Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sneaky roots

I'm in bed. It's a little past 4 am. I'm not quite asleep, these days I have a lot on my mind.* I hear the familiar sound of a siren buzzing through a 4 way stop, by the sounds of it, the stop right outside my window. I hear a scraping noise, I hear a door slam, and I hear a man's voice yell, "PUT YOUR HANDS ON TOP OF YOUR HEAD, NOW!"  I consider going to the window out of curiosity, but, as my hairdresser said as I told her this story the next day, "Yeah... look out the window and get shot in the head! Hah!", which were my thoughts exactly. I stayed under the cover of covers. Philly, philly.

Sooooo Dave and I have been planning a semi-secret move to Richmond, VA for this spring. We've been talking about it since November. In Richmond there's less crime, more hardcore, more friends, more vegan french toast, and a slower pace of life that we both enjoy. It's kind of ideal. Like a hardcore never never land. But as November gave way to December I started to lose momentum.

See, from the time I was little girl I've felt disconnected from where I am. I grew up in Maine but never felt like a Mainer, more like outsider observing the customs out of courtesy. After I turned 18 I moved all over the country and felt the same. I am an island, my only home myself.  Comfortable everywhere, settling nowhere. A rolling stone. So you would think that rolling on would be no problem, but...

After the move was decided upon, my time here in Philly took on a sudden and shocking finality. Everything I encounter on the daily became prematurely shrouded in a romantic nostalgia. I ached over the loss of the razor wire fences covered in tattered plastic bags and old diapers (which I joke constantly as being a rare botanical oddity specific to Philadelphia.) And the people smoking joints outside the laundry mat. The way that everyone looks homeless, the way the homeless people look like hipsters, they way that I can tell who's from the city and who is not by their swagger. The men in yarmulkes who flatter me with lines like, "You look so Jewish! No one would know that you're half!" The way the sun shines in the giant windows at 30th St Station at 4pm, bathing the marble floors and walls, the middle aged white ladies at Auntie Anne's Pretzels, the Mexicans at the Korean-owned smoothie stand, and the new-weave-every-other-week black ladies at the cafe, and me all in glowing golden heaven-like light.

Soon my aching started to hiss out of me like a slow leak. I started joking ("joking") to Dave about our various haunts in the city, "How can we live without ___ place?! Don't make me leave it? Let's stay?"  But still, we felt that Richmond was better for us. For so many reasons. For a million trillion reasons. It would be easy to leave once it was happening. And we could always visit. Besides, what do we really do here that we couldn't do there?

At work, I talked to a ruddy faced man who grew up in South Philly, where I live. Before I knew it, I was expounding most passionatley on what makes not only South Philly, but all of Philly great. The grime and hustle, the trash in streets, the violence in every neighborhood.... these may not be great things, but they are real things. They define this city, and unlike other places that may be ashamed, this city seems to say, "The fuck else you want?"

I love it, I told him, for being honest. Philly doesn't pretend to be anything but what it is. He slammed his hands down and shouted, "NO IT DON'T!" then he laughed, quoting me, "THIS IS PHILLY, THE FUCK ELSE YOU WANT?!" I love the people for their lack of pretension, I can forgive their lack of finesse. Where else in America can you find that? No where.

Not even in Richmond.

My friend Pierce has an unbelievable loyalty to his hometown of Toledo, Ohio. When we were in Europe, people would ask us where we were from and I'd say "America" and  at the same time Pierce would say "Toledo!" To Pierce, Toledo is the center of the world. I always though it was funny. I admired his strong connection to a place. It was like his city was himself. To speak ill of Toledo was to speak ill of Pierce.

But that's what home is, I realize now. It's the soil that nourishes the roots you grow, leaving traces of itself in you over time.

(Pierce in the Czech Republic. Note his shirt.)

Last week Dave and I were walking down a narrow South Philly St and he said, "...let's just stay here." I couldn't believe my ears. "In Philly?" He nodded. I leapt with joy and yelled, "LET'S STAY!!! LET'S STAY!!!"

So I guess I grew a sneaky little root. I don't know if Dave really wants to stay as much as he wants to leave, he agrees that it would be hard after living in a place this diverse, this bizarre, this uncomplicated, this stripped down to be anywhere else. And he loves me... and to love me you must love my city.

You can keep the safe streets of Seattle. You can have the highly educated people of Boston. Y'all can live in never never land without me. I'm bound by the beauty of raw humanity here, by the people who will tell you to fuck yourself for looking at them then help an elderly person get off the bus, by the city whose murals extend to the ghettos proving that its art is for the people, not for the tourists, by the complete disregard of all trends and phases. Philadelphia is the truest place I know, and if we become our homes, that in itself is a reason never to leave.

*Kingdom's upcoming tour and record (which I'm doing the art/design for- you can see the cover and hear our new song HERE), and a zine I'm trying to get together for tour which, it seems, will not be done in time.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I am a hard core New Years resolutioner. Fuck all the haters. I stick with them (when they're reasonable... sometimes mine are not) and despite the fact that life does not actually roll over and become new on January 1st, I see no harm in declaring a fresh start along with everyone else.

So since January 1st I've changed my eating habits a bit (no more two-plates-beyond-full gorging, no more 2 am fried-food "dinners"), I've started reading the books I've always wanted to read (so far in 2011 I've read Phillip K Dick's "Lies, Inc" and I just started Frank Herbert's "Dune" today), and I've given myself permission to write ALL THE TIME. Whenever I want. About anything.

I've been writing for hours a day, and when I'm not writing seeing the world in the way that I would write it. It  may sound like a disconnect from reality, but actually I feel like I'm seeing everything with heightened senses. I'm constantly interrupting my inner monologue with notes, notes for what, I don't know.

Young groomed professional... I get close and his see his nails clipped at harsh angles...bus smells like... warm, wet peanut shells, afro american hair care product, and an old hot dog... toothless white man screaming... his gums are slimy and make him sad as he shouts about how much money he makes... she and I traverse the potholes and tide pools of Passyunk Ave, I grab the front of her baby carriage and help her down the sidewalk onto the uneven street... she wears a paper New Years hat and tells me how lonely she is, but how nice people in Philadelphia are... smoking middle aged white Mom at bus stop, "My kids won't even let me smoke in their HOUSE, canyabelieveit?"... her pants are high, her jacket reminds me New Mexico... the two young black women nod, hoop earrings banging into their necks...

Kingdom's going on a 10 day tour at the end of Jan and I'm hoping to print some of the stuff I've written in a little zine for it, then write something more substantial for our spring tour. Yay. The End.

Monday, January 3, 2011


2010 was a great year for me. It was my first stab at sedentary domestic life. Out of the van, off the greyhound, in one city, working full time, doing what for other people is normal life. It had a fun game-like quality to it, like I jumped in mid-round and had to figure out the rules as I went. Riding public transportation to work, upgrading my outdated kitchen gadgets, watching television shows weekly. How strange! How fun!

But try as I may have to throw myself into my new found house mousiness, I couldn't. Not completely. It's near impossible to put down roots when you've planted yourself in a suitcase. I may sit at my nice new golden yellow desk writing to my heart's content, knowing if the sun setting on the bodega across the street is more beautiful than it was the day before, but every few minutes I stop and look at the photo beside me. I took it a year and a half ago on tour. The top half of the photo is a cloudless blue sky, the bottom an open highway with one tiny little car far, far in the distance.

All year I've had one foot out the door pulling desperately at the rest of my body to follow. I've felt it in everything I've done. Nothing seems to convince me that I'm not just passing through- not my lease, not my knowing local subway stop employees... and them knowing me, not my weekly rituals, not my frequency at Wednesday $6 movie nights at the Ritz. Deep inside me a sing songy voice compels that foot to move, to pull, to remain unconvinced.

I don't live here, I'm just playing. I'm just passing through, I'm not staying.

And of course it's true. 2011 is a year of travel and adventure. Good thing my roots didn't/couldn't/wouldn't take hold.

But this isn't about the future, this is about the past. I really did enjoy my time here at home. Here are my personal highlights of 2010:

#1 Pick:
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
My Life and Other Unfinished Business by Dolly Parton
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
Holy Cow by Sarah Macdonald
Disposable People by Kevin Bales
On Writing by Stephen King

#1 pick
The Extra Man
A Woman, a Gun, A Noodle Shop
The Good, The Bad, and The Weird
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

This Is Hardcore... duhhhh. Specifically Clubber Lang, Bulldoze, Bane, and Ink and Dagger
100 Demons and Wisdom in Chains @  The Barbary
Earth Crisis and Strength For A Reason @ The Barbary
Bastard Noise @ Kung Fu Neck Tie
Crowbar @ The Barbary
Hour of the Wolf @ Broad St Ministries
Floorpunch @ The Church

My membership is my #1 favorite thing of the year
Free old time radio podcasts, especially"old time radio sci fi"
Selected Shorts and The Moth podcasts
Outlook's 7"