, CDs hit Bahrain and Rolling Stone Magazine might even have been available. However it happened, I somehow found out that this thing Grunge was now a big thing and there were many other bands to check out. I took note, trying to see what I might like based on album reviews I read, how the covers looked, song titles and so on. When you spend all your pocket money saving for disposable skateboards, you had to be very careful what you spent the rest of your money on (except the weekend six packs of course) so you couldn’t just but any old pap. Anyway, after very careful consideration I determined that this band Pearl Jam was worth looking into based on their connection to Mudhoney, Seattle and so on. So, I spent maybe nine Bahraini Dinars on Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten.’ 
     After purchase, I raced home, peeled off the plastic and popped the disc eagerly into my little player and waited to have my brain beaten to a pulp in the same way “Touch Me I’m Sick” did a few months earlier. Instead, I immediately felt robbed. Like actually, fucking cheated. Violated. I navigated my way through song after song only to wish I’d been mugged instead of wasting my money on such crap. That was a quarter of a new skate deck. I could have bought a SNFU or Snuff album but no I really wasted it on this terrible crooning classic rock drivel. And that was it, Pear Jam killed most of the interest I had in Seattle or grunge or whatever the shit was going on, to the point where I may have even hesitated to purchase “Nevermind.”

     A couple of summers back, I was catching a few morning grinds at a mostly empty Glenhaven Skatepark in Portland with an old hippy looking bloke and his step-son for company. It was baking hot and I wasn’t really in the mood for small talk, I just wanted to lock into a few smithgrinds before it hit triple digit heat. But the hippy and I got to talking about skateparks, and it was soon clear that this old geezer, named Steve was a real skate nerd. He grew on me the more he talked and the Grateful Dead vibes thankfully floated away. He told me about an upcoming trip he had and how he was going to check out some skateparks in Nevada and play music with his band. It sounded like a skate trip with a bit of music thrown in for fun. Cool. I still assumed he was in a Grateful Dead tribute band but it was only polite to ask, ‘Who’s your band?’ 

He hesitated and then sheepishly replied, 

“Mudhoney.”

“Oh you’re Steve Fucking Turner?!” Ha ha, yeah. So I told Steve Turner from Mudhoney about how I found out about his band while I lived on a cultural and literal desert island and how important it was. I also told him how shit I found all his contemporaries’ bands, until I realized they probably were/are still his friends and I should not be so bloody rude. Yet, he really had to know Pearl Jam had cheated me so horribly in my mid-teens. 
With this, he chuckled… a little… I think…

     I hear Mudhoney singer/ guitarist Mark Arm still packs boxes at SubPop and likes to surf. I know Steve is a record collector/ seller and loves to skate. I love that they are middle-aged nerds still doing it, without close to half the success or acclaim of some of those ‘other bands.’ And that’s why I’m spending $35 to finally see them thirty years later. One of their newer songs could have been written by fourteen year old me,

“I wanna ride
I wanna grind
I wanna get up in this bowl and leave that mess behind
I wanna carve
I wanna glide
I wanna get in the ocean and clear my mind
I wanna go
I wanna go for miles
I wanna ride my bike until everything's alright
Ohhhhh-ho-ho yeah
Ohhhhh-ho-ho yeah
Ohhhhh-ho-ho yeah!”

I mean that as both an insult and a complement. 


Anyway, I have no expectations. I have a little money now, and a few spare skate decks, so no worries if they are shit on Saturday (thank fuck its not a school night). I won’t feel robbed or violated either way but it would be nice if they are good in that skull-splitting way they hit me the first time though. 

24 May 2019

22 May 2019



'America' and 'Americans' are a lot of things. I hear many Brits making huge generalizations about this country and its people. Often looking just as idiotic, narrow-minded and bigoted as the people they think they are criticizing. I'm not here to defend 'America' or 'Americans' but I will say yes, it is indeed massive gaps between rich and poor, fucked up race relations, polarized and maddening politics, chain stores and fast food, genocidal history and all the horror and madness we all know about. Yes, it is even the loud-mouthed over-weight tourists walking around your 'quaint' village. But its also Alice Coltrane and Joe Henderson and this song Earth. Piss off.

16 April 2019

Our Lady Burns: Civilization Is Over-Rated



(But the only thing more over-rated than civilization are symbols of civilization.)

If we believe the narrative that is fed to us, this thing we call civilization is the epitome of human existence. The most logical and only desirable arrangement of the human experience, realized.

We have become civilized therefore we have, become.

But what is civilization?

Is it a socioeconomic arrangement? 
Capitalism Vs Socialism?
Is it intellectual thought?
Is it agriculture? 
Domestication?
Is it technological and scientific development?
Is it culture?
Is it religion? Language? Art? Literature? Politics? 
Is it global interconnection/ interdependence via modern forms of communication and travel?
A combination of development of all of the above?

We are told it is something to revere and without it we will surely perish. Without it we are nothing and we will return to a form of existence that was 'nasty, brutish and short.' This is a myth that has been busted many times.

Really, civilization is nothing but symbols. Abstract ideas that ultimately life does not require. It is a collection of ideas that often get in the way of the very things we are told depend on it. Harmony, quality of life, connectivity, a meaningful existence.

To blindly accept that pre-civilization, we had none of these things, is arrogant and incorrect. A number I like to quote often, is that for 99% of human existence we were not civilized. We were not domesticated, we did not farm, we did not have much of a religion (if any), our technology was very rudimentary, language was not necessary, and art was not needed or prevalent. What we did have was direct lived experience with very few symbols disconnecting us from real life. Arguably, day to day life was art, was religion, was science. We can look to the few remaining gatherer-hunter tribes for evidence of quality of life, pre-civ. 

Ultimately, untouchable abstract concepts do not substitute lived experience.

When we watch the flames of Notre Dame lick the Parisian sky, we naturally mourn the loss of a massive symbol of civilization and its achievements. Yet, we aren't mourning in quite the same way, the breaking up of the ice bergs, species extinction, young black men shot by police, Palestinian homes getting wrecked, the murder of trans-gendered person, kids dying in ICE detention and on and on. Yet, these are the natural outcomes of civilization. Religion, technology, economic disparity, politics, 'society,' are killing the planet and pitting us against each other. Now one of civilizations greatest symbols is up in flames, so perhaps it is a good time to seek some perspective and to ponder what really matters to us. Whether this thing we call 'civilization' is really all its cracked up to be... 

Nothing lasts. 

It will fall. It will crumble. It will burn. 

But everything that matters will survive.

Don't believe me? Or want to consider this more?

Start here:

-The Hazda
-Against Civilization
-The Garden of Peculiarities 
-Abundance Without Affluence
-A People's History of Civilization
-Why Hope?
-Feral





08 April 2019

06 April 2019

Tight Corners



Not sure who took the above photos but these are two of my favorites. What is it about small tight transitions? Classic Spex photo from Bedminster '80s Bristol and Andrew Allen shallow ending. 

25 March 2019

I'll Die Learning

i’ll die learning

we walked as far west as we could
found our spot
sat down 

and waited for the world to shake

symbols had chased us out here
while
clogging the reservoirs
smothering the air
littering the highways
relentlessly nipping and clawing at our heals

but the land would have the last say
we knew this
so we chose a patch of turf
that we pretended was anchored to a stable crust
  

momentarily, we watched the wild surf to the north

but
to the south
the sea was calm and glassy
we were sheltered from the icy east winds
that blew us here
we only had to descend a little way to find sanctuary

as we scrambled down the cliff
soft hands getting dirtier
i remember thinking to myself 
i’d rather starve here
incapable
of feeding myself in the wild

i’ll die learning.

21 March 2019

#modernparenting



i am a bad dad
bit of an arsehole 
really 
losing the plot
no breakfast, over-caffeinated freak-out 
on the way to her school in frustrating traffic
i hate the sound of the turn signal
her too

i confiscated her phone for a week like that will solve this issue?

yeah?

Unreasonable 

maybe mirroring my own old man 
maybe not
 maybe a tad more involved and clued in
“I am my father’s son/ his shadow weighs a tonne.”
still stubbornly convinced i know the root of this issue
some sort of expert on teenage angst, am i fuck?
there are no experts
i read guardian stories, listened to npr stories 
that back up my stupid technophobic theories on why you and i are shaking 

Uncontrollably 

a good liberal white middle class modern parent
gonna get a therapy corgi
or just give in
i want a convenient answer
hashtag 2019parenting
put it down yourself
the home button does not work anyway.

16 February 2019

RIP Bruno Ganz


I may have posted this poem by Peter Handke in the past. I'm sure I have. But it is worth re-visiting with the death of Bruno Ganz star of 'Wings of Desire.' He also played a pretty good Hitler in 'Downfall' and was in Herzog's version of 'Nosferatu.' However, we all know he was really   Damiel and he has now returned from whence he chose to fall to mortality, back in 1987. One of my favorite films on all times and I cannot over-state its impact on me.

Song of Childhood by Peter Handke


When the child was a child
It walked with its arms swinging,
wanted the brook to be a river,
the river to be a torrent,
and this puddle to be the sea.

When the child was a child,
it didn’t know that it was a child,
everything was soulful,
and all souls were one.

When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.

When the child was a child,
It was the time for these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end?
Is life under the sun not just a dream?
Is what I see and hear and smell
not just an illusion of a world before the world?
Given the facts of evil and people.
does evil really exist?
How can it be that I, who I am,
didn’t exist before I came to be,
and that, someday, I, who I am,
will no longer be who I am?

When the child was a child,
It choked on spinach, on peas, on rice pudding,
and on steamed cauliflower,
and eats all of those now, and not just because it has to.

When the child was a child,
it awoke once in a strange bed,
and now does so again and again.
Many people, then, seemed beautiful,
and now only a few do, by sheer luck.

It had visualized a clear image of Paradise,
and now can at most guess,
could not conceive of nothingness,
and shudders today at the thought.

When the child was a child,
It played with enthusiasm,
and, now, has just as much excitement as then,
but only when it concerns its work.

When the child was a child,
It was enough for it to eat an apple, … bread,
And so it is even now.

When the child was a child,
Berries filled its hand as only berries do,
and do even now,
Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw,
and do even now,
it had, on every mountaintop,
the longing for a higher mountain yet,
and in every city,
the longing for an even greater city,
and that is still so,
It reached for cherries in topmost branches of trees
with an elation it still has today,
has a shyness in front of strangers,
and has that even now.
It awaited the first snow,
And waits that way even now.



When the child was a child,
It threw a stick like a lance against a tree,
And it quivers there still today.

12 February 2019


     I’ve just started to see a new acupuncturist after a taking a couple of years break. So I suppose it’s a good a time as any for someone to die on me. For an eighteen year old young man to die on me. For an eighteen year old young man to die of cardiac arrest on me. A good a time as any. 

D came to me from rehab. Sixteen not clumsy not shy. Exuding confidence. Cocky as they come. A tricky young dude who I knew was going to push many buttons. D was sixteen and knew who he was and what he wanted to do. No unrealistic long term plans, but some down to earth solid and realistic expectations. I could respect that. He was going to get a job, stay with us one year, save up money, get his Oregon ID gender marker changed to male, have top surgery and then move out with friends when he got closer to turning eighteen, while staying sober. Perfect. I was backing it. But I knew it would be a bit of ride. 

I don’t know his whole life story. I don’t tend to pry beyond what people are willing to volunteer. But I knew he spent a vast chunk of his mid-teens drunk and under the influence of other substances. I knew he had some significant health issues both exacerbated and caused by his significant drug and alcohol abuse. He assured me, he didn’t want to go into details but I should know he was talking to his doctors and taking care of himself. Fine by me. I had also spoke to family members who while they seemed to care about him constantly mis-gendered him. It irked me. I understood generational challenges to understanding gender dysphoria but they could at least try a little harder. 

D stood by his word and he soon got his first job working at Subway. School was another matter but he was determined to work and often took the graveyard shift at the Subway in Old Town/ China Town. I’m sure its illegal for someone under 18 to run a fast food joint by themselves overnight? But he had some entertaining stories and really seemed to grow from the experience and responsibility. He also became very educated on transgender issues and advocacy. I believe his first Pride event was 2017 and I’d never seen someone so damn proud. So proud, we had a challenging but hilarious conversation about dress code conflicting with what he was not wearing at the Pride event. It was hard not to smile in front of a young man, boobs hanging out and barely covered, arguing that this was the one day he should be able to wear what he wanted. 

D certainly had some anger that would surface from time to time to the point of scaring some of my staff. At one point we learned his health history would likely complicate his gender reassignment surgeries, as far I understood it. D wanted things to move fast like most teenagers. And when the pace was too slow, he would explode and eventually we had to ask him to leave. But we agreed he could come back as long as he attended some anger management counseling and understood we were holding him to higher behavioral standard the second time around. And it worked. He was a delight to have around. Even better, he repaired his relationship with his mother as a result. The plan was they were going to convert the garage into a living space for him. And so he moved back in with his mum. Normally, when I’m turning young people into statistics I have some stupid fucking check boxes to tick, and Family Reconciliation wasn’t traditionally seen as a “positive outcome.” Well it was to me and now it also is to the “system.” Some kids save up thousands of dollars, graduate high school, go to college, buy a car etc. D made up with his Mum, and that felt good to see. In fact, I’m confident we played a role in helping that happen. And so he left us one year ago. February 2018. 

February 2019 and D is dead. Cardiac Arrest. 18 and Dead. I don’t know the details yet. I was about to do his ’12 month follow-up’ and I do actually think there is a ‘deceased‘ option in the county database.  “17 year old transgender male, left program successfully to live with family permanently, now dead.”

The story goes when Ernest Hemingway was challenged to make a grown man cry in six words, he came up with “For sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn.” My staff person said to me in six words, “How prepared are you for news?” I said, pretty prepared as I have acupuncture in two hours. And he broke down while I fought it.

My new acupuncturist said, I had a moat protecting my heart and the water is frozen but she was to help break up the ice and help the protective waters flow again. I said sure. She put a rock on my chest. Feel the weight. She said.

I left acupuncture a bit stronger. Just a bit. And a bit more prepared at least to break the news to others. In the clinic car park, I looked up at the bare February trees and D waved. They always wave. You can’t intentionally look for the waves but you have to be open to seeing them. Every time I get waved at and it amazes me every time. 

“LGBTQ youth had over twice the rate of early death among youth experiencing homelessness.

•   LGBTQ youth are at more than double the risk of homelessness compared to non-LGBTQ peers.

•   Youth who identified as both LGBTQ and black or multiracial had some of the highest rates of homelessness.

•   Among youth experiencing homelessness, LGBTQ young people reported higher rates of trauma and adversity.

•   Transgender youth often face unique and more severe types of discrimination and trauma.”

 -voiceofyouthcount.org

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) teens may be two times as likely to be bullied, excluded or assaulted at school. And they're nearly 40 percent less likely to have an adult in their family to whom they can turn. So it's no surprise that they may be twice as likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol.

Families, professionals and policymakers can help prevent substance abuse by supporting all young people - and ensuring LGBTQ teens have equal access to support.1

By 12th grade, more than three-quarters of U.S. teens have tried alcohol, nearly half have used marijuana, and 21 percent have abused prescription medication.2 These figures make clear that every adult who supports a teenager should be concerned about drugs and alcohol. For young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) and their parents or caregivers, the issue is especially pressing. As they cope with stigma, harassment and even rejection by their families, LGBTQ teens are more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to abuse drugs and alcohol.

This issue brief reviews what we know about substance abuse among LGBTQ young people and explains why this group is at particular risk. It also shares recommendations for parents, educators, and other adults who can help LGBTQ teens avoid or limit drug and alcohol use. Finally, it outlines public policy that can reduce adolescent substance abuse and keep young LGBTQ people safe.” Human Rights Campaign