I wasn’t gonna write this review because it’s truly unnecessary and not super important but I’m doing it anyway so bear with me while I start explaining something you probably already know in a truly roundabout fashion.
We'll start when my dad’s mom, my grandma Sylvia, died. I was thirteen. Her and my grandpa Sam were best friends with this other couple Sidney and Bernice, and Sid died within like 6 months of Syl, so naturally, Sam and Bernice grieved together. And we all know where that leads.
They were married in their apartment on Miami Beach when I was 16 or 17, judging by my hair in the photos. It wasn’t a legal wedding but they did have a rabbi come bless them and then they threw a party where I got drunk and had the old man band play Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra while I sang.
Anyway, time passed, they went on a lot of cruises, hung out by the side of a pool in Miami, had a very nice life together. In 2012 Sam died and shortly thereafter Bernice moved to Scottsdale, AZ to be near one of her kids. I had visited her all the time in Miami but by the time she moved to Arizona it sort of dropped off. I recorded an audiobook for her, and I called her on the phone plenty, but I just never prioritized getting out to Phoenix. I was talking to my mom about it the last time I was in New York and we decided to go. We planned a short trip, only 48 hours really, but we’d hang out with her the evening we arrived, the entire next day, and the morning before we flew out.
Before we left I got a text from my mom—“Bernice wants to eat pizza. Figure out the best slice in Scottsdale.” So I asked twitter, and twitter told me, almost uniformly, that there’s this place called Pizzeria Bianco that’s in some strip mall in Phoenix and they make the best Neapolitan pies in America. Who would’ve guessed. I texted my mom this article and was like, "I think this is the place."
So I fly in, meet my mom at the airport, whatever whatever. I had intentionally forgotten my toothbrush because I knew that might be the only way to get me to finally buy a new one, so we're driving around having that New York Jew conversation about "I'm hungry are you hungry?"
"I'm not hungry hungry but I could eat."
"What are you in the mood for?"
"I don't care, really I have no preference."
"I don't know about burgers."
"How do you feel about chinese?"
"In Arizona? Never."
It could've been either of us having either side of it. We paused our lunch convo to stop into a strip mall that had a Walgreens to get my damn toothbrush. I ended up driving so far afield looking for a spot big enough that I wouldn't be scared someone might scratch our rental car that when I finally pulled into one we were across the parking lot from where the Walgreens was. That's when my mom was like, "isn't that the pizza place you were talking about?"
I didn't take a picture of it, because like I said, I wasn't planning to write this review, so you'll have to settle for this screenshot of a map. Suffice to say, this is NOT what I expected the place that serves "the best neapolitan pizza in America" to look like. But we went in anyway and ordered three pies.
From left to right that's your classic Margherita, a Sonny Boy (a red sauce pie with hot salami and kalamata olives), and the signature Biancoverde (a white pie with fresh ricotta, fresh moz, arugula, and olive oil). If you can't tell from the pictures, these pies were fucking perfect. It's a rare thing in this awful world to experience a moment of perfection, and it can be a little unsettling. Ma Harvester and I looked from pie to pie, shocked, unable to speak for a few moments after our first bites. I have never in my life tasted a pizza dough this delicate. It was crisp and firm on the bottom, though there was still that nice elastic pull that a good bread has, but it was so light. The other ingredients were top notch. The red sauce on the Margherita was incredible. Lightly spiced so that the full flavor of the delicious tomatoes they use could really shine. The mozzerella tasted fresh and had a wonderful texture. The basil leaves seemed like they could've been picked moments before they hit the pie. The Sonny Boy had the same base as the Margherita, but with hot salami and kalamatas, both fantastic as well.
But the real standout was the Biancoverde. This is probably the best ricotta I've ever had. The moz and dough are the same high quality as on the other pies, and the absence of a sauce let the olive oil's round, green apple flavor really shine. Ma Harv, a master gardener btw, was really impressed with the quality of the arugula and claimed she had never had a white pie with arugula on it before. I was unsure, but she checked me, "I've had prosciutto arugula pies, but every white pie I've ever had was made with spinach or broccoli rabe. The sharpness of the arugula really makes for a nice contrast with the full rounder flavors of the cheese and olive oil." I'm still unsure if arugula on white pies is common or not so if you wanna @ me just to tell me my mom's wrong why don't you just go fuck yourself instead, huh? The important thing is that these pies were so good we had to bring them to Bernice. We got three more of the same to go and headed over to her place.
I'm really glad we got to eat them fresh out the oven, because they certainly suffered a bit in transit. Neapolitan pies are meant to be eaten fresh, but they were still good and Bernice didn't care, and that's the most important part of all this. I'll leave you with her review. Notice her start to talk shit about all the other pizza in Phoenix and then stop herself. That's because she's a classy lady who doesn't relish every opportunity to badmouth people for cheap laughs, unlike me, a jerk. Let's all be more like Bernice and less like me in 2018.
Listen. I end up in all different parts of America that aren't New York all the time, and sometimes I end up eating pretty bad pizza in those places because I forget where I am or I hear a place might be good or I'm with a group of people and they want to eat pizza and who am I to argue? I ate a terrible quattro formaggio in a strip mall in Houston like two years ago after going to the opening of a contemporary Latin American art show at the MFAH with Becca. When we got to the museum I was still all revved up from the drive and then Becca went to a panel and I was wandering around alone and there's a James Turrell tunnel in the basement. (And if you don't know, which probably I wouldn't if I wasn't in love with an art historian, Turrell is the artist Drake ripped off for all the sets of the Hotline Bling video.) And there was no one else in there except for the security guard. I was like, "DUDE would you please take a video of me doing Drake's Little Teapot dance in here?"
And he was all "absolutely not."
So I was all, "c'mon man, my girlfriend is gonna think it's so cute and funny."
But he was like, "if I do it for you, I gotta do it for everyone."
Then I was like, "There's no one else here! No one will know!"
And he looked at me very seriously and said "I'll know."
Anyway, after that we got pizza and it was absolutely awful, but I didn't write about it then because I don't write about all bad pizza I eat. But every so often, there is a pizza parlor that's such a perfect storm of bad food, bad service, bad aesthetics, that I feel like I gotta warn strangers to stay away. And King Dough in Bloomington, Indiana is such a place.
I went to get lunch at King Dough with a friend who I believe wishes to remain anonymous because Bloomington is a small town and he doesn't need to be the recipient of any undue Midwest passive aggression. We were in the middle of running errands and right nearby. I didn't think pizza was a bad idea, it seemed quick at least. And I'd noticed King Dough on a handful of other visits. And besides, I've had some pretty decent pizza, or at least really fun and pleasant experiences, in pizza shops all over the place. But not so with King Dough. I didn't know what I was getting myself into when my Anonymous Compadre and I walked inside, and I certainly wasn't expecting to have my mind blown, but I didn't expect to be punished either.
The decor was a red flag right away but I'm a pretentious urban sophisticate so I just chalked that up to the quaintness of a college town. But like, if you're gonna disrespect that Dan Higgs drawing at least do it well, right? And I'm all for keeping holiday decorations in a place of business to a minimum (I've served six tours in the War on Christmas), but I was in a Target the other day buying shitty winter gloves and an ice scraper for my car because I didn't know where else to get both of those things in a city with no bodegas, and I literally saw almost that exact same display in their like, quirky tchotchke section. Maybe it's an ironic reference? Whatever it is, it's not working.
The menu was suspect for a few reasons. This is very expensive food for Bloomington. I think "Vegan Pile" sounds fucking gross as a name for a food. I find the "Kilmister" befuddling. (1. Capicola and fucking BBQ SAUCE? Why? 2. What is it about this pizza that is supposed to evoke Lemmy?) And as Becca pointed out, what kind of awful person thinks it's okay to cutely name something after the H-Bomb? But like, whatever, I guess. While that H Bomb reference lets on that the owners might be rockabilly (god forbid!) there are worse things in the world, and I was hungry. We ordered a Margherita and a Prosciutto Arugula pie to split, as those seemed like safe and hard to fuck up options. The place wasn't that busy so we figured even if it wasn't great we could eat and get on with our errands.
Little did we know King Dough had other plans in store for us. It took 35 minutes to get our two pizzas. 35 whole entire minutes. Longer than an episode of Seinfeld, shorter than an episode of the L Word, too long for pizza. The place had a wood oven, and feel free to fact check me on this, but I think a properly used wood oven cooks an entire pizza in like two or three minutes, right? So why did it take over half an hour to get two smallish pies in a restaurant that wasn't very busy and where half the people inside were already eating? I'll tell you why, because they don't know what they're doing.
Our pies finally arrived though, and they did not look too good. Wood fired pizza is supposed to be slightly charred. The char adds a smokiness and depth of flavor to the pie that can't be achieved in a gas oven without burning. When I get a wood or coal oven pizza, I expect it to be a pretty dark in some spots. But like most good things, char is only useful in moderation. This pizza's crust was burnt blacker than the Sharpie mustaches on Ken Nunn's phonebook ads. It was burnt blacker than the cover of Smell The Glove. This crust was burnt so black King Dough might get sued by Anish Kapoor. (Just in case you're thinking I'm smart for knowing who Anish Kapoor is, don't worry. I literally typed "black paint that only one guy is allowed to use" into webcrawler.com to find out his name.) And to add insult to injury, this disgusting crust formed the border of a pizza that wasn't even cooked through all the way in the middle!
Look at that! You can straight up see bits of translucent, uncooked dough on the bottom of this floppy mess!
So now that we've established that this pizza takes forever to arrive and is poorly cooked, let's take a moment to talk about how much the ingredients fucking suck. The mozzarella on the Margherita pie tasted like fucking butter. The more I ate it, the worse it got. And it was drowning in a sea of runny, bland sauce. "But what about the dough?" I can hear you thinking. "The dough from which this place derives its name? Surely that part is at least palatable?" Well dear reader, I can't tell you how the dough tasted because it was either burnt to a crisp or nearly raw. I'll tell you this though, the parts of the crust that were edible tasted like they needed salt. When I asked my friend what he thought, he took a bite and chewed in silence for a moment before declaring "well, I've had worse pizza." That might be true for him, but I'm not sure I can say the same.
At the end of the day, the Prosciutto Arugula pie was at least edible. But you could put prosciutto and arugula on a turd and I'd probably like it, so that doesn't really count. It still was cooked poorly. The sauce still sucked. But the Margherita really stands out to me as one of the worst pizzas I've ever eaten in my entire life. And so, it's really an appropriate pizza to close out 2017--the year Prodigy died and Woody Allen didn't (prayer emoji that this awful old shithead finally drops in 2018), and Biff from Back to the Future II became president in real life. The pie at King Dough might not be the pizza humanity wants, but it is the pizza we deserve.
What's good, internet. Remember when I used to review pizza? Well I'm doing it again, perhaps just this once. Back in the saddle. Lemme give you some context:
Two years ago, a few months after my popular and charming NYC memoir was released, I moved away from Queens, NY, my ancestral homeland, to Austin, TX, a wonderful place to visit but terrible place (for me) to live. I ate very little pizza while I was there. Never found a great slice, though I did find an amazing bar pie (shouts to Li'l Nonna's), but I didn't care, I was happy and in love and I just ate pizza when I was back in New York.
Two month's ago, my partner and moved to Pittsburgh so she could do a PhD here, brilliant genius that she is. A few days after we got here I went to the pizzeria in my new neighborhood (not gonna name names), took one look at the slices, and ordered a gyro. I kinda decided that day that I just wouldn't eat pizza in Pittsburgh, but then my good buddy Justin Bender told me about a local feud and I realized I had to weigh in.
Well yesterday myself, Bender, and our friends Cindy and Miguel went and ate at both places and I'm here to report back. Bender is an old friend from WAAAAY BACK at this point, a nice Jersey Boy. He's played in a bunch of cool bands over the years and I recently learned that in the early 2000s he briefly lived in Virginia where he drove a puke green Delta 88 with vanity plates that said "SCUMDOG." Cindy is Cindy Crabb of Doris zine. She's been a frientor (friend/mentor) of mine for many years and we've always had an easy rapport and a nice time hanging out but Pittsburgh is the first time we've lived in the same place and had a go at being IRL day 2 day friends and I think so far it's going great! I initially met Miguel because he’s Cindy's partner, but I would say at this point we have a friendship in it's own right, which was easy to do because he’s one of the most charming, effortlessly positive people I've ever met in my life.
As we walked up to Mineo's, Bender told me what he knew of the rivalry. "So this place opened up in like, '58 or something. A long time ago. In '78 the kitchen manager got in a fight with the owner that they couldn't resolve, so he quit and opened up a new place like three doors down. That's Aiello's. We'll go there next."
I couldn't believe that this feud had been going on for almost 40 years. I was so giddy I could barely contain myself. Luckily, right then Miguel biked up (Cindy would be joining us a little later), and we headed inside.
I was immediately glad Miguel was with us because the first thing he said when we walked in the door was “woah, sick Four Loko clock.” I never would’ve noticed that Four Loko clock, but it truly was sick. It’s this kind of astute observation that is vital in a Harvesting Companion.
Right off the bat, Mineo’s looks like a classic pizza parlor. Orange formica tables, the walls are hung with pictures of a toddler, presumably related to the owner, posing as a pizza chef, 20 year old plaques and accolades, and press clippings from newspapers and magazines.
Bender was first up to the counter, and he order “a cut,” which is apparently what they call a slice here in Pittsburgh. The woman working the register complimented his sweater. “He made it. Very talented guy,” I interjected.
"Men used to do all the knitting until about the mid-nineteenth century. But then, ya know, the patriarchy…” she trailed off then pointed at Bender’s Coneheads button and said, “you from France?”
“No why would you think…” he began, but was interrupted.
“CONEHEADS. The movie Coneheads. They’re aliens but they tell people they’re from France. It’s a lampooning of American xenophobia.”
We both laughed. “It’s a band…” Bender started to explain.
“OBVIOUSLY,” the woman interjected. “You’re gonna have to be a little quicker on your toes if you wanna make it around here. NEXT.”
I ordered my “one cheese cut,” thoroughly charmed by the cashier knowing immediately that Bender and I were the kind of people who would probably enjoy a little kind-hearted ribbing.
Now let me just say, this isn’t New York slice. I think approaching it with different expectations is important. So, first things first, Pittsburgh slices are smaller than NY slices, but they’re also cheaper—$1.80 seems to be the going rate, and that seems like a fair price. Second, the ratio expectations are different. There’s more cheese and more sauce on the pizza here. Maybe it’s a Rust Belt thing.
I bit into my slice, though, and it was good. It had a spicier sauce than I would ever like in New York, but here, it worked. The cheese was plentiful and delicious—they grind their own mix of cheeses in house. The dough was crisp and salty but couldn’t support the weight of all that cheese. Not really a huge surprise and not really an issue for me. The reason a New York slice needs to hold up is because it’s meant to eat and walk. This slice is clearly an eat in affair. I took my dog for an hour walk in the neighborhood after we were done Slice Harvesting and no one outside on Murray Ave was eating a slice while they strolled around.
The crust, however, left something to be desired for me. The outside was crispy, but the inside, instead of being fluffy and cooked through, felt dense and wet. It was heavy in a way that didn’t quite work for me, but not a deal breaker.
Bender said he loved his crust, that it seemed to be gushing with olive oil, and that he appreciated that the sauce tasted like real tomatoes, but for him, the cheese at Mineo’s was the real thing. Miguel also liked what he called the “Ninja Turtle Cheese,” and also appreciated that the sauce was clearly made from real tomato and wasn’t overly processed. For Cindy, the sauce was the key. She liked that it wasn’t overly sweet. “I like it when you eat your pizza and it tastes like pizza rather than candy.”
Overall, the slice at Mineo’s isn’t the best I’ve ever had in my life, but it’s good, they use quality ingredients and clearly care about their product. The real reason I’ll come back though, is because it’s just such a perfect place. Between the charming counterwoman, and the classic pizzeria atmosphere, this is somewhere I felt very at home.
Aiello’s was a different story. Before I get into my review, I just wanna admit that going into this, I wanted to like Aiello’s better. First, the name makes me think of Danny Aiello and I love Danny Aiello. Second, who wouldn’t automatically side with the disgruntled employee who hates his boss so much he quits his job and then opens up a competing business literally three doors down? A jerk, that's who. But Aiello’s was, ultimately, a pretty big disappointment.
First of all, I hated being inside this place. Now, they were under construction, so it might feel like I’m not giving them a fair shake regarding ambience, but half the store was done and I really didn’t like what they were going for aesthetically. The menu was displayed on three giant flat screens, everything was glass or chrome in the same sort of disposable-looking futuristic nostalgia of like, a Steak n’ Shake or Johnny Rockets franchise. I just wasn’t feeling it, which would’ve been fine if their slice measured up, but it just didn’t.
This slice had something closer to New York ratios in terms of cheese::sauce::dough, but it still didn’t hold it’s own weight when I lifted it up. When I looked underneath, I realized it was because there was a seam in the dough that just led the slice to fall completely apart. This is unacceptable. A pizzeria, at the very least, should provide a doughy foundation to all their pies that is a solid, uninterrupted surface for the rest of the slice to rest on. No seams, no folds. Maybe a bubble is fine, but that’s it. Otherwise this dough had a great char and a great flavor, though the crust was too dense for my tastes, seemed raw in the middle, and looked like an ashy elbow. Maybe that’s just how they like it in Pittsburgh. The cheese was a fine quality. The sauce was a little on the sweet side, but I’m starting to admit that I kinda like that if the other flavors can balance it out. Eating this slice was not an experience I especially relished, but once it was done I remembered it fondly.
When asked for their opinions, Cindy said “good char, but everything else was subpar.” Miguel said, “I can confidently recommend that people try this alcoholic Mountain Dew they serve here.” Bender said “it’s like they weren’t even trying,” and I tend to agree.
So the verdict is in. Regarding the feud between Mineo’s Pizza House and Aiello’s Pizza that’s been simmering in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood for going on 40 years, Slice Harvester falls firmly on the side of Mineo’s.
I began this statement at the start of the year when Milo Yiannopoulos’s book deal had just been inked, but after watching Yiannopoulos’s islamophobia and transphobia validated by supposedly progressive blowhard Bill Maher over the weekend, and then reading Monday morning about his ultimately rescinded invitation to be the keynote speaker at CPAC, I felt newly inclined to add my voice to the chorus of those opposing him. I spent some time Monday revising the statement and by the time I was done, I read that Simon & Schuster had cancelled his book deal. Regardless, their initial actions and their repercussions are still worth discussing.
Simon & Schuster’s decision to offer Milo Yiannopoulos a quarter of a million dollars, which further legitimizes his national platform, is nothing short of odious. This sort of enabling behavior is intolerable, opportunistic, and unacceptable. Simon & Schuster’s statement on the matter “we note that the opinions expressed [within our books] belong to our authors, and do not reflect either a corporate viewpoint or the views of our employees,” is a cop out.
Paying a neo-nazi a large sum of money is a political act. Increasing the reach of a cruel bully who has used his publicity and notoriety to target individuals for harassment is a political act. Validating the perspectives of an islamophobe/ transphobe/ white nationalist is a political act. Simon & Schuster should be held accountable for this decision. A full boycott of their books—for review by critics, for sale by buyers at bookstores and individual consumers—would send a clear message to the company.
Simon & Schuster’s argument that Yiannopoulos is entitled to this platform on the basis of free speech is based on a flawed understanding of free speech as a concept. Publishers reject books every single day for a variety of reasons, many far more banal than the author being a hateful demagogue who has used his meager fame to encourage the targeted harassment of marginalized people, especially black and trans women. Rejecting a proposal is not a form of censorship. (If it is, then most of my classmates in the creative writing class I took last year are actively being censored on a weekly basis. Some of them are possibly even being censored multiple times a week.) The idea that there are no ramifications for spewing garbage misunderstands that speech is not an individual act—it's dialogic, an interactive process in the public sphere. Our response to such vicious and violent speech should be a very loud and very clear no.
As an author on the Simon & Schuster roster, I whole-heartedly support this boycott, though frankly, it may not be enough. Perhaps simply boycotting until the dissolution of Yiannopoulos’s contract is short-sighted. The entire Threshold Editions imprint, which has published work by Glenn Beck, Bobby Jindal, Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, among others, both stokes the fears of and profits from the recently galvanized American Right.
Yiannopoulos’s presence on Threshold is not a coincidence. In an interview with Business Insider regarding his search for a publisher, Yiannopoulos stated “Threshold Editions at Simon & Schuster were my first choice, and I was thrilled they wanted me.” In a sense, Threshold Editions helped create the environment in which a Milo Yiannopolous could thrive, and they continue to expand his platform because it profits them directly.
Since publishing it’s first crossword puzzle book at the beginning of 1924, Simon & Schuster has worked on a business model of predicting market fads and quickly publishing books to correspond. It’s no wonder, then, that they offered to publish a memoir based on my briefly-popular blog, for instance. But this mission statement, to simply exploit whatever market is available to consume books, has led them down the unconscionable path of collaborating with a narcissistic bigot, and while this is never a good look, it is especially heinous in the current political moment.
During the writing of this piece, Simon & Schuster nullified Milo Yiannopoulos’s book contract. This is good news. It’s very heartening to learn that a white supremacist is no longer going to be given a substantial sum of money. However, Simon & Schuster didn’t cancel the contract because of Yiannopoulos’s hateful beliefs. They didn’t cancel his contract because of he defended racists, because he targeted black women, trans women, undocumented people, and rape survivors for harassment by his vitriolic fans. They cancelled it because he made statements that were construed as advocating for pedophilia, and that has alienated much of his right wing fanbase. (The irony of a man who wants to “defend women and girls” from the phantom threat of transfeminine bathroom assaulters admonishing the mainstream to be more forgiving of some pedophilia is not lost on me, but that’s the subject of another essay.) Simon & Schuster caved, not because of ethical issues, but because he is no longer as commercially viable as he was before these statements came to light. As Roxane Gay pointed out, Simon & Schuster did not act according to conscience, they acted according to commercial interest.
In a way, the rejection of Yiannopolous by CPAC and Simon and Schuster only confirms their commitment to the entire neo-nazi and conservative Christian platform -including white supremacy, transphobia, islamophobia—by using Yiannopolous to corroborate all too common homophobic beliefs that queer men are dangerous and prone to pedophilia. Yiannopolous himself might suffer a momentary setback but the agenda he supports is furthered. To be clear, he was removed to preserve the growing ‘alt-right’ not to thwart it.
The boycott of Simon and Schuster should stand until the dissolution of Threshold Editions in its entirety.
This piece was co-authored with Rebecca Giordano. The matter was brought to my attention by Tom Leger of Topside Press, who has been a key figure in organizing the boycott since the deal was announced. For a concise list of Yiannopolous's previous actions, see this list compiled by Bitch Media: https://bitchmedia.org/article/bad-things-milo-yiannopoulos-has-done-case-his-new-publisher-cares-just-kidding-they-totally
I been thinking a lot about this one old friend of mine lately. He isn’t someone I saw with much frequency when I lived in New York. In fact in the past few years we really only saw one another twice a year, at Passover and Hanukkah. Other than that we’d run into each other at a show or a party, incidental meetings. Occasionally we would make a plan to drink coffee on a bench in Tompkins Square Park, something we had done often in our early-20s. But those rendezvous occurred less often as we got older and our lives began to take shape in more substantial ways than they had when we were young.
That said, there is an intimacy in our friendship and the way we communicate that feels profound. There’s been an expectation of longevity that other similar relationships don’t have. During our afternoons on the park bench, we would often joke about our future as old men. It started because of an experience I’d had on bus. There had been an elderly gentleman sitting in a single seat, with an empty seat behind him, clutching a paper bag tightly in both hands. I sat on the bench opposite his and watched him intently. He seemed to have such a sense of purpose, clutching his bag like that.
A stop or two later, another elderly man got on the bus and sat in the empty seat behind the first man, whom he had nodded at familiarly as he’d boarded. While he lowered himself into his spot, he placed a hand on the first man’s shoulder and squeezed—a small gesture, but one that seemed significant. The first man opened his paper bag and removed two identical sandwiches. Tuna salad, by the smell of it, on untoasted white bread. He handed one to his companion, folded the paper bag and put it in his pocket, and then they silently began to eat. They finished their sandwiches right as the bus reached the park, where they slowly disembarked together. It was a brisk autumn day and I remember wondering if they would be cold. The ritualistic nature of their interaction fascinated me and for a time I thought about them incessantly. How close were they? How long had they known each other? Did they ever speak? Were they just friends because they lived on the same bus line and were roughly the same age?
Later that week I was in the city at the coffee shop all the punks used to hang out at on Avenue A and I ran into my friend. We took our coffee into the park and sat smoking on a bench. I told him about the two men and we joked that one day we would be the two old Jewish guys on the bus, moving slow, eating stinky food. “I can’t wait.” I told him.
“I can’t wait till we have to make the kid at the bodega heat our coffee extra in the microwave because we’ve been smoking so long we can’t feel anything in our mouths anymore.” he countered.
“I can’t wait until we don’t understand young people,” I replied as a group of teens walked by.
I’ve never been a Live Fast Die Young guy, but most of my friendships don’t include an expectation that we’ll be old together. My relationship with this particular friend is unique in that regard. And that’s part of why it was so jarring when he called me to tell me he was sick. “I’ve got ALS. I’m picking out my wheelchair today,” he said. We talked for a minute, about what had happened. He’d been diagnosed right before Thanksgiving but wanted to wait until after the holidays to let people know.
When I flew home in December for Christmas I went straight from JFK to see him. Sitting on the Airtrain, I started thinking about the decade or so that we’d known each other. I thought about the first time I’d gone to his parents’ apartment, before he’d even moved out. I thought about the first time he’d come over to my place on Lorimer Street when we were just beginning to become friends. I thought about all the times we’d hung out, but I also thought about the spaces in between, all the times I hadn’t seen him. One thing I’ve long admired about him is the fact that he never really pulled any punches. He was blunt and direct, in a way that wasn’t insensitive, but wasn’t necessarily sensitive either. And one of his complaints throughout the years was that he felt taken for granted, or worse, excluded. I never felt like he was leveling that accusation at me, but I always felt like he could have if he wanted to. That he was sparing me from hearing it because he knew I knew already.
And so sitting on the train I started to wonder what he thought about all these people suddenly coming over to see him. I thought about the fact that I probably wouldn’t have been going straight to his house from the airport if he wasn’t sick, and it occurred to me that this same thought had most likely crossed my friend’s mind as well.
When I got to the apartment I sat down at the dining room table and his mother wheeled him out from his room. We drank seltzer like good Jewish boys and shot the shit. We hadn’t seen each other since Passover, probably, so there was a lot of catching up to do. His band had just recorded a full length for a pretty big local label. It was during the recording process that he realized that something was wrong, because he was getting so tired and feeling so weak all the time. Doctor’s eventually figured out it was ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that slowly kills off the nerve cells in the body. Pretty soon he was using a walker and he just moved onto the wheelchair and that’s where it’s at now. “I’ve got two to five from the onset of the disease and I probably had it for a year before I was diagnosed,” he told me matter-of-factly. He’s got the same frankness about his own mortality as he does about everything else.
Conversation moved on to all the different friends that had been through and visited, and then we got to the point in the conversation I’d been afraid of on the Airtrain. “You know, these people keep coming over, people that I haven’t seen in forever, and it’s so great that everyone gives a shit about me. And I started thinking about how mad I used to be all the time at all these people that I thought weren’t calling me enough,” he paused to catch his breath and I waited for the indictment, the moment when he would force me to acknowledge that I was one of those people. “And then I realized I wasn’t really calling them either. I just think it isn’t worth it to be so mad all the time. At the end of the day I got a lot done and I had a ton of really great friends and all the stuff I felt so mad about seems pretty inconsequential.”
Other people filtered in, soon there was a whole crew hanging out. I ordered some pizzas, people told stories, it was a nice time. I left feeling sad but heartened, my friend seemed to be in high spirits, like he enjoyed all the company. It’s weird to say, but he wears his illness well, or at least as well as one can.
A few days later at my parents’ house I broke down crying. I’d been running around the city trying to catch up with everyone I don’t get to see in Texas and it wasn’t until I was stationary that everything hit me all at once. I felt so sad and so angry all at the same time. And listen: I know this isn’t about me. I’m not the one that’s sick, I’m not doing the day-to-day caretaking. I know I’m not the one most affected here and my perspective isn’t the most important. I just want to make sure that’s clear. But this is someone I care about and I’m trying to work out my emotions and I think this is an okay space for that.
I saw my friend again before I left town, at the tattoo shop our pal Sue works at. He wants to get covered before he dies, and Sue called a shop meeting where everyone that works there agreed to tattoo him for free. It’s so good to see people getting together to mitigate the fucking awfulness of all this, but it’s still so stupid that he’s sick in the first place. Like, it just seems incredibly unfair.
You know that Jack Palance Band song “How Can I” on the JPB / ADD/C / Queerwülf three-way split? I think I’ll leave you with a few lines from that. My records are still in storage in New York so the lyrics may not be right but here goes:
How can I live, when I know things are coming I just can’t take? / How can I live, when I know that my heart’s gonna have to break again? / It’s just like my buddy Mike Pack says / he says, “always tell your friends you love ‘em, because you never know when goodbye’s gonna be goodbye.”
Postscript: This column was about my friend Dan Klein who passed away this morning. I'm not sure what else to say right now, but I'm very grateful for the music that he recorded, the photos and memories I have. I'm so lucky to have been friends with this mensch.
COLIN ATROPHY’S 2015 TOP TEN (in chronological order):
1. Started this column.
I turned in my first column on January 4th! It was my Best of 2014 list and it had way less stuff than this one. But listen! It’s really exciting to write this for you all every month. I feel like lately it’s been a little blah because I’ve been moving and retired and not really thinking too hard about writing but I have some exciting stuff starting next year that I think will give me plenty of fodder for the charming self-reflection and ruminations on the minutiae of life that you’ve come to expect from me. Mostly maybe I want to use this space to express my gratitude to Grace and the MRR people for having me and for everyone else who reads it every month! THANK YOU SO MUCH.
2. Hired an impersonator to sing to me on my birthday.
In my last neighborhood in Queens there was this guy I would notice around who had dyed black hair and kinda like, Queens Dummy Marky Ramone aesthetic. Sometimes he was dressed like a Swingin Sea Captain and other times he was dressed like a Swingin Guy At A Luau. He was always at the corner store buying 8 Mr. Goodbars, which intrigued me. One day I was hanging around at this new bookstore that my friend Cosmo and some other people were about to open in the neighborhood and in walked my neighborhood mystery man. He was walking through the store running his fingers along the spines of the books and he kept looking up at me like “can you believe this shit?” Finally he was like, “what the hell is this place?!” sounding legit dumbfounded. Cosmo was all, “it’s a bookstore,” and he goes, “pretty fuckin low brow neighborhood for a bookstore huh?” What an angel.
He was holding a big stack of CD-Rs and after a lengthy silence he slid one along the counter. It had a picture of him dressed as Elvis. “I’m a triple impersonator,” he told us. “I do the big three. Elvis. Tom Jones. And Englebert Humperdink. The musician.” My birthday was coming up and I didn’t know what to do but I hired him on the spot. The afternoon of my birthday I got really nervous that he was gonna say something transphobic or like super sexist, but instead he was just really needy and any time I’d try and talk to anyone while he was performing he would start bugging me and yelling my name from the stage, but luckily I love attention so that was alright.
A few months later I took my friend Daniel to this pretty great diner in Maspeth and he was losing his shit about how great it looked and then we walked in and Daniel was like “OMG check out that Elvis impersonator” in hushed tones and right then the Elvis turned around and he was MY Elvis and he was like, “hey Colin! How you been? How’s your father?” and I basically seemed like the coolest guy on Earth.
3. Troy Ave “Doo Doo”
Troy Ave is this rap dude from Crown Heights who Funk Flex was hyping like crazy all year on Hot 97 but who never really busted through to the mainstream. He has whack politics probably and definitely works really hard to affirm busted notions of what masculinity should look like so it’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world that he never got popular. But this song is a super catchy feel good anthem with no real politics beyond rising above the haters, which I think pretty much everyone can get behind. Plus the hook says “to the people who thought I was gonna flop / y’all a part of the reason I ain’t gonna stop / against the odds I went hard until I plopped…” and plop was my official word of 2015, so that’s obviously very important to me.
4. Sheer Mag “II” 7”
The first Sheer Mag 7” was so perfect that I was like, “there’s no way the next one will be as good,” and then it was! I wasn’t gonna bother including this because probably everybody will, but then this thing happened that I gotta tell you about.
Last week I was making a pie with my mom and it was kind of a tender time because her baby boy moved away and now I’m back and it’s very emotional. ANYWAY I was chopping up apples or something and she asked me to put on music and so I put on this record, and as those first drum hits on “Fan The Flames” rang out in the kitchen I started crying thinking about how good the riff is and that I was about to share that awesome riff with the woman who gave birth to me. FYI, my mom 100% did not seem to care or be moved at all by the song.
5. Popper Burns “Popper Burns” Cassette
OK! Gonna keep this one brief, but I really can’t understand why this band isn’t huge. Totally the best weirdo rockers I’ve seen in ages and their record is SOOOO GOOOOOOOD. Manic freaked out queers doing punk about gender anxiety, patriarchal damage, surveillance paranoia, war, fucking, etc. Frontwoman Patti Melt is one of the most intense performers I’ve seen in a long time and the rest of the band creates a dissonant, dystopian musical landscape for Patti’s ranting. Def go look them up and listen to their record if you like fucked up punk by fucked up freaks.
6. Book came out.
My book came out. I threw myself a giant release party at Silent Barn where I read to like 200+ people including a bunch of my extended family and friends dating back to childhood. Then IN SCHOOL and DOWNTOWN BOYS played. I really felt like part of a community and like there was a sense of continuity to my life. I had been going through a bunch of stuff while I was writing the book and had isolated myself pretty intensely from the people who care about me. During the 9 months between when I handed the book in and it came out I spent a lot of time rekindling friendships I had let slip, as well as making new friends. It felt really good to care and be cared about. OMG also I been hanging out with this truly sweet babe from my past and she didn’t live in New York and the morning of my book release she surprised me by SHOWING UP UNEXPECTED ON MY STOOP. There were a whole bunch of reasons that she wasn’t gonna be able to get to town for it, but then she showed up anyway it was one of the nicest things anyone has done for me ever in my life.
7. Left New York.
So then I moved to Texas to live with her! Well not exactly that fast, but almost that fast. I’ve talked about it a lot in previous columns, but I just wanna say again how glad I am to have finally moved away from the place I grew up and how exciting it is to be thinking about a new life outside there. Moving across the country to live with an excellent babe rules too. She’s the first person I’ve ever dated who is as nice to me as I am to her, which is a real good change and I highly recommend it. Date someone who is nice to you! You deserve it!
8. Met Eileen Myles.
So this isn’t really that big maybe but I met Eileen Myles and I think that’s rad because she’s basically the greatest. I had a dream right before we went to go see Eileen read that I was in this kind of zombie apocalypse scenario where everything was scary and frantic but I ran into Bruce Springsteen in a sporting goods store where we were both stealing guns to fight zombies and I asked him to sign a baseball for my girlfriend, “in case we all make it through this.”
Well, because of that dream and also because of this rumor I heard about Jimmy Shotwell getting a baseball signed by Noam Chomsky, I decided I would get Eileen Myles to sign a baseball and then I forgot to bring a baseball!!!! As if I own a baseball. OMG. But I had brought a copy of my book to give her and she was like, “well, I’m going to Europe and I don’t have room in my stuff, is it tacky if I ask you to mail it to me?” And I was like, “of course not.” And then I had her sign a copy of my own book, which I think is very funny.
ANYWAY she was obvs super tough but seemed very nice and it’s not like we’re friends or anything, but there’s def something cool about meeting her because I’ve stared at the cover of Cool For You for a really long time thinking about how rad she is. I think like, a large portion of the way I perform masculinity is based heavily on the photo on the cover of that book. Not that I spread my legs that wide when I sit, but more in terms of ~ViBeZ~. Maybe one day we’ll be friends and I’ll tell her that in person, but at least for now I’ve got a copy of my book that she signed.
9. Returned home to visit after having moved away.
Touched on this for a sec in the Sheer Mag section of the column, but I can’t stress enough how cool it was for me to return home. Having never moved away before, I’ve never felt the glorious enveloping warmth of return. For me it was returning to the place I grew up and my birth family, but I understand that I am one of the lucky ones and those places are fraught for many people. That said, living in a place where I felt comfortable, safe and cared for by many was pretty rad, but going back there to visit really takes the cake! I felt like a celebrity!
10. Suspicious Beasts “Might Die Tomorrow” LP
SUSPICIOUS BEASTS main songwriter Yusuke Okada, is one of my favorite people and he drew my column header, so, you know, I’m biased. But listen, I love this record so much. I’ve been listening to demos of these songs that Yusuke emailed me for a while now, so hearing them fleshed out and properly mixed is super cool. Yusuke is one of the best and most prolific song-writers I know and his records have a timeless feeling to them that is hard to pin down. I asked Becca what she thought it sounded like last night and she said “guitar-based pop music. There’s a lead that sounds like the BYRDS but its pop, not country.” But also the last time they toured in America I saw them twice and learned that they are the by far the loudest band out of anyone I know! This record came out on the very unfortunately named label ALIEN SNATCH, which is in Germany. You can buy it from them or maybe from elsewhere too? I don’t even know. Ask your local record store to order it if people even still do that anymore.
I would also like to mention that Yusuke is in two other bands which both rule. One is called LOST BALLOONS and it’s his project with Jeff Burke from MARKED MEN. They have a record on ALIEN SNATCH too. It’s louder and more punk and has a toned-down MARKED MEN feel, which works very well with Yusuke’s style of self-loathing via song. Then he has another outfit called FRIEND where he shares songwriting duties with Nate Stark formerly of BENT OUTTA SHAPE (+ many other bands). The band is rounded out by Chuck Van Dyke (STUPID PARTY/ a bunch of Chattanooga bands) and Matt Callahan (BENT / YOUNG MEN / etc) on bass and drums respectively and listen up, they’re really good. They don’t have a record out so just go see them or something.
None of these are punk bands, per se, but they are weirdo rock by punks that fits well within MRR’s purview. Like Billy Childish. I dunno, just listen to this shit, okay? BYE!
It’s been a little more than a month since I moved out of New York City. I’m still living in Austin, still retired. Did I tell you I retired? It’s temporary, but basically it’s like this: I got this book advance a few years ago and I never stopped working my diner job. I wrote the book and it’s been published (it’s called Slice Harvester, buy it from the cool local bookstore if you want, or just pay an oogle to steal one from Barnes & Noble for you, it’s on a major label and there’s no way I’ll ever make enough to see any royalties), and I’ve moved to Austin and now I’m retired for the time being, which is partially code for “I don’t have a job yet” but also code for “I’m not trying that hard to find one.”
Things have been great! Aside from Austin’s two MAJOR flaws (no bagels, no rap radio), it’s really cool here. I go swimming all the time in natural bodies of water, I eat super well, I live with and am building a life with someone I love a ton and who does cool work and who I’m inspired by and stoked on just about every day.
And my cats, despite my fears that they would be truly scared, have taken the whole move in stride and seem to really feel at home in the new place. See, not only have I never moved out of New York before, but until two years ago I lived in the same apartment for almost a decade. Sal and Growler (the cats in question) lived in one other apartment for like six months when they were tiny kittens, but basically they had spent their entire lives up until that move in the first apartment, and let me tell you, they freaked out about leaving. I’ve had them since they were a few days old and during the first week they both would try and drink milk out of my nipples while I slept and I’m a big softy already but basically I mom them way too hard and get super worried about their well-being in ways that are probably about projecting because I’m unwilling to acknowledge that I need to be nurtured and cared for and I refuse to ask for that so I put it all on them.
ANYWAY, my cats. They live in Texas and they’re stoked. They live with two dogs and don’t care, which is crazy to me because the handful of times dogs came over to my apartment in New York they freaked out. These dogs are cool, though. Becca has a dog named Gus—who is a big, floppy, bloodhound with dwarfism so he has a giant body and little tiny legs—and our roommate Melody has a Chihuahua named Ace who just wants to hang out all the time.
So like two or three weeks ago Becca’s friend found a stray. She just wandered into his house and his dog was freaking out so we said we’d hang on to her for a couple days until we could figure out what to do to keep her out of a kill shelter. She’s a smaller pit mix and she was a real chiller. We named her Kira after Kira Roessler from Black Flag because we’re punks.
I was stressed about the cats, but they were fine. Kira was curious about them but seemed to leave them be if they would hiss or hide for two long. Having a new dog was kind of a pain in the ass or whatever—she would wake us up in the middle of the night or like, crap on the floor, (Puppy Shit, literally and figuratively)—but it was nothing we couldn’t handle.
Then the day before Halloween, we came home from some errands and like, five minutes after we let Kira out of her crate I heard this crazy sound and Kira was in me and Becca’s closet with Growler in her actual mouth and she wasn’t biting hard or trying to hurt her because if she had been Growler woulda been toast, she was just trying to play. But Growler didn’t wanna play and was in fact terrified and we got Kira off her and back in her crate and I picked Growler up and she was so limp and scared in my arms and covered in piss because she pissed herself, and I just lost it.
I kept it together long enough to wash Growler off, make sure she wasn’t hurt, just scared. I wrapped her in a blanket and hid her somewhere away from the dog where she could relax and decompress, and then I sat down on the bed and I couldn’t even think I was so checked out. Becca came in to see if I was okay and I could barely talk beyond apologizing that I didn’t want to go to the Halloween party we had planned on going to that night. She made it clear that I had nothing to be sorry for and tried her best to talk to me, but I was incredibly unreceptive to communication.
She went to the party after I told her I needed to be alone and I just lay there and stared at the ceiling for a while. Eventually I started walking around the room and then I started walking around the rest of the apartment and then I sat down on the couch and watched TV. Barely functional.
It seemed like everything was wrong. I wasn’t regretting moving to Austin, or taking in Kira, those things seemed incidental. It was more like, everything in my life had been wrong. I realized it was the four year anniversary of when I quit drinking and I wondered what the point even was, because if I was wasted at I least wouldn’t give a shit about any of it. I used booze for years to create a barrier between myself and my emotions. Even after four years off the stuff, feeling them can still be jarring.
Eventually I eased up a bit, realizing I wasn’t gonna feel better any time soon. Better not to fight it. I decided to explicitly name the things that were bothering me, articulate my interiority, something I wouldn’t have done four years ago. I was shaken because a living thing I love and who’s well-being I feel responsible for was put into a dangerous and scary situation that I had been unable to defend them from. I felt like a failure as a mother and protector. I felt an acute awareness of the fragility of life. I sat with those feelings, something else I wouldn’t have done four years ago.
Becca got home, we went to sleep. In the morning I woke up feeling fine. That was five or six days ago now and the shit feeling is barely a memory, but it was an unpleasant reminder of how I felt for a long time. I haven’t felt like that for a while, I thought I had gotten immune to it or grown out of it or whatever. But the truth is that my sense of well-being is incredibly precarious and I actually work really hard to keep myself not feeling like shit each day. So I wanna thank Kira the Dog for pulling the floor out from under me and reminding me of all the work that it takes to keep it there. It’s been four years since I’ve quit drinking and I’ve come a long way and I’m proud of myself.
WHAT’S GOOD MRR. Welcome to my tenth column. So much has been going on since the last time I wrote. Namely, I moved out of New York City for the first time in my whole entire life and now I live in Austin, TX. Weird, right? Everyone I know is excited for me, but also everyone is shocked that I would leave because I’ve always seemed like one of those people that would stay in New York forever—in part because of my personality, but also because I’ve always adamantly sworn that I would never leave.
Three other things I’ve adamantly sworn in my life: I would never like the Smiths, I would never be a vegetarian, the Dead Kennedys would be my favorite band forever.
Re: The Smiths. This is something I said when I only listened to Blanks 77 and the Casualties, the same era where I pejoratively referred to the Stooges as “too psychedelic.” Like one year later I was dating this Darkwave College Babe who I met at the Starbucks I worked at in High School and we were driving to the beach and the song “Ask” came on a mixtape in her car. Her cybergoth dreads were blowing in the breeze and I was deeply Puppy Doggin’ and all of a sudden I liked the Smiths. I rode that wave so hard and so far that I’m back to not liking the Smith’s again, but maybe that’s not the point, is it?
Re: Vegetarianism. This is also something I swore up and down in high school. Then when I was 19 I went on this zine reading tour with my right hand man Salvatore where the destination was a motherfucking debutante ball in Dallas that I had gotten us invited to because one of the debutantes briefly lived in NYC and we would do drugs together. ANYWAY, Salvatore is the son of a butcher and so he was a vegetarian. I didn’t get it and was like, “that shit is for hippies I’m gonna eat all of your dad’s prosciutto,” or whatever. Then we were in Dallas at the debutante ball on a ton of speed wearing these shitty thrift store tuxedos and carrying around a tub of DRUM tobacco like an amulet. I thought everyone would be freaked out by us because I had a mohawk and Sal had that Kevin Seconds thing where half his head was shaved, but mostly they had an easy time compartmentalizing us as the “friends from New York,” and that seemed to explain everything weird about us. The only thing that successfully freaked out the squares was when dinner came and Sal traded me his steak for my vegetables. People truly lost their shit and I became a vegetarian next day. I also am not a vegetarian anymore, though I was for years, but again, that’s not the point.
The point is that oftentimes the things I proclaim the loudest are the things that I end up ultimately doing and I think maybe part of why I feel the need to adamantly and publicly distance myself from them is because I’m actually getting myself used to the idea of maybe trying them out. Or something. Is that actually the point? I’m unsure. But this column isn’t called Making Points With Colin Atrophy, it’s called something different than that so fuck you anyway. As for the Dead Kennedys, I was like 13 when I decided they were my favorite band forever and I mean, come on.
Look, what I’m saying is I moved out of New York like four days ago as of this writing and an indeterminate amount of time as of your reading, because like, I don’t even know who you are or when you’re gonna read this. It could be any time after now or even before now because linear time is an oppressive concept that was made up by capitalism (more like CRAPitalism, am I right?) to bring you down and make you go to work on time. I drove to Austin in two days. I ate three bags of peanut M&Ms and one dozen oatmeal cookies that my mom made for me and put in a ziplock bag. I listened to approximately twenty hours worth of this horror story podcast that Imogen told me about and I consumed exactly Thirty Hours of Energy. In the end I arrived in Austin a day and a half after I left New York, almost to the minute. My girlfriend Becca had made me a homemade VEGAN chocolate babka to welcome me so if I had been harboring any doubts about whether packing up my apartment into the back of a station wagon and moving across the country to be her Professor’s Wife (which I wasn’t because she rules), they would’ve been set aside.
I’m eating a piece of that babka right now and listening to the Popper Burns tape I wrote about last month. Last night my old friend Ben Trogdon (of the ever exciting NUTS Fanzine, the new issue of which has an interview with fellow columnist Bryony’s band GOOD THROB) had an art show here and tomorrow night G.L.O.S.S. is playing and I’m very excited about establishing my new identity as a New Yorker, Elsewhere. Just now Becca made a joke about some NASCAR driver and I had no idea who he was and I got to act all befuddled like, “why would I even know about a NASCAR driver?”
So yeah, 2015 is closing out soon and I’m stoked and in love and I live in a new town for the first time in my life which is very exciting. You can still send mail to my old P.O. Box for now, it just might take me a little longer to get back to you. 442-D Lorimer St #230 / Brooklyn, NY 11206. And you can still email me email@example.com and blah blah blah blah blah. I’m excited for my future columns to all be about me being confused by shit here and I hope you are too. No cops, no creeps. Peace in the taqueria. I’m out.
YO WHATUP MRR. Welcome back to Eat, Pray, Shlub, my livejournal. I was reading an old column of Imogen’s the other day and I noticed her calling her column a livejournal too, and I don’t think I stole that from her, I think I came to that conclusion on my own and so did she because she and I are very similar in terms of how we process and synthesize information in the world, but also on the off chance that I did read it from her and copy her I wanted to mention that because look, there is a history of men copying women and not crediting them that I don’t want to be part of and even though I’m not necessarily a man, for the purposes of holding a place in that Continuum of Shitheads I may as well be one, so like, you get it. WHATEVER.
MOVING ON. I’ve been eating an ice cream cone every day lately and it’s awesome, you should try it. It’s more expensive than getting Wellbutrin was on my health insurance but def worth it. I just feel way happier when I eat an ice cream cone each day. But two days ago after work, me and Salvatore went and got a cone on Bedford Ave which is like, the gentrification epicenter of North Brooklyn and we were sitting on this stoop and I noticed a dude in a van who was selling a bunch of crap on the sidewalk. I presumed he was was on our team via Sully’s Law (also known as the Shotwell Principle): “any person selling a bunch of crap on the sidewalk is probably A Punk or at least Punk Adjacent.” But then I noticed he was selling a bunch of Mammy figurines, which are those racist Aunt Jemima statuettes that racist white people collect. I pointed them out to Sal, and was like, “what do you think about that?”
And he was all “I don’t like it,” right as the guy got out of his van and we both found out he was a white dude with a goatee and a Hawaiian shirt! That is like, the most bad news facial hair. To quote my friend Himanshu’s song WOYY “I used to want a goatee / cause nobody would coach me.”
I was like “AYO YOU FEEL LIKE A DICKHEAD SELLING THAT RACIST SHIT ON THE SIDEWALK?” and then homie was all “Not when I count my money at night.” And I was like, “Oh, so you just ARE a dickhead.”
Then he told me he was Jewish which I thought was weird but I got to give him a sarcastic “mazel tov” which I enjoy doing. Eventually we stopped talking and then like two minutes later he was all, “why do you even think they’re racist anyway?” in a total Wake Up Sheeple voice and then crossed his arms into this Riddle Me This b/w GOTCHA pose because he clearly thought he had checkmated me, but I just looked at him surprised and was like, “Cause they are. Are you trying to tell me they aren’t racist? I don’t see how that’s possible.” And he just kinda gave up and then this other guy with a python around his neck walked by and the Racist Sidewalk Salesman was like “sick snake, bro,” and me and Sal got up and walked away.
Well, I was totally unsatisfied with that interaction because like, nothing got accomplished and I didn’t even feel good about myself for being self-righteous, which I think was the whole point anyway. I guess I wanna poll MRR: should I have just duffed that dude? I feel like maybe if I had punched him in the nose I would’ve felt better. I’m not really into fighting but maybe now that I quit smoking I’m gonna get into fighting.
I dunno, help me out here. I just want there to be real life negative repercussions for doing fucked up shit like that. Also writing this down now in retrospect I realize when he said “Not when I count my money at night,” I should’ve been like, “oh but you DO feel like a dickhead right now though? Aight.” So I guess maybe I need to learn martial arts for fighting, but then probably I have to go to an improv class to develop a quicker wit for insults if I’m gonna make a habit of picking fights with dudes on the street.
Alright that’s it for this month. Please all white male victims feel free to send me a postcard about how I’m reverse racist to Colin Atrophy / 442-D Lorimer St #230 / Brooklyn, NY 11206 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or send me cool mail! This month I got a bunch of issues of MARMALÄDE UMLUÄT zine, a pretty cute food zine by this person Maud who also lives in Queens (feudfood.blogspot.com), issue #2 of a comic called SOUNDTRACK that’s made up of these super engaging vignettes that are about tripping or dreams but either way I like them (wesleyfawcettcreigh.wordpress.com), and some music from this dude Jim— a CD of his cumbia group, VOX URBANA, which I haven’t listened to yet (p excited to hear it eventually, though) because I don’t have a working CD player and the one in my computer has nail polish in it, and also a tape by his punk band, NEW DOUBT, which is dark jangly weird desert shit that I’m totally into (newdoubt.bandcamp.com)! It rules getting a good tape in the mail, lemme just say. I’m not ungrateful and hopefully I’ll get to see NEW DOUBT on tour one day.
In non-mail cool shit news: I been real stoked on two bands, neither from New York. First is MEA CULPA from NOLA (meaculpanola.bandcamp.com) who are also playing dark jangly punk, which I’ve always liked but I’ve been extra into lately ever since my girlfriend asked me to start cosplaying as Young John Doe. It’s weird, I put these motorcycle boots on and all of a sudden I’m a totally different person. Or like, I’m a slight variation on the person I already was. Anyway, Mea Culpa are sick as fuck and I saw them play a kind of disastrous show in Brooklyn a few weeks ago but they ruled. Also they have one of the best-designed t-shirts I’ve ever seen, but I ruined mine cutting it into a tanktop too haphazardly so (cough, cough) it’d be pretty cool if anyone wanted to maybe send me a new one. I’m a very important punk tastemaker and a size M, though I could prob do a S.
Second is this band POPPER BURNS from Austin, TX (popperburns.bandcamp.com) and look I don’t want to compare a kinda funky punk band from Texas with a drag performer for a singer to THE DICKS and BIG BOYS because, well we all know why, it seems hackneyed and obvious and pigeon-holey, but Patti Melt kinda does an unhinged rant ala Gary Floyd and Sigourney Fever’s loping bass makes me think of BIG BOYS’ funky numbers. They also have heavy FEEDERZ and MINUTEMEN vibes for the same reasons, respectively. All told, they’re the most exciting band I’ve seen live in a long time and their tape didn’t disappoint. Keep your eyes peeled. If they show up in your town don’t miss them and if you’re in Austin don’t sleep. The night I saw them there were like ten people at their show but earlier in the night I had been in a boring as fuck, all cis dudes, by the book hardcore show with mad people at it. Straight people got bad taste, I guess.
And then lastly I wanna talk about my friend Denise Chavez’s comic Penis Hider, which is about gnarly creeps hitting on her in public places. Denise has an incredible way with words and ability to capture the minutia of what makes situations so absurd and she’s just super funny over all. Her stories are drawn by Evan from Vacation who’s frenetic style of art really compliments Denise’s storytelling and makes the whole thing feel as fucked up as it is. It’s worth checking out if you like comics by cool women and hate the patriarchy. Email her at email@example.com for ordering info.
AND FINALLY if you wanna know about my podcasts or my book which just came out or my soon-to-be weird video show where I interview punks at the pizzeria, just go to sliceharvester.com. You can also read all my old columns there and my pizza reviews and other shit and blah blah blah, thanks for listening. PEACE OUT.
Travis Fristoe is dead. I’ve re-written that sentence so many times now. My friend Travis is dead. Travis Fristoe died. My friend Travis killed himself. None of them were right and that one isn’t either but the cold neutrality of it is the closest to appropriate I’ve got. Travis is someone who I only knew for a few years, but whose influence on my life is ongoing and impossible to quantify. I think he had that sort of impact on a lot of us.
I don’t want my voice to be prominent in the narrative about his life and death. In fact, I wasn’t going to write anything. But last Sunday in Brooklyn there was a potluck for friends of his to get together and share memories. I had known he’d been dead for two days by then but hadn’t really cried. I hadn’t been able to. The potluck was nice, but it wasn’t until most of the guests had left and I was sitting around the table with a few close friends that I was able to truly access my emotions and really let it all out. Afterwards I felt spent and exhausted.
When I got in the car to head home, there were two guys on Hot 97, NYC’s premier rap radio station, talking about the passing of Sean Price, an MC from Brownsville who had just died unexpectedly. He hadn’t been a prominent figure in the eyes of people outside the rap world, but he’d been grinding since the mid-90s and it seemed like, without ever really taking too much shine for himself, he had affected many people in that community. In between Sean Price tracks spanning his entire catalog, the DJs talked and took calls from other people who were reeling from his loss, acknowledging that as a community they may have taken this fixture for granted, because it hadn’t occurred to them that he might be gone one day.
I sat in my car for almost an hour after I parked listening to them. A foundation of Travis and my friendship was discussing rap minutiae. In fact, there’s an idea that has come to define much of what I do that was first workshopped in a conversation I had with Travis in a park in Greenpoint. We were talking about posse cuts, when a rapper invites all their friends on a song with them. Think Scenario, Sippin on Some Syrup, or more recently maybe the I’m A Coke Boy Remix, though frankly Chinx Drugz’s verse on the original is way better. Point is, we were talking about how punks can’t do posse cuts because it just doesn’t work and yeah maybe you can have a split 7” or whatever but there’s really something so special about that kind of public declaration of allegiance and friendship. When I was like, “I guess Slice Harvester is kind of my ongoing posse cut, isn’t it?” Travis understood what I was talking about. Our conversation drifted back to the radio rap we were excited about, I don’t remember what else we talked about and soon Travis had to go to dinner. But that moment was galvanizing for me. It coalesced so many vague ideas I’d had into one crisp and succinct concept. It’s unlikely I would’ve had such a revelation in conversation with someone else.
So two nights after Travis’ death it felt appropriate that I was sitting in my car listening to these strangers on the rap station mourn their lost friend. This moment of intense vulnerability, played out for everyone to see, got me thinking about the nature of public grief and how we mourn public figures. Travis spent his life making things to share with people, and in the time since his death it’s been uplifting to see how far reaching his influence has been. I just want to add my voice to the throng of his friends and fans.
I first met Travis when a band I was driving on tour stayed at his house in Gainesville. I got wasted on Jim Beam in his driveway while we all told stories and at some point we realized that my old band, Gloryhole, had played our first show with his old band, Reactionary 3, at the Jerk Haus in Sunset Park many years prior. Eventually I passed out, woke up, drove off.
At the time I was just getting started reviewing pizza and I had a donation button on my website soliciting readers to pay for a slice. When I got home from tour I noticed that Travis had donated $20. A hugely generous gesture! I mailed him the first issue of Slice Harvester, he sent me a letter back and an issue of his zine,America?, and our friendship grew from there.
The night I met Travis, I had just started drinking again after three months off booze and I’m sure I talked about that incessantly. Like many drunks, the twilight of my alcoholism was spent having drunken conversations acknowledging my substance abuse problems that I forgot in the morning. As we got to know each other, I was struggling with quitting drinking for good, and Travis was someone who was always willing to listen and engage when I wanted to talk about the dark stuff. I found his perspectives grounding and his insights perceptive and helpful.
Occasionally I’d get a call or a text that he was going to be in New York. Inevitably we’d meet at a library, then walk to a park where we would talk for hours about how our lives were going, why it was so vital to care about punk, projects we were working on. Travis was an inspiration to me and someone who I thought about at moments when I doubted myself, or doubted the purpose of investing all my time and energy into a group of people who, at worst, is just a bunch of jerks who vaguely like the same music. He could always help me see the bigger picture, remind me why it’s important to build community, remind me why we have to define ourselves in terms of what we believe in rather than just what we stand against. I’ll leave you with a few paragraphs from the intro to America? #15, which have always stood out to me:
“At the library last month I was thanked by another unfamiliar face who swears I let him in for free to a late-night show at Wayward where he got to play an Irish band’s drums. “I was wasted as hell, man, but I remember you being nice.” Again, I don’t remember. Will what is everyday to us eventually add to something larger?
“Opening your living space means maybe your favorite coffee mug (“skinny people have big hearts”) may disappear with a giggling New College student who’s wasted on DIY absinthe. Or having a band you don’t know spill their drink on your Glen E. Friedman book. A very small price to pay still.
“Similarly, in the ongoing efforts to “clean your room—change your life,” you will likely unearth strange and incriminating personal artifacts. How did I get this demo cd of this album? Why is this letter still on my desk & not mailed out? The cleaning up kicks up my allergies. Metaphors are no longer needed—the days provide all the examples we need. Do not become an isolated archivist. Do not let the silverfish take over.
"Outside Bentonville, near my grandparent’s home, I wasn’t expecting to find Yoko Ono lps & Octavia Butler hardbacks in the local thrift stores. Or the clippings in my great grandmother’s scrapbook (a pasted-over mechanic’s manual) or distant relatives: an untrained librarian, a small-town bicycle racer. The suicide notices ran a close second to the marriage announcements. Such oversights can become a dangerous fallacy.
"By dangerous I mean limiting. As in discounting the possibilities of where we came from, where we are now, and what we should do next. The quotidian and civilian world will always be there to fall back on. In the meantime let’s act like what we do matters.”
I know there’s something to be said about the people who seem the most sane, who seem the most stable, are sometimes the most deeply troubled. I know there’s something to learn from the fact that this person who is and was an inspiration to so many chose to end his own life on a Friday afternoon in August. But I’m not sure I have the distance yet to think about this death in any terms other than grief.
An email that I wrote to Travis two years ago began, “I'm getting ready for work so I can't write a long email but I was just thinking wistfully about how great you are and how glad I am that you're in the world.” It wasn’t infrequently that I thought of Travis and was filled with inspiration and gratitude. Now I feel his absence and I see his absence reflected in so many people around me. It hurts and when I think about him I feel as if I’ve been hollowed out and packed full with TV static. But at the end of the day this pain I’m feeling, that the people around me are feeling, is the cost of having made ourselves vulnerable enough to care for a wonderful person, and having been cared for back. A small price to pay still.
WHAT'S GOOD PUNK ROCKERS. Colin Atrophy here, signing in for MRR column number whateverthefuck. I'm still in love jail and haven't really been paying any attention to anything in my life besides that so I'm TOTES UNPREPARED to write this month. This makes two in a row, and makes me a Bad Columnist but a good Former Teen Bouncing Souls Fan. Forsake everything for the sake of the crush.
So I dunno, I guess I'll just catch you up on my life, since this is my livejournal. I quit smoking after 18 years like, 6 weeks ago as of this writing and a little over 2 months ago by the time you read this. It's fucking crazy for me because loving smoking has been such a huge part of my identity for like, EVER. Like one time me and Good Kid Paulie were out oogling in New England and we showed up at Caroline Paquita and Mikey Hotsauce's house in Providence and were drinking some beers in the kitchen and I was getting ready to step outside and smoke. Caroline was like, "Colin, why don't you cut that out?" and I was like, "grrrl, for real, smoking is the thing I enjoy most in my life. Like, if I were to estimate, I'd say I've probably smoked like, 50,000 cigarettes to date and out of those 50,000 I can remember maybe 30 that I didn't totally enjoy. Do you understand those odds? I don't think I've completely, unselfconsciously enjoyed that much of the sex I've had. I don't think I even like punk music that much!"
Anyways, I quit smoking. Mostly it was because I wanted to try Wellbutrin and I knew the doctor would give it to me if I said I was quitting smoking, but then I was like, “maybe I should try actually quitting.” Wellbutrin scene report: kinda speedy for the first couple days, made me feel like a super hero but made my therapist genuinely worried about me. Eventually it leveled out and I just felt regular and not better or worse than I had before. Questioned whether I even needed it in the first place (I don’t) and slowly tapered off, which made me super irritable but was ultimately also pretty non-eventful. Final verdict: rocketship, swirly lollipop, eyes looking left, see no evil monkey, lady flipping her hair.
But also what happened is that I got this gnarly flu and only smoked once a day for like three or four days and I didn’t even enjoy any of them and then I was out to dinner with my mom and I mentioned to her that I was considering quitting and it made her so excited that I had to actually give it an honest shot. Speaking of my mom, she turns 60 this month. HBD, ma. Thanks for helping me turn out just fucked up enough that I’m still punk in my 30s, but not fucked up enough that I’m dead or like, unmanageably sad all the time. Mazel tov emoji, birthday cake, princess, lady in the pink shirt looking kinda sad but not unmanageably so, twins dressed like dancing bunnies, ghost with his tongue out. Mazel tov emoji is the one that’s like, a horn with confetti flying out. I call it that because I always put it next to “Mazel Tov” when I Mazel Tov someone on the internet or in text message. This is truly riveting stuff, huh? Real muckraking.
But yo, quitting smoking when you actually want to isn’t that hard, I guess. I also started running too, and since I recently started singing in a band for the first time in ages, what I do is, I listen to records on my headphones and I scream along with them while I run around my neighborhood. This is endurance training both for screaming and for running. If you ever see a person running through Queens wearing one of those Seth Hunx “Suffering From PMS (Putting Up With Men’s Shit)” t-shirts and screaming the lyrics to STREET PUNX by THE PIST, that’s me and you should say hi, I absolutely don’t mind getting interrupted.
ALSO if I see you and try and bum a cigarette from you, just let me have it. You’re not fucking up my quitting. I’ve smoked one cigarette a week since I quit with no signs that I’m gonna smoke more. And like, maybe you think this means I haven’t really quit but whatever, after smoking for 18 years getting down to just one cigarette a week is pretty awesome so whatever. Cigarette, cherub, smiling doodoo, shrimp tempura.
ENDNOTES: I just went to Austin for the first time and I want to say that I’m super excited about this band Feral Future. Tough as fuck queerdo babes making robust punk music. I been jamming their bandcamp page through my bicycle speaker pretty hard lately. Also I went and saw that band Institute at a tamale restaurant that has punk shows after they close and my Baby Punx of Austin scene report is that I couldn’t tell if it was the fog machines or the teens vaping. Institute is good but you already knew that, and also having punk shows in a closed restaurant is always cool but you also knew that too. All in all I give Austin 3 thumbs up, 1 sunglass face, one heart eyes because my dream babe lives there, and one dog face for her awesome dog.
Have you read the new COMETBUS about my friend SUE JEIVEN dealing with her terminal illness? I haven’t yet even though Aaron gave me one, because I keep trying to read it on the subway and every time I pick it up I start crying and I don’t like crying on the subway so then I stop. But I’m really happy it exists and one day I’ll be able to finish it and you should get it because Sue is a super important person and has done a lot for punk and she deserves to be seen and heard.
Finally, I’m considering that now that I quit smoking I might want to get swole. Do you have any tips for that? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Colin Atrophy
/ 442-D Lorimer St #230 / Brooklyn, NY 11206. Also I would never suggest that you mail me pills or anything because that would be illegal, but I will say that just because I don’t drink anymore doesn’t mean I don’t like to eat a couple percocets and watch Seinfeld for an entire half a day. Creepy winking tongue out smiley face. Okay, that’s it. NO COPS NO CREEPS PEACE IN THE PIZZERIA WE ARE THE PUNX ATROPHY OUT.
This column is maybe just gonna be a list of some stuff that I think is cool or important right now because it’s springtime and someone I’ve been crushing on basically FOREVER showed up in town out of the blue and wants to hang out with me most of the time she’s here and that is AWESOME obvs, but it means that I’m not really getting much work done and I haven’t even thought about my column and it’s due tomorrow but tomorrow I’m really busy so basically I have to write the whole thing in one sitting right now or else just quit and be booted out of punk forever. So yeah, anyway, here’s a list of some shit that I think is cool:
Listen, I am a Weed Amateur, which is weird because I used to be a Weed Pro. Or like, it isn’t that weird because I haven’t been a Weed Pro in over a decade and I think some people just get bad at weed when they get older. Anyway, I still like Doing Marijuana but smoking even one hit is too much for me at once so I like to make a really mellow weed tincture and dose myself super slowly like a baby.
It’s really easy to make! First buy an 8th of decent weed. I don’t know what all the different kinds of weed means, so usually I just call the delivery service and say “give me the middle one” and that’s what I buy. Then what you do is you grind the weed up real fine. You can use one of those weed grinders but that’s really tedious, and you can use a coffee grinder I bet, but mine has coffee all over it. I just use a small food processor and it works great.
After the weed is all ground up you put it in a mason jar and pour a pint of shitty high proof vodka over it, then close the jar, shake it around, and put it in a cabinet. Then every time you open that cabinet shake it up again. Eventually it starts turning greenish yellow and then you should dip a tincture dropper in and taste it and if it’s delicious and makes you feel awesome then it’s done and you strain it through a cheese cloth, and that’s that. And if it doesn’t taste good and make you feel great then just put it back in the cupboard for another week. It’s that easy!
Also, since the “sobriety” I practice is a variation on what my friend Max calls Poppers Edge, and my rule is that I’m only allowed to do drugs that come in tiny bottles, this gives me a third thing besides Rush Liquid Incense and 5 Hour Energy and everyone knows its important to have a third thing.
THE BEST SHOW
Do you listen to the Best Show yet? Why not? The Best Show is this radio thing that used to happen on WFMU but now Tom Scharpling the host has built his own radio station in a secret location in New Jersey and broadcasts over the internet at thebestshow.net every Tuesday night from 9-12. Heavily DIY. This dude is a true underdog and should be championed by all punx worldwide because he’s basically the awesomest person and his radio show is so cool. It’s a free form call in show, and has the potential to get super weird in ways that I love.
I don’t think Tom would characterize himself as a punk but he is definitely Punk Adjacent and even if he wasn’t, he’s super funny, has great politics, and is really charming. The show’s been on for 14 years or something at this point, so there’s a huge amount of back catalog and if you’re daunted and looking for a place to start I suggest listening to “The Order of Everything” from the Best Show Gems podcast.
MY FRIEND MEREDITH GRAVES
Recently there was a situation apropos of the hypothetical I wrote about in last month’s column, and Meredith was put in a position of having to do an easy, passive thing that would tacitly benefit an abusive man, or make a more difficult choice that would require work on their part and maybe even some conflict, but was requested by a survivor of violence at the hands of that abusive man. They unflinchingly and unhesitatingly chose the latter and even though that’s how everyone should act, it’s actually so rare these days that someone puts their money where their mouth is and so I just wanna mention because I think their awesomeness deserves to be recognized and I want them to know they’re appreciated.
MIERLE LADERMAN UKELES
Mierle Laderman Ukeles is this kind of obscure feminist performance artist from the 70s that I only know about because Out of Town Dream Babe is here researching her work, so we’ve been talking about her non-stop the past few days. She’s the Artist In Residence at the New York City Dept. of Sanitation, a position she invented for herself 40 years ago, and her work is all grounded in this seriously awesome political agenda and she’s also really funny, which I think is super important in art. I suggest reading about her on your own, (especially because a bunch of the scholarship about her that exists today is in garbage man trade publications and it’s cool to have a reason to read those), but something I really like is that a ton of her art is basically addressing the question posed by smug dickheads “yeah, well after your revolution who’s gonna take out the trash?” Like she was basically championing shitworkers worldwide for a majority of her career and all punks everywhere should be able to respect that.
SARAH MCCARRY’S METAMORPHOSES TRILOGY
Okay so Sarah McCarry is my friend so let’s get that out of the way, it’s not like I’m not biased here. But the reason she’s my friend is because I read the first novel in her Metamorphoses Trilogy and it was so beautiful and perfect that I wrote her a letter and was like “Hey I really like your book,” and she was like, “woah, really? I like your zines,” and then we went and got Ethiopian food and walked around for a few hours and were like, “okay cool we’re friends now.”
So anyway, these books are all retellings/reinterpretations of Greek myths, which I always think is great. And they’re set among three generations of women in a fictionalized version of Kurt Cobain’s family, which I also think rules, because like, it’s long been time that we acknowledge that Kurt Cobain was a true queerdo and his presence in popular culture was instrumental for a lot of us turning out cool. And what’s doubly rad is that for Sarah, he’s just the background and the real interesting shit is about the emotional growth and interiority of women and girls. And there’s like, just enough non-judgmental drug use and gay sex to make me feel like no school would ever let a kid read these books on purpose but some teenagers might find them and like, maybe they’ll be okay after all or whatever. I think creating beautiful art to help weird fucked up teens survive is a super important task.
OKAY I THINK THAT’S IT
I mean, it’s not it for things I think are cool. I definitely think a bunch of other stuff is cool, (wearing jumpsuits, painting my nails metallic colors, the Mukilteo Fairies Special Rites 7”) but that’s it for my attention span for this column and plus I have to go to work anyway.
One correction from a few columns back: I said the band ALTARATLA had broken up, but that’s not true. They just live across the country from each other. Since when has geography impeded punk? I still have no idea how you can get their awesome tape though.
As usual you should write to email@example.com or Colin Atrophy / 442-D Lorimer St #230 / Brooklyn, NY 11206 if you wanna tell me about something you think is cool or even something you think sucks but you think I’d think is cool. Or even something you think I’d think sucks if it sucks in a way that’s actually kind of gratifying.
Fuck Billy Joel. Fuck your negative attitude. We. Are. The Punks.
Hi, yeah! So did you know that before I ever wrote one of these columns I was in MRR three times? The first time was because I wrote a letter when I was 14 saying that I had lost the notebook keeping track of my zine orders and to write me if you had ordered something and I’d send it out. I didn’t actually have a notebook or any zine orders but I felt like maybe writing that letter might convince someone to try and scam me and then like, a stranger would have my zine. Plus it would make people think that my zine was important or something since I had enough orders that I had to keep track of them in a notebook or whatever. The second time was when my picture was published along with an excerpt from an interview that Cindy Crabb did with some other members of the Transformative Justice/Accountability collective I work with.
The third time was when I got interviewed about my old fanzine Slice Harvester, which was super exciting and I was like SO STOKED to Be In MRR and then I ran into Gabe that owns the comic shop and he was like, “I heard you were in the new MRR?!” and I was like, “Yeah, I mean, whatever… who even reads it anymore anyway? Like, I guess it’s cool or something. Or not. Who cares?” Because I suddenly got nervous about earnestly caring about something, I guess. But then Gabe was like, “STOP IT. You’re allowed to be excited about this.”
Anyway mostly I wanna talk about the second thing. So like, for the better part of the last decade I’ve spent either some or most of my time working with this collective dedicated to “healing the effects of sexual assault and abuse,” to quote our mission statement on our website. Basically we try to use a transformative justice model to hold people in our community accountable for harm they’ve caused to other people in our community, in order to create a space where genuine healing can occur and also to avoid letting the tentacles of The State wind their way any further into our lives. This model is kind of contentious for some people and I’m definitely not here trying to pick a fight with those folks or evangelize, I just wanna contextualize the rest of the stuff I’m thinking about.
I had originally written my column this month about how Entrenched Patriarchal Narratives weasel their way into the most well-intentioned people’s lives, but it got a little TMI about the dynamic of the relationship I have with one of the people I’m dating and I couldn’t really think of a way to talk about it without saying all that stuff, so like, even if I wanna be transparent about my own learning process I don’t wanna do it in a way that might make someone else feel super awkward.
But there’s another thing I’d like to discuss and it’s this phenomenon that happens in Party Dawg Cultures where someone in the community turns out to be dangerous or violent to women when he’s getting all fucked up and partying, but he’s like, really fun otherwise. Everyone knows about it but doesn’t really do anything because “he’s just like that” or whatever. Or like, I know in my life I’ve rationalized a lot of the heinous behavior of violent men that I’ve known because I was aware of their trauma histories and I used that knowledge to excuse them or obfuscate the impact of the violence they were committing. Because knowing the violence they had been the recipient of made their violence seem almost inevitable and kinda not their fault in a way. Which is clearly a rationalization and is so bogus and people are responsible for the harm they cause others no matter how wounded they are.
But back in this archetypal/hypothetical situation (which I have seen play out in so many punk scenes either because I was there or because out of town friends called me for advice on how to deal with situations in their towns), some of the outcomes of knowingly harboring a dangerous person in your community are that he can potentially just keep hurting more and more people, everyone who starts hanging out with your group of friends is at risk of violence, and eventually it’s gonna boil over. Eventually he’s gonna hurt someone who’s not just gonna brush it off and in my experience, at this point, everyone just doubles down and gangs up on the person who got hurt. Because it’s easier to ostracize and distrust a woman’s experience than it is to challenge and confront some drunk dude who you know has a tendency to be violent.
And this is one of those Entrenched Patriarchal Narratives we were talking about before! It’s something we were all socialized to think and believe—that women’s experiences and accounts of events are inherently not trustworthy. It’s just one of those bobo notions that everyone picks up without trying because there’s tons of little things reinforcing it all the time. That’s what’s so insidious about the societal norms that are socialized into us, that they get put in our heads when we’re really little and we’re not paying attention or on guard against hateful shit, and then they just lurk around all quiet until one day they pop out and they’re like “YO! Don’t trust that woman!” And it’s like, that’s not cool to just show up and tell me that when I didn’t even invite you here in the first place.
What it comes down to is this: if your friend is a shithead and you know about it and you don’t do anything to intervene, you’re just as responsible for anyone else he harms from then on. It’s not easy to challenge the toxic behaviors of the people we care about but it’s super important and it’s probably the most loving thing you can do for someone. Also if something shitty happens to someone and they try and deal with it and the way you respond is by icing them out or bullying them, you’re a true dickhead and you need to get it together and act right.
In closing: since we, the punx, agree that society is fucked and we want nothing to do with it, it’s our duty as punx to shed all the bullshit that society forces on us. This includes Entrenched Patriarchal Narratives such as not trusting women, such as creating a safe space for shitty violent men. SO BASICALLY unless you’re actively working to dismantle structures of oppression and systems of control and extricate them from all the little ways they’ve become incorporated into your own life just by the sheer fact of having been socialized in this culture, you’re not punk.
If you have any questions or you totally disagree or you’re totally stoked or you just wanna have a conversation about this, I’m happy to do so. As always, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my address is Slice Harvester / 442-D Lorimer St #230 / Brooklyn, NY 11206.
No Cops, no creeps. Peace in the pizzeria. I’m out.
So, I got this really sweet letter in response to my column two issues back about my car breaking down on the Jersey Turnpike. It was from a guy who’s in the process of quitting drinking and he wrote to me about his own struggle, because I’d mentioned in that column that I had quit drinking around 3 years ago.
I was just starting to write him back, when I realized that maybe some of his questions/some of my experience might prove valuable or useful to people besides just the two of us. I know when I was first getting off booze, reading people’s accounts of what was hard for them/what they struggled with/how they got through it, was really helpful for me, so maybe this can be like that for you? Anyway, here’s a segment of his letter:
“one thing i am really apprehensive about, though, is going to gigs and not drinking. where i live in ________ and the surrounding areas, the punk scene is pretty much exclusively populated by mad speedfreaks that stay up for weeks on end drinkin rum. while i used to be able to dip in and out of this when i wanted (im a newly qualified nurse in hospital, so don't havent so much time for partying as i once did) i cant imagine it being so easy while i'm not boozing, and i'm half scared, cos it feels like alcohol is such a big part of my personality. and half cos i'm concerned that people will think its weird or not cool or something that i'm sober. ain't that awful?
so while im finding more time to play drums in my band, read books, cook tasty food for my non-punk/9-5 kinda friends, and write emails to total strangers (HI!) it almost feels like im sellin out not seeing so much of my punk buddies. i think this idea that theyre gonna judge me is all in my head, but it's still affecting me. punk is love, and i need to rectify how i feel about this situation (while staying sober). i'm writing to ask, did you feel a similar way about social situations, gigs etc? have you encountered any negative responses from friends? how did you find the best way to deal with the practicalities of hanging out with a load of drunk punx lifestyle while not wanting to be a fuckhead anymore (okay, i might be putting this on you a bit, but i hope you get what i mean?)”
When I quit drinking I was a neurotic mess about going to shows for a long time. So much of my conception of punk and my punk identity was tied to this sense of nihilism and like, getting fucking wasted and it’s hard to disentangle those things because sober people are racist white straight edge jock straight dude goons who fucking suck, right? Or like, Dharma Punx, which I’m sure is cool to lots of people (and is even cool for people I know) but to me just seems hella corny and kinda dumb (sorry, y’all, no offense). Also for me, I realized I was medicating a bunch of mental health shit—gender anxiety, social anxiety, anxiety anxiety, et cetera, et cetera, foreva and eva—with booze and that in the absence of booze all human interaction was fraught with hypertense bullshit. It didn’t help that I was drinking 900 cups of coffee, smoking 8000 cigarettes, eating one million candy bars (quitting booze makes you crave sugar LIKE WOAH), and never sleeping, so I was a Fucking Wreck.
But that’s not what you’re talking about necessarily. I think what you’re talking about is that thing where you have all these friendships that were centered heavily on drinking and drug use, and when you stop doing those things you wonder if there’s anything left to hang the friendship on. I had so many fears about judgment when I quit drinking. I was afraid people would think I was a wimp. I was afraid people would think I was judging them for still drinking so they would preemptively judge me. I was afraid that me and the people I thought I cared about would just have nothing to say to each other.
In some cases I was right. There were some people I felt super close with as a booze hound who I realized when I gave it up I had very little in common with beyond a proclivity for getting super fucked up. And that was for sure a drag, but more often then not I realized that there was way more to my friendships than I had pessimistically imagined and that I wasn’t giving myself or my friends enough credit for being full three-dimensional human beings.
This one time like six months into “sobriety” (I am not actually sober, I def fuck with some weed tincture every now and again and occasionally still use Other Drugs, but we’ll use “sober” as shorthand for “not drinking”) I found out this friend of mine from Seattle was coming to town with his band. I got really stressed out and worried because every time he and I hung out we would rage so hard. The last time I’d seen him we’d drank a gallon of cooking wine from the Food Bank because the beer store was closed. It was nasty and tasted like soy sauce and we both puked but it was hella funny and fun and definitely one of those Picturesquely Haggard Times I still talk about when I reminisce about what a Lovable Scamp I used to be. Anyway, he was coming to town and his band was playing a show at this punk house and I knew I couldn’t handle the show without getting wasted, so I asked him if he wanted to get lunch that afternoon. We ended up walking around for hours shooting the shit and he never told me I was a wuss and didn’t seem the least bit concerned about my not drinking and in fact, he was just stoked for me!
And that sort of thing happened again and again. It was all about finding alternatives to typical punk hangs and doing daytime stuff for a while. It took me a couple years to get the hang of sobriety enough to feel like I could handle partying again without booze, but I think I spent that time well, and now that I’m back I feel like I’m so much better at being around people. Because I took the time to deal with my shit and instead of showing up to the gig with a bunch of baggage that I have to slowly shed with each sip of whiskey, I just go out excited to see bands and catch up with people and have a good time.
So, one of the things that you need to do is be patient. Maybe you don’t feel ready to go to shows yet. It totally seems like not going to shows for a while is the end of the world, but actually it’s not because when you’re ready to go to shows again, they’ll still be happening. Some of the people will be different and that’ll be cool because they’ll know you for the first time as a person who doesn’t drink and you won’t have to do any re-branding (har har). Also, like, I know punk stuff happens really fast so maybe you’ll miss some stuff, but who cares?! Like, I missed out on that band Ice Age entirely. But, fucking, WHATEVER. Like, if the worst thing that happened because I quit going to shows for a while is that I didn’t get to see some handsome Scandinavian boys do hardcore (were they even a hardcore band? I still haven’t heard them) then I got off pretty easy.
More practically, I found I really like to drink things out of glass, beer or liquor sized bottles. Specifically fancy ginger beers and seltzers. There’s something about holding on to a glass bottle at house shows that’s super comforting. If you’re at a bar and you can’t bring in a fancy seltzer of your own you can have them make you a seltzer with bitters, which is a delicious drink and looks like a cocktail of some sort so people don’t really ask what it is. ALSO there’s this stuff called Milky Oat Seed tincture that Caroline told me curtails booze cravings and I don’t know if it actually works or I just trust Caroline, but it seemed to work for me.
And then it’s also good to remember that if people start bumming you out or you get stressed, you can just leave! It’s not the end of the world to just dip out and in fact it makes you seem super mysterious and romantic. Who knows what you’re up to?! You do, obviously, but no one else does. They probably think you’re doing something really cool. In my experience most people don’t even think about it at all because they’re so busy partying even if they notice for a second that you’re gone pretty soon they forget about it because they have to do Jaeger shots with the drummer of the touring band from Tokyo.
Mostly the key to not drinking and still hanging out is not putting too much pressure on yourself to do it until you’re ready. Also go to therapy. I lucked out and found an awesome therapist before I quit drinking to deal with some other shit, but I’ve been seeing her for like 4 or 5 years now and it’s pretty rad having someone to talk to. And like, I didn’t go to AA or any meetings, but that’s because I work in a diner that a bunch of AA folks hang out in and would just talk to them about stuff. But it’s nice to get a crew of sober friends too. Lots of punks are “in recovery” or whatever.
Okay! I hope that helped! If anyone else wants to ask me something or thinks I’m totally wrong and wants to call me names for insulting Dharma Punx, write me at email@example.com or Colin Atrophy / 442-D Lorimer St #230 / Brooklyn, NY 11206.
And remember: Fuck Billy Joel. Fuck Your Negative Attitude. We. Are. THE PUNX.
I’m conflicted about whether or not to write this thing about a conversation I had with my best friend on Valentine’s Day because by the time this column comes out that will have been like a month and a half ago but I think maybe the subject matter is resonant to punks everywhere at all times so fuck it, right?
So whatever, it was Valentine’s Day and I was out to dinner with one of my BFFs (I’m poly-amicable) because Valentine’s Day is stupid hetero-patriarchy junk b/w her fiancé was working and my New Boo was Too New for it to be anything but weird for us to have any kind of Valentine’s plans. ANYWAY, look the point is this: we’ve known each other for over a decade and we got to talking about what wild maniacs we used to be when we were young.
It was mostly fun memory lane shit, recounting weird bar fights I dragged her out of or times she carried me home from places because I forgot how many pills I’d took and then drank whiskey like I hadn’t taken any. Or when she lived with my recent ex while I was on some busted ass, solipsistic Nicholas Cage in Valley Girl-style wounded man bender and she wanted to get some kind of vengeance on my behalf for the hurt that I was so obviously obfuscating with booze so she smashed all the dishes in the house.
At one point she said something about how in those days she was too scared and wounded by the world to let anyone love her, but she needed that kind of care so she would seek out intimate relationships with people and then push them away as soon as they got close enough that she felt vulnerable, or they tried to convince her to maybe change her wild ways. I emphatically agreed that I felt similarly back then, because I did!
But as we talked more and more about what wrecks we had been and shared stories back and forth about times one or the other of us had either chosen to forget or couldn’t remember because we had succeeded at what we were always trying to do back then—blot out our awareness of ourselves as thinking, feeling humans—I remembered that there was a period of about six months or a year in that era, back when I still lived in my old apartment and she lived around the corner from me, where we slept in bed together almost every night. With zero making out, not that it should matter, but for whatever reason I feel like I need to specify that. And I told her, probably for the first )and possibly for the only) time, that I don’t know if I would’ve made it through that period if we hadn’t been friends. Not that I necessarily would’ve died or anything that dramatic, although that was obviously a possibility for someone who spent a substantial portion of their time biking around a city blacked out drunk with no lights or helmet (not to mention all the other dumb behaviors I used to regularly engage in), but just that, I feel like things got pretty grim for me for a minute and I was able to walk away from it in one piece. I’m not some broken shell of a person. I’m happy and productive and more or less healthy, and I don’t think that was an inevitable outcome. I think I owe a lot of it to our friendship.
And then I started thinking about a through line that we could trace from one story we told to the next, which was a narrative about she and I looking out for each other and having each other’s backs in the exact way we both felt we had been incapable of letting anyone do back then. And I think the thing is, we took care of each other on the most basic, fundamental levels, down to eating and sleeping together. (I know that some people don’t want or need human touch to feel healthy but for those of us that do it’s so important and so easy to forget about.) But I never told her to stop drinking cause she had work in the morning. She never told me it was probably a bad sign that I puked every day. And we weren’t suppressing the need to communicate those things, because that wouldn’t have been healthy either, we just honestly didn’t care about shit like that.
So like, even though we didn’t care about ourselves we were able to care about each other, and it’s because we never made any rules and we never told each other what to do. I think about that Code of Ethics that Jamie wrote in the liner notes of the Bent Outta Shape / Drunken Boat 7”, which probably came out in the same year she and I were sleeping in bed together all the time. It’s a great list and if you haven’t seen it you should look it up on the internet or something, but I’m specifically thinking of rule #4: “Don’t tame / be tamed (no taming).” That was so fundamental to the relationship she and I had, which was pivotal to the fact that we both made it out and into our 30s and we aren’t totally fucked basket cases. Homegirl is my family, straight up.
And it seems like there was something really fitting about having that relationship, that kinship, the love between us, highlighted on Valentine’s Day, which is a time that was manufactured by late Capitalism to make all people feel like shit and enforce some false romance/loneliness dichotomy on a population of people already alienated from each other and their own bodies by technology and social structures designed specifically to do that. Laurie from my book club says that some dude told her Valentine’s Day is based on some Roman holiday where men would get butt naked, kill a wolf, and then run around slapping women with the pelt, but like, you know what I mean, right? Valentine’s Day as it stands today in America or whatever, which you’re reading about in April but like, this isn’t a CURRENT EVENTS magazine, this is a PUNK magazine so get off my back.
All I’m saying is that my best friend is rad and I’m real lucky and also that I think a lot of people come to punk because they feel wounded or alienated or out of control and that a lot of times even in the chaos of addiction and wild behavior and times when it feels like the whole world is fucking out to get you, sometimes there are relationships that you don’t even realize till ten years later are sustaining you and keeping you alive. And that’s it okay?
ENDNOTES: I been listening almost exclusively to cute pop music made by cool punks, I think as a way to combat winter. Specifically, I listen to the SUNCHOKES cassette by the band SPORTS from Cincinatti, that FLEABITE cover of the VENGABOYS, and the ATAQUE DE CASPA record SOL. Bandcamp.com/colinatrophy has links to listen to all that stuff if you wanna hear it. Is there other cool music that sounds like those bands that I don’t know about? Please tell me about it!
or Colin Atrophy / 442-D Lorimer St #230 / Brooklyn, NY 11206. Although by the time this column runs and you mail me a postcard with just the url to some French anarcha-twee group’s facebook page written on it, it’ll be Spring by then and I’ll probably be back to only listening to Dipset.
Mommy, can I go out and CHILL tonight?!
The other day I was at the art museum PS1 with Malportado Kids, looking at that sick Zero Tolerance exhibit, which was art from and in response to various international protest movements and was super powerful and totally made me cry more than once. I had just met them that morning but we realized we had a million mutual friends, and anyway we got along famously because we’re all affable adult punk rockers. After the museum they were heading to Philly and I was bemoaning the fact that I’d left the show they’d played the night before too early to see them and they were like, “listen, just come to Philly” and I was like, “you know what, okay!” because I’m a fly by the seat of my pants young person. Or! I’m an adult experiencing a life crisis because I’m in my early-30s and I just spent three years getting sober and writing a book and I stopped hanging out with people and now that I handed my book in and I’m capable of hanging out with people and not drinking (I would even say I’m better at hanging out now) I’m tryna compensate for those lost years by constantly partying. Or maybe it’s something in between. “Who knows?” b/w “Whatever.”
I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to drive to Philly with me last minute but I went anyway even though it was pouring and driving on the highway is stressful ever since someone kicked off my driver’s side mirror and then I duct taped it back together so I have to roll down my window and readjust it every time I need to change lanes. BUT it was super worth it and so fun. Malportado Kids are the best band but you probably already know that. And if you don’t the deal with them is that they’re a digital cumbia band and they’re fun as fuck. I’ve been going to punk shows in basements for like, almost 20 years at this point and I’ve seen a lot of people try to perform non-punk genres in a punk setting and usually it SUCKS, but MK bring the magic and it is super vital and real and important and go see them.
And I got to hang out with my best dawg 4 life John McLean while I was in Philly and then the next day we took a cute walk through the cemetery with our old buddy Keith and it was a regular early-2000s Brooklyn dirtbags reunion. And then I got back to John’s house and drank coffee and got in the car to drive home and I was like, “that wasn’t so hard, Philly isn’t even that far and that was super fun. I should leave town for just a day more often when it’s possible!” And the world was a magnificent place as I drove towards a horizon of boundless possibilities, endless exuberance, guileless joy.
Well, staring out at a horizon of bp/ee/gj started to droop my lids a bit, so I pulled over at the Valerie Solanas Service Area off the Jersey Turnpike to refuel, if you will, with a steaming hot cup. I sat in the rest stop for a minute, (enjoying my coffee, texting my sister, you know), until I felt good and ready to get back on the road without killing myself or anyone else by falling asleep at the wheel.
Pulling back onto the Turnpike something felt funny in my front driver’s side tire and I thought maybe it was going flat, so I started to pull off into the shoulder to pop on the donut and take it to a gas station when BOOM! something popped and I heard my rim scraping the concrete. Got out of the car and sure enough, I had a flat on the front and my rear tire on the same side had exploded. #OyVey
Season of the Mensch
Well at least I have AAA! But turns out their tow trucks aren’t allowed on the Turnpike so I got another number and called it and after like an hour the tow truck came and dude was such a Marlboro Manly Strong’n’Silent weirdo. I was like, “cool thanks for coming can you tow me to a flat fix place?” and he was all, “nooooope…” and slowly chewed his gum (his gum!) and turned on the tow lift so I couldn’t talk anymore. Then he got in the car like five whole minutes later, which I could exaggerate about but actually five minutes is kind of a long time, and he explained that he had to tow me to some place and then AAA could come get me from there, so basically I was in that John Candy movie Nothing But Trouble.
Whatever, so that dude towed me to some shitty gravel lot and then I waited another hour or something for the AAA dude and I was so annoyed but then Bill Cashman called and offered to drive from C Squat to pick me up and that was the beginning of everything starting to rule all of a sudden. I told him not to bother because I didn’t wanna just leave my car in Jersey and then I sat in the gravel pit (a mystery unraveling) for another 45 minutes listening to that 4 song Sheer Mag tape over and over again until the next tow truck came.
Bill Cashman’s phone call had heralded the beginning of People Being Kind on this leg of my spiritual journey and the AAA driver was a peach. As soon as I got in the car he started small talkin me about how he grew up in Princeton and “those people think they’re better than me,” and I was like “FUCK them!” and he was like, “YEAH!” and he towed me right to the Pep Boys as it was closing which was a bummer.
When I got out of the tow truck this dude was locking all these doors on the Pep Boys store and I was following him from door to door trying to figure out what was going on, because I had been told that the place closed an hour later, but dude kept ignoring me and looking me dead in the eyes with an emotionless visage as he turned a lock. I checked about getting towed back to Queens but that was gonna be like $300 so I was like, “fuck it, I’ll sleep in my car,” which is not the end of the world except it was 18
°, so I walked to the fancy hotel that I could see across the parking lot.
The guy at the desk looked like Carl Winslow and he seemed skeptical of me, though not unkind. “Checking in?”
“Yeah, I mean, maybe? I mean, how much is a room? I got two flats on the turnpike and it’s been this whole fakakta thing getting towed all around and now I just got to the Pep Boys but they were closing and it’s gonna cost me like three hundred bucks to get towed back to Queens and I’d prefer not to sleep in the car in this cold but this place looks a little expensive…”
Homeboy was already tinkling away on his computer keyboard, but he interrupted me rambling like, “yeah, it is expensive, but I’ll see if I can figure something out for you. You live in Queens? You know Rosedale?”
“YEAH YEAH I know Rosedale! My best friend’s mom lives in Rosedale! And my grandparents used to live in Rosedale. What’s your name?”
“You from Queens?” I was stoked! I love making small talk about Queens.
And Melvin was like, “NAH I’M FROM PHILLY!” in an unnecessarily brusque tone, as if the idea of him being from anywhere else was an affront, but then he softened. “I used to spend my summers at my aunt’s place in Rosedale… Okay listen, here’s what I can do for you. I got a room for $50. A lady was in it for like ten minutes but then she wanted a different room, I don’t think she even put her bags down. Here’s the key, go check it out, if it’s gross I’ll have someone clean it out.”
So I went to my room and it was perfect, so I drank the rest of my weed tincture and walked around till I found a diner. Then I went back to my room, girl-talked on the phone with Cristy Road, and then watched Storage Wars on hotel cable for like 5 hours. A perfect night!
I woke up in the morning and went to Pep Boys and that guy who kept locking the doors in my face was right there! So I was like, “LISTEN MAN! That was really rude, you coulda just opened one of those damn doors for five fucking seconds and talked to me…”
And he was like, “I’m with a customer…”
And I was like, “…because I mean, I came in on a tow truck and it was so cold out and it had been a real crappy day and it just would’ve been nice to be treated like a goddamn yuman instead of an obstacle.”
(At this point I’d like to interject that I don’t make a habit of going into people’s jobs and yelling at them and also mention that I’m a waiter and people routinely come into my job and yell at me, and so I can acknowledge that I was outright WRONG in this situation, to go into this dude’s place of work and give him the business, but I was worked up on free coffee from my Continental Breakfast at the hotel and also sometimes you do the wrong thing and it’s not right, but it’s okay.)
ANYWAY he shushed me and sat me down and then the guy at the other register who looked like Zach Galifinakis playing a huge Phish fan who works at the autobody shop called “NEXT” and he started stage whispering at me super excited as soon as I walked up, “BRO! DUDE! Did you just walk right in here at 8:30 in the morning and just start yelling at my boss?! Bro that was so cool he’s
SUCH A DICK!
” And I told him about my flats and he went and checked it out and then he gave me $100 off my two new tires because I came in and yelled at his boss in front of him.
SO the morals of the story are: Malportado Kids are a great band; if you’re in a rut and then Bill Cashman calls you that’s an auspicious sign that things will change; making small talk about Queens can get you a cheap hotel room sometimes; yelling at employees is wrong but yelling at bosses in front of employees is cool; just because you got two flat tires on the way home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have gone to Philly in the first place.
1. People in New York keep asking me what my column is about and I keep telling them, “it’s my new livejournal,” so I just wanted to be clear on that with all of you, too.
2. This fucking band ALTARATLA from Providence. I don’t know how you can get their tape and they broke up like two days after I saw them, but if you see this thing laying around somewhere pick it up. Grim, dirgey rippers with weird vox. I’ve listened to this tape literally like 30 times in the past week. Kinda reminds me of Ratka, but also Quixotic, but also Ohnedaruth by Alice Coltrane.
3. As usual write me a letter at sliceharvester@gmail or Colin Atrophy / 442-D Lorimer St #230 / Brooklyn, NY 11206 and look at my shit on my internet website sliceharvester.com if you wanna.
OKAY I’M OUT! NO COPS! NO CREEPS! PEACE IN THE PIZZERIA! FUCK BILLY JOEL! FUCK YOUR NEGATIVE ATTITUDE! WE! ARE! THE PUNX!
So I don't know if you know this but I started writing an MRR column about 5 months ago and I'm pretty sure it's been long enough that I can start putting them up online. Here's the first one which I wrote in January, but which ran in February.
YO WHAT’S GOOD MRR?! Welcome to my first ever column. My name is Colin Atrophy. I’ll have just turned 32 when you’re reading this. Sun in Aquarius, Virgo Rising, Scorpio Moon, Venus in Pisces. I live in Queens, NY with three cats and a bunch of intergenerational succulents and I’ve been a waiter at the same diner for the past 7 years. As I write this column I’m procrastinating making a tape for this person I have a crush on which I was doing to procrastinate finishing my radio show for this month. This is a triple procrastination. I often feel like an expert at not finishing shit. ANYWAY, here’s my Best of 2014 list:
1. Getting my ear pierced.
On my 31st Birthday me and Salvatore, my best friend since I was 16, went to the Queens Center Mall and got our ears pierced at the Just Pierce It! kiosk by a gothic teenager who had a giant infected piercing in her ear. We figured probably no one in their right mind would let her pierce their ear and it was our duty as punks to support the underdog.
A few days later my lobe swole up so big it looked like a tiny plum stuck to my head. One evening in the shower I decided to try to loosen the earing to get some of the pressure off. I got out of the shower and stood in front of my filthy mirror, slowly unscrewing the back of the mall stud. As it came undone I lost control and the earring flew out of my ear. I caught the front but the back went careening down the drain of my sink. No problem, I’ve seen Degrassi, you just stick a pencil eraser through the pin to hold it on.
I stood in the mirror and attempted to force the front of the earring back through my swollen lobe. I could get it through the front of the hole, but then it would just kind of scrape around in the flesh cavity within, unable to find the exit, like when you’re trying to stick a pin back into your leather jacket and you can’t find the puncture on the second layer of fabric. I stood for about a minute scraping the pointy part of the earring against the inside of my ear before I became cognizant of what was happening and puked right down my pathetic, naked body. As I was ralphing up my Breakfast for Dinner Toaster Strudel, the earring slipped out of my hands and fell down the drain. That’s when I started crying, just blubbering like a little baby. I was looking at myself in the mirror—naked, covered in puke, earlobe swollen and purple—and I started mumbling, “what were you thinking getting your ear pierced?! You’re not cool enough to have an earring. You’re thirty fucking one years old! Get it together you LOSER!”
The next day, like a chump, I paid a Diminutive Urban Woodsman in a fancy Manhattan tattoo shop $30 to re-pierce my ear. I asked him what had gone wrong. “Hwell, “ he began in his affected drawl, “When you get a piercing your body sees it as a foreign intruder and tries to force it out. It’s a battle of wills between your body and your mind to see whether the earring stays. Seems like your body won.” Damn, gurl. Why you gotta be so rude?
But the second earring stuck and now I have a lil danglin dagger hanging there so when I wear my leather jacket I look like Your Friend’s Cool Step Dad, and that’s pretty alright. Furthermore, I think that moment of solitary humiliation—naked, crying, covered in puke, berating my own reflection—followed by the social humiliation at the hands of the Tiny Woodsman, was very important in keeping me humble this year and keeping things in perspective.
2. Finishing a book.
3-ish years ago I started writing a book for a huge publisher (which I won’t mention here because this is about punk stuff) because they liked my fanzine, Slice Harvester, which was about eating a plain slice at every pizza parlor in Manhattan. For all you dipshits from elsewhere, “a plain slice” is what small town yokels call “cheese pizza.”
I had just quit drinking FOR REAL for the first time after spending the decade from 18-28 largely blacked out, or so hung over I couldn’t really get out of bed without puking, and I still approached the world with trepidation. I was really scared about taking on such a seemingly monumental task and I was terrified that I’d never get it done and that I’d just end up owing these people my advance back and I’d bring shame upon my family and friends and everyone would hate me forever because I just squander opportunities like a jerk. But guess what? I finished it in the beginning of November! Donezo forever.
Not to beleaguer the point, but remember how I mentioned in the intro paragraph that I often feel like an expert at not finishing things? I’m starting to think maybe that’s an outdated perception of myself and I’m actually becoming someone who gets stuff done. Like, I was talking to my old friend Mya, who has been a super important presence in my life for the fifteen years I’ve known her and also happens to be a very powerful witch, and I was like, “who would have guessed that a loser like me would finish a whole book? I never finish anything”
And she was like, “Well you finished eating all that pizza. And you finished drinking; that’s two very big things.”
And it’s like, maybe this image I have of myself as someone who starts stuff but doesn’t get it done isn’t just a holdover from when I was like that but it’s also a pernicious tool of the capitalist hetero-patriarchy trying to keep me from taking responsibility for myself because “I’m just like that,” or whatever. Does that even make sense? Like, if not finishing stuff is an innate and fundamental part of who I am then when someone asked me to do something and I let them down it’s not my fault, it’s their fault for asking me in the first place! You see how this is problematic and definitely worth interrogating? So I guess what I’m saying is that from now on I’m a person who finishes shit and if I don’t I’ll take the blame.
3. Some Records, I guess.
A lot of the time that I spent working on my book was also time that I spent hermitting—withdrawn from the society of my friends for the sake of my writing, but also because I was struggling with getting strong enough in my not drinking to start partying again without drinking while I do it. Like, last night I went to Cory and Carolina’s house and I drank 4 bottles of Pelligrino and I won like, twenty-five bucks playing dice and a few times I said a joke that made everyone in the room laugh. These are small victories but they’re victories nonetheless. ANYWAY, towards the end of the year I started paying attention to bands and going to shows again for the first time since like 2011 and now I wanna tell you about the stuff I like. WARNING: I’m still learning how to write about music without sounding like a corndog.
Nandas Demo tape: Nandas are the only punk band in Brooklyn and I’m not just saying that because Dave the guitar player watches my cats whenever I leave town. The songs are dark and swirling, but not in a Goth Is In way. It’s more likely due to the fact that these people are truly fucked up freaks and this is the noise they make when they get together. I can’t remember if there was ever a Sandman storyline where they travel to some bleak, burned out, urban wasteland and meet a punk band, but if there was, that band sounds like Nandas. (Addendum: I just got home from the Orden Mundial gig at the Acheron and I’m pleased to report that there’s a second punk band in Brooklyn and they’re called Mommy. In case you were wondering, Brooklyn also has two hardcore bands—In School and Ivy—leaving the borough with a whopping four bands total.)
Priests Bodies and Control and Money and Power LP: this record fucking rips and this whole band is my new best friend. Daniele is such a powerhouse of a drummer and also describes films and art with such an earnest excitement and engagement that you get excited about them too, even if it’s stuff you had previously felt arbitrarily judgmental about. Taylor’s kinetic, danceable bass parts are maybe the most fundamental part of the Priests Sound as far as I’m concerned, not to mention they have the most guileless Brooding Hunk From A Teen Sitcom aesthetic of anyone I’ve ever met. Gideon’s guitar playing is so dexterous and lithe I’m not sure if Jaguar is his given name or a punk name he earned from shredding like a jungle cat, and when he’s on stage he moves like a backup dancer from one of the gang scenes in West Side Story. Katie is one of the most captivating singers I’ve ever seen, hands down, and the refrain to the second song on this LP (“you put your fingers in other people’s mouth’s all day, don’t you doctor?”) is my favorite single sentence anyone wrote this year, and though she’d be quick to tell you she was ripping off someone or another, I still say give credit where credit’s due. Long and short of it is: get this record.
Good Throb Fuck Off LP: OH MAN. This fucking record is definitely tied with Priests for the best record I’ve heard in like a hundred years and is equally responsible for getting me out of the house again. I kept comparing it to Huggy Bear because I’m not good at music talk and there’s these sick staccato guitars and a lady screaming at me in a British accent, but then I played it for Buddha when he was in town last week and he was like, “Woah, Colin, this sounds like The Dicks.” And all of a sudden I found myself paying attention to the guitars in a way I hadn’t before, and listen: he was right. The official Eat Pray Shlub Stance on Good Throb is that Good Throb Fucking Rule. If you don’t like this band you aren’t punk.
4. Okay, Bye!
Aaaaaaand, I think that’s it for this column! I’m typing out this sign off as I listen back to that crush mixtape to make sure I did it right. First track is Frank O’Hara reading “Having A Coke With You” and the second track is Lil’ Kim “Crush on You (Remix).” You think this person is gonna get the hint?
Thanks to Grace for asking me to write this. Peace to Imogen, Bryony and Greg Harvester because that’s my homegirls on staff here. I been reading MRR for more than half my life and I’m stoked to be a part of this weird world.
Yusuke Okada from the band Suspicious Beasts drew my column header. Look at his art at yusuke1234.tumblr.com. And if you wanna write me a letter hit me at: Colin Atrophy / 442-D Lorimer St #230 / Brooklyn, NY 11206 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wanna hear my radio show or read my old pizza reviews, they’re all up at sliceharvester.com. And that’s it! No cops, no creeps, peace in the pizzeria.
His work, coupled with the notion that I can walk away from it at any time, has a lot to do with my new-found comfort in masculinity and being male because I feel that there's positive work to do, in this body and as this person. Being male no longer feels like a prison. It’s a choice I’m actively affirming, rather than something proscriptive that I’m stuck with. And although the difference between now and before is almost purely ontological, it turns out that was all I needed.