Seasons Change, Two

You’re back. Sugar, you — well, we might just talk for a minute before I get you that menu. I get it, hun, you’re hungry. We’re all hungry. OK. You know? Let me do you a solid though. This one here, this one’s not on any menu in this place.

What’s this?

Well, hun, that is a glass. And in that glass, my hunch is you’ll find the answer to what ails ya. Right? You know how when you feel that pain start to creep in your belly? That rumble, that pain. Before long it creeps and you don’t feel it but only in your head? Then it’s all you can do not to think about it — it’s like an itch on the inside of your eyelids. And there but one help for an itch like that! [Laughs.] When I seen you come in that door and grab hold on your notebook and start writing, I knew you wasn’t here for no hunger pains. There’s some other hurt in you. No, no, no…

I just came here because I’m hungry and this is by my hotel. You’ve seen me here on Tuesday. Remember? You had your hair up?

Right, right. Tuesday. But Tuesday I thought you were just here to eat. Until I knew better, at least. Today, no, today you’re here for food, are you?

Ma’am, I just can’t. You see, I’ve got thi…

Problem? And what kind of problem is going to be fixed by you scribblin’ about twigs and leaves and how life just ain’t right? Bet you didn’t know I read that, did ya? When you went to the can — yeah, I read it. It was sittin’ right there. And I get it, baby. And I get you.

I seen you in here, and on Tuesday you got the special, just like half the other boys who sit in that booth like you’re sittin’. But you put that Coke down below for a minute, took something from your napsack, then that drink I noticed needin’ a refill didn’t need any extra love from me. Bet you didn’t know I knew that, huh?

Look, it’s just… I’m a writer, and what I’m doing is…

Baby, I’m done lookin’. I look at boys like you all day long. Boys who aught do better even if they don’t know better. And, Chuck, I’m setting you free now. You ain’t gonna get it until you got nowhere else to go but up.

Wait? How did you know my…?

I told you, hun. I got you. And what’s going on? You ain’t never gonna see it until you do. You think I’m slow to you. But you’re the one putting down words on a page about how you ain’t livin’ right. You ain’t got but one option as best I see here.

[Chuck slowly drinks from the glass as Sharon sets a menu down in front of him.]

Fine, then. Now I’m gonna go back outside and get a smoke in before the rest of the hamburger train stops back in this place. Oh, some of those boys — they eat. Maybe I’d stick here for a minute until I’m back — will you? I want you to tell me about this writing of yours.

And Chuck. You know, what’s the thing misery loves more than company?

Um. I…

Bourbon! [Laughs.]

And I got enough misery to know that ain’t lyin’.

On Nick Cave’s “Feat.” at the Frist

We each went in, M and I, tied by agreement that we would only be allowed to take one — no: five, no: three — pieces with us when we left the Frist. For each of us, our first pick was the first piece we encountered: Nick Cave’s “Architectural Forest.” The installation piece is massive, intricate, and so very impressive — bamboo, wood, wire, plastic beads, acrylic paint, screws, fluorescent lights, color filter gels, and vinyl. I’m trying to think back to what it was that was most captivating about it… maybe the size of it all or the incredible weight of creative investment. It was beautiful.

Several multimedia works and a video installation (“Blot”) followed, but it was Cave’s “soundsuits” that closed the tour of the artist’s work. A placard explained the initial inspiration for the series as a reaction to “the beating of Rodney King by policemen in Los Angeles more than twenty-five years ago.” “As an African American man,” the explainer went on, “Cave felt particularly vulnerable after the incident so he formed a type of armor that protected him from profiling by concealing race, gender, and class.”

We sat down on a bench in front of the exhibition’s signage and M raised a question surrounding limitations of reason as it relates to the meaning behind a piece of work, or maybe as it relates to expression in general. I don’t recall the specifics of her idea, but what I remember deals with the connection between a work of creation and its inspiration not always aligning, and the authenticity of the piece directly relating to the observed distance between the two. I wish I remembered that moment more clearly.

In a 2012 PBS feature, Cave spoke to this a little – “this” being: how does a bizarre ornamental costume represent racially-targeted violence – and he addressed it by challenging viewers to ask themselves what they’re engaged in when they experience a piece. I take this to mean that if you’re engaged in a work, and are exposed to its stated motivation, to then recognize the feeling within yourself as the meaning. This isn’t to take away from prescribed or inherent meaning of art, but maybe just this sort of art. If I don’t participate in the artist’s defined meaning of what they created, there’s no way that thing is going to bear that same meaning to me. Maybe that’s what M meant.

None of this is to say artists can’t be absolutely packed to the brim with bullshit, or that someone’s claimed motivation shouldn’t be challenged, but to debate someone’s artistic intention is an awkward proposition: Doing so risks stripping that individual of whatever fundamental experience it is that pushed them to create their work in the first place, and further limits how they should be able to react to that experience and express their feelings. I feel embarrassed about the simplicity of my naivety with this, but had that line of thinking dawned on me a decade ago I could have saved myself several hundred blog posts worth of grading an artist’s assumed intention in the name of critique (or more specifically, with blogging search engine optimization in mind: in the name of “reviews”).

I don’t know how much much emotional benefit there is to be gained in researching creation and intention, and comparing the manifested work with its inspiration, weighing the two against one another to see if what someone made was any sort of success (let alone if it was “good” or not). Yet that’s my default behavior in this online space — I want to fall into that track of googling just enough about who Nick Cave is and what he’s about to write the skeleton of a profile piece, laying the occasional reference over top of which that might reflect how I personally feel about the man or his work in the hope that a reader would determine my words something of value as they relate to the grander work(s) at the heart of the matter. I’ve gone through that process so many times in the past, not because I’m any sort of journalist, but because that made me feel like I was part of something — that my two cent were somehow worth more than face value.

I took something away from this or I wouldn’t be here, trying to sort through it all, though what I gained seems to have little to nothing to do with the spark of inspiration that originally led to the creation of what we saw that day at the Fringe. By the standards of everyone involved, though, I believe that’s exactly what makes it a “success.”

On "October Rust," or: Goth at Heart

Technically I've been to two Type O Negative shows, but my memory of both sets is practically non-existent. The first time around was when the band co-headlined a brief tour with Cradle of Filth, which stopped in at The Quest Club in Minneapolis in the fall of 2003. At the time, Cradle of Filth’s set blew me away with its endless intensity and on-stage theatrics (video of both bands’s sets from the tour’s stop a month later in Philadelphia are now online: Type O here and CoF here), but what I remember most clearly from Type O's set is the density of the music, peppered with the dry wit and charm of the group’s frontman Peter Steele.

The second time I saw the band was in 2007 at First Avenue in Minneapolis. I was drunk, and while my memory of the night is spotty I recall getting sweaty in the pit before leaving the show early to hang out with friends at a bar. That night I met a wonderful woman through a friend, who I recall having some sort of discussion with as it relates to existentialism. I think my ability to drunkenly recall Kierkegaard's name earned me about a month of dates before she finally figured out how full of shit I was. Maybe it's ironic, then, that a quote of his has kept returning to me while revisiting these thoughts this past week: "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." Silly as the connection is, and as full of shit as I still might be, the concept feels genuine as it relates to trying to make sense of whether the reasons I've constructed for appreciating Type O Negative's music are what first attracted me to them, or if I'm revising history somewhat to paint myself as a more intelligent listener than I actually am.

I could be wrong, but their rendition of "Summer Breeze," as featured on the I Know What You Did Last Summer soundtrack — of all places, is where I think I first heard the band. From there, October Rust was the first of their albums I got a copy of. It remains a favorite, but this is where that sense of revisionist history gets a little dicey. Musically, the music on October Rust is so beautiful, Steele's voice so unique and bold, the bass so thick, the songs so dense, that I can only imagine that the sound alone is what I connected most with at that time. That's largely true now, as well, though. The other day a sentence came out of me that seems to sum up how I've listened to music for most of my life, "Even now, music remains mostly a patchwork of sounds that make me feel different things, but rarely does a song’s lyrics impact me."

Beyond the music though, there really was an underlying sense of humor carried by the band that connected with me. For example, and it's wholly stupid, but the first two tracks on October Rust are throwaways: the opening being 38 seconds of static with the second being a mock introduction to the album itself. Again, it's stupid, but in acknowledging their own self-awareness of just how stupid it is the band sets a tone that helps re-contextualize lyrics throughout the entire release. It's a balance that I would like to think I appreciated as a teenager, but one that firmly admire now.

Take, for example, "Love You to Death." "Black lipstick stains (on her) glass of red wine / I am your servant, may I light your cigarette? / Those lips move, yeah I can feel what you're sayin', prayin' / They say the beast inside of me is gonna get ya, get ya, yeah..." Over a sprawling seven minutes the song teases BDSM imagery (which in itself is something to consider as it relates to humor — to fully immerse oneself in a dominant or submissive role is incredibly powerful and sexy under the right circumstances, but in others entirely ridiculous... There's no way the band was oblivious to this. Just consider the line, "I’ll do anything to make you cum," which is from a song called "Be My Druidess," for Chrissake), but ultimately the song takes flight over a simple lyrical call for validation from a partner, "Am I good enough... for you?" Who doesn't crave that recognition? Who doesn't want to feel that love? When Steele moans the words it's like they resurrect every relationship I've ever had... which is also kind of funny, given the right amount of distance from those emotions.

The other day I was listening to a podcast where a line was thrown out as it relates to this balance, saying that without a sense of humor what we're left might only be dread. Accurate or inaccurate as that might be, taking the thought deeper, dread is so closely tied to self-seriousness, and in those places of anxiety and depression the mind refuses, almost stubbornly so, to acknowledge the lighthearted mechanics of whatever situation it is that has led an individual to that place. This is where it connects to October Rust for me. Throughout the album, Steele's voice carries the most simple lyrics in conveyance of such incredible feelings of romantic dread — as with “I think she's falling out of love” (“Burnt Flowers Fallen”) or simply, “Yeah, I miss her” (“Die With Me”) — but to focus only on those specific moments, or those specific feelings, would be unfair to the very emotions in question, reducing them to a binary categorizations of "good" or "bad." That two-dimensional way of thinking neglects the range of emotions that life conjures: the pendulum of experience which allows us to take life deathly seriously one moment while laughing in the face of dread the next. I don't see how else the well-crafted "Wolf Moon" could take lyrics about craving the taste of a menstruating woman could otherwise exist, let alone communicate as such a genuine and beautiful piece of music.

Peter Steele drove the band thematically, musically, and (I assume) aesthetically, and I can only imagine how much of this contrast was the result of his artistic vision (fuck, that's a pretentious term). Maybe, then, part of relating to the album is relating to aspects of who he was. There's no dearth of mention about his Playgirl shoot or Jerry Springer appearance in practically every piece written about the man (though I appreciate his spot on Ricki Lake more, for whatever it's worth), but this October Rust-era interview does well to speak for who he was beneath any silly headline. In the interview he's sarcastic, self deprecating, and honest in a way that a "goth" singer has no right being. Maybe that's why Steele's death in 2010 felt sort of personal. Because in a way, I wanted to be him.

Through much of their music, but October Rust in particular, Type O Negative created for me a safe space that could be visited at any time simply by putting on headphones. In the exists everything already mentioned here, but also no room for argument over whether any of it — the music, the feelings, the lyrics — were authentic or "real." (My own insecurities around "authenticity" led have led to some strange places over the years, including reaching for some rather unusual "credible" goth references in my non-review of the band's 2007 show, but that's beside the point.) The reality of the matter is, the image of who Peter Steele was, was someone who I wanted to be. Only now am I the age he was when October Rust was released, and it's especially true now that I admire the balance of who he was trying to be — that attempt to embrace the realness of what sex and love are, and what they can be, with the utter absurdity of those realities is what I might most identify with now. That is, when I'm even bothering to actually consider the lyrics in the first place.

Seasons Change

Winter cracks and soon the growth begins again. Weeks pass, roots develop, stems thicken, vines intertwine, flowers blossom, trees bloom. It’s all growth of some kind. But as spring turns into summer and summer into fall, what was once ripe now dries and fades. Limbs crack, some breaking only slightly, some completely, but with a single cold snap all the once-new growth fades into autumn’s inevitable embrace.

We purge in preparation for the winter. We purge for the hope of spring. We take notice of the dead and dying limbs, which are still sucking energy from the whole, still existing only to undermine the living. So we trim the wounded and excavate the inessential. It’s obvious.

One branch is alive. Keep it. Another branch dead. Remove it.

The seasons change, and with them the useful is separated from the useless. But what of the internal wheat and chaff? In a harvest of the soul do we also strip out the excess, the waste, the useless? How? In the mind the excess appears far less obvious. It’s deceptive. There the excess fights back. The decaying challenges, demanding its stay of execution, continuing to withdraw energy for its own benefit. But the dry, faded, sickly remains only persist to hinder future growth. The space must be cleared. Cleared in preparation for our the changing seasons to change once again. Maybe not this season. Or next. But in the spirit’s spring the time will be right to again inhabit this space.

Autumn will subside. Winter will fade. New growth will begin. Weeks will pass. Roots will develop. Stems will thicken. Vines will intertwine. Flowers will blossom and trees will bloom. At the same time, future growth depends on the honesty of today’s purge.

Why Won't You Listen

It was a familiar path until instead of veering left we veered right. Had we not made one more left where I thought there should have been a right we would have never discovered the message. The doors of a restroom, padlocked shut for the season, were adorned with decoration. “Why won’t you listen,” read one door. Good question. We continued on our way until she stopped and asked me a question.

Of course I wanted to see the quarry. As we walked up the slope, the hum became louder and louder until we stood level with the wall of rock in front of us. It was a quarry, alright, but the sound was more incredible than anything. It was frogs, everywhere, chirping. They were invisible to us, lurking in the marshland, and as we each walked in separate directions, each moving closer and closer to the chirps, those chirps stopped chirping, until there was only one chirp remaining. Watching her step closer to it, that final chirp silenced itself, and now the invisible frogs had all gone quiet. When they did we made eye contact and smiled.

Later, having returned to the path, she told me to look up, to look at a tree. It was amazing. The bark was stripping from the bottom of its thick limbs, while the tops of those same branches were covered in vibrant green moss. As we continued on, I tried to tell her that I appreciated her awareness, but it came out weird. I’m sure she doesn’t remember that. We both needed the other person to be on that trail today.

Edwin Warner Park (Nashville, TN)

Photos taken February 18, 2018 at Edwin Warner Park in Nashville, TN.

On “Push the Sky Away,” or: Barriers to Entry

I'm thinking back to all the bonus discs that used to come with the CDs I purchased. Sometimes they weren't bonus discs, add-ons to a single CD, such as CD-ROMs. You'd insert the CD into your computer, hope that a compatible version of Quicktime was downloaded, and away you'd go. Primus's Rhinoplasty, for example, had a music video you could watch on your computer. I remember having that one. There was no place else you could see that video, at the time. Now, watching it is as simple as typing a search term into YouTube and there it is — with over 18 million views.

Maybe that barrier to entry's disappearance is important, or at least important to a feeling. It felt like I knew something, that I had something, when there were restrictive steps to get in the way between me and the content I wanted. But then again, I remember paying over $20 for CDs that weren't new releases, because back-catalog discs, rather than new releases, always costed more. There's nothing more prohibitive in this context than high prices. Fortunately I worked in my youth or I'd have had to wait for my 20s when YouTube began gaining momentum.

The DVD that accompanies Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds's 2013 album Push the Sky Away has two songs on it, each featured in video format with visuals created by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. The filmmakers began collaborating with Cave about a decade ago through videos in support of the Bad Seeds's 2008 album Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, before creating a (rather good) "hybrid drama-documentary" about Cave in 2014. The rabbit hole runs deep though, and maybe that process is worth paying attention to. Looking further into their credits led to their Vimeo page, which led to a half hour long detour away from Push the Sky Away. They directed the music video for Gil Scott-Heron's "I'm New Here" (which might be up there on my favorite songs list, with the chorus simply returning to "No matter how far wrong you've gone / You can always turn around), leading to work on the short documentary, Who Is Gil Scott-Heron?, which I'd really like to watch. Then, further down Iain and Jane's Vimeo page, a few videos of the Veils, who I then remembered sitting in on an interview with back in 2009 in the basement of the 7th St. Entry in Minneapolis, with a group of college kids I briefly collaborated with. Despite remembering not enjoying it when it was released, I looked for the video of that interview, though to no avail. This is the rabbit hole.

Returning to the DVD, the features include "Needle Boy" and "Lightning Bolts." In the videos, the songs's lyrics are shared to one side of the screen while studio footage of performances rolls on the other, and on the first viewing a lyric from "Lightning Bolts" made me laugh. On the second viewing humor continues to ring throughout, though you wouldn't know it by the ever-serious visuals of Cave and the Bad Seeds's Warren Ellis, "In Athens all the youths are crying from the gas / I’m by the hotel pool working on a tan / People come up and ask me who I am / I say if you don’t know, don’t ask / Zeus laughs – but it’s the gas / And he asks me how I am / I say Zeus, don’t ask." "Needle Boy" begins with the moan of "At the turn of the century I did many things to protect myself." I'll get back to that...

In the midst of this, I'm wondering where the value of this process lies. I'm telling myself that this is more important, the DVD, manufacturing merit based on the barrier to entry that I'm also now creating for myself. I wasn't sure what was on the DVD when I came home with it, but with a little searching I could have discovered that the two videos are on YouTube (of course). Yesterday's intention of grabbing this work, in its attractive presentation, was continued today when I looked of it inside and plucked out the vessel by which the work is communicated, plugging in the television, grabbing the DVD player from the closet, and sitting down with coffee in hand at 7 in the morning to watch whatever is on the disc. There's a little bit of disappointment that it wasn't "something more." I'm not sure what my expectation was, but having seen Iain and Jane's work with Cave on 20,000 Days on Earth (though I hadn't a clue who directed it when I watched it) maybe something like that was what I had hoped for, even though I hadn't consciously remembered I'd seen the documentary until going down the rabbit hole.

So, intention then, yeah?

Maybe two years ago I went on a couple dates with someone who was friends with Sharon Van Etten when they both lived in the nearby Murfreesboro. I had seen Van Etten open for Cave at the Ryman two years before and felt like she was some sort of connection between the two of us — this singer, who I had no connection to whatsoever, and only saw by way of an opening spot to other musicians who I'd actually paid to see. Maybe that's the fucked up part of my intention. For a long time I've gleaned connection by way of these sources, remembering their names as a subconscious means to try to find connection with someone else who would then see me as worthy of their connection because of the shared interest. But is it a shared interest if I'm not connected to the source, itself? I can't name a Sharon Van Etten song, and I don't think I could then either, but that didn't stop me from propping myself up emotionally on the memory of seeing her perform as a means of connection. I don't think I ever brought it up during the coffee date, or maybe I did as a passing comment, but it's not that moment, but a life-long tendency to lean on those sort of moments that now frustrate me a little. The intention is to connect, but I question the authenticity. Maybe everyone else has questioned that, too, to this point. I'd like to discontinue that trend. I'd like to think I've already begun.

Saying a song has personal meaning, or communicating a sense of understanding of a piece of music/literature/art, is different than embodying that thing — and that understanding. Watching "Needle Boy" and "Lightning Bolts," I'm reminded of how dapper Cave and Ellis are, how distinguished they appear, seemingly at all times. Beyond dressing well though, the appearance has a lot to do with how I want to believe they live their lives. When seeing the chorus of Bad Seeds gasp between shots of Cave, my mind tells me that these men understand physical love in a way I don't — that they cherish their bodies, that they breathe art and refrain from the trappings of a disposable, isolationist culture. That's a thought, sure, but to encompass those feelings myself, to incorporate that lesson, is something so different. To listen to their music is to recognize a way of living that is different than my way of living. To see these videos are to say that I understand the value in pivoting, personally — maybe dressing more fashionably, or carrying myself in a more distinguished manner. To say, "I've seen Sharon play live," is so much different than providing an example of Sharon's music which actually touches my fucking heart. And while I've carried the Bad Seeds's music with me for ages, the same challenge can be asserted there.

I went to the Ryman concert with a friend of mine, though we sat a pew or two away from each other as the separate seats were the only available for the eventually-sold out show when I got them. That concert came, what, 15 or 16 years after trying to sell myself on the idea that I'd become a Nick Cave reader, though maybe more so with the hope that someone else would think me being a Nick Cave reader was cool than actually due to trying to get anything out a Nick Cave book itself. I don't recall loving the Ryman show, itself. My memory of the show is from a vantage point around here, or so, which meant I was far enough from the stage to miss the heat of a crowd and the detail of an up-close experience. Maybe that had something to do with how much I appreciated the show, but it was also a weird time in my life. I remember seeing the show in 2014, though it actually happened in 2013, right before I was to leave Nashville for Kansas City. Hope for me came with new potential of a shifting life, but at the time I didn't realize how much of my own life I was simply just running away from. Push the Sky Away was released during my time in KC, and I have fond memories of how well it sold when I worked at the record store there. All of that aside, maybe my view of the show would have been different had I been up close, to see Cave shift his approach during the night's fourth song, "Higgs Boson Blues," and literally reach out to draw emotion and energy out of those in the front rows. The intimacy expressed in that video now fills me with more emotion than I recall feeling that night.

The pages of Push the Sky Away are standard liner notes, delivering lyrics in a manner of presentation to the liking of the artists involved. I don't know how many times I've listened to the album — the number is plenty — but I haven't listened to it a whole piece of music in several years. And until this morning I've never done so with lyrics in hand. Maybe that's part of my intention here, with all this — to simply have intention. To approach a moment with a plan. "Higgs Boson Blues" has been on several playlists of mine, and for a couple years was a staple on commutes, but never have I sat through and spent time with its lyrics, just embracing them. Today there was intention.

"The tree don't care what the little bird sings." ("We Know Who U R") "She had a history but no past." ("Jubilee Street") "The problem was she had a little black book / And my name was written on every page." ("Jubilee Street") All throughout there are these little moments that catch me and deliver something special, a connection, a thought. Sometimes they're just moments that click, like in "Finishing Jubilee Street," where the music breaks perfectly half way into the song and the backing vocals pick up, "See that girl / Coming on down / Coming on down / Coming on down." Nick Cave is really good at being Nick Cave. "I'm tired, I'm looking for a spot to drop / All the clocks have stopped / In Memphis now in the Lorraine Motel / It's hot, it's hot - that's why they call it the hot spot / I take a room with a view / Hear a man preaching in a language that's completely new / And making the hot cots in the flophouse bleed / While the cleaning ladies sob into their mops / And a bellhop hops and bops / A shot rings out to a spiritual groove / Everybody bleeding to that Higgs Boson Blues." ("Higgs Boson Blues")

I have little recollection of reviewing Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! 10 years ago, and the writing has its groan-worthy moments, but it's still not terrible. This morning, the album has run through three times, and I've been sidetracked plenty by Iain and Jane's videos (this take of "Higgs Boson Blues" is so beautiful), but the picture is beginning to come together. Intention is leading to surprise. Around the time of me buying King Ink, I often took similar action with CDs, buying them with the hope that someone would see that I owned them, I think. I'm not sure why else I'd have albums I never listened to. By the time of writing this review, in 2008, I had sold my music collection and was relying on mp3s to get me by. That allowed for less artifice, but that hardly meant I was digesting what I was listening to. Maybe by then I'd started to go deeper, but really holding onto a piece of music and allowing it to change me was rare then. Even now, music remains mostly a patchwork of sounds that make me feel different things, but rarely does a song's lyrics impact me. I'm partially ashamed of this, partially not, but many times they're not even heard as words. This is important.

Back to the DVD and back to "Needle Boy." “At the turn of the century I did many things to protect myself.” This is true for me. And at the turn of the decade, I did many more things to protect myself. By then I had moved on from my copy of The Boatman's Call. I don't recall what I did with my copy of King Ink, either — I likely sold it long before. I did the things I did to get by — I held on to the things I did to help me survive the way I did, and I purged things from my life as I did, when I did, to help me survive that part of my life, as well. I'm hard on myself, and it's easy to poke holes in past versions of self, guilting and shaming a previous me for not having today's insights. But that's bullshit.

Now is the only time it was ever possible to look at this chain of events, all these years, and consider the sort of things I've just been considering. I've always loved music, but maybe music was never to me what it "could have been" because I lacked true ownership in it. I've owned over a thousand albums over the years in various formats, but rarely have I ever really bought in to them. But last night, putting money down on this album has given me something of a sense of ownership within the realm of Push the Sky Away that I don't remember feeling. It's literally buying into the idea that there is value in the creation of something that isn't easily disposed of — this small collection of words, and sounds, and images. And making a promise to myself to take what's inside and explore it, to try to see if there's anything inside that can make my life better. The last step is doing something with that, rather than just using it as a prop to again fool me into believing that someone else's opinion of me makes a damn bit of difference, especially when it's based on something so hollow as whether or not I act as if I appreciate a piece of music. This is all worth something. And it's worth returning to. And it's worth learning from.


It's a Friday night in February. It's the 16th. The weather is chilly, and the sky has been grey for about a week and a half. Yesterday was up in the 70s, while the rest of the stretch has been cold and rainy. I've done everything I can to convince the gods to correct this atmospheric trend. I tried doing my laundry, but it made no difference. I made a playlist, still nothing. I even tried journaling about my feelings, but the rain doesn't seem to respond to that either. Recording the weather as fact right now feels real. It feels clean, like I can't bullshit it. It's just a thing that is, and it's important to share because it's also partially what's inspired me to do this.

I went to McKay's tonight and made two purchases, each with a particular intention, and the second item got me thinking... It led me here, actually, to revive a name that I came up with around 13 or 14 years ago when I was in college. I picked up a book and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' Push the Sky Away. It was in the DVD section. I made the trip with the hopes of finding Doug Pray's Hype!, but came up empty handed there. Instead, Cave's album — a limited edition version, packaged in the form of a hardcover book with a DVD inserted in the back cover.

I'm now reading an explanation from Amazon of the release, touting it as "bound in linen with 32 stitched-in pages, containing beautifully reproduced hand typed lyrics & band imagery," with the DVD featuring visuals by artists Iain Forysth and Jane Pollard. The primer ends with a quote from Cave about the album, "Well, if I were to use that threadbare metaphor of albums being like children, then Push the Sky Away is the ghost-baby in the incubator and Warren's loops are its tiny, trembling heart-beat," whatever the fuck that means.

Upon one of Henry Rollins's many many recommendations throughout his spoken word releases and books, I got into Cave in the '90s, and remember buying a copy of King Ink when I was in junior high. Its cover still seems cool to me, in that way that religious imagery is cool or dangerous because I haven't the slightest clue what it means (so I just assume that it resonates with those more clued in than I as something incredibly subversive). The cover features a cropped image of Jesus on a crucifix — well, there's no indication it's Jesus, but if we're talking The King's "ink," my hunch is we're talking Jesus here — with his wounds draining over a pair of angels, one with their head in hands weeping, and the other collecting drips of blood in a bowl. I can't recall a single thing from the book other than that I carried it around with me for a while, trying to force myself to read it, before giving up on the idea that reading Nick Cave books was going to be "my thing." His music, though, really hit for me, starting with 1997's The Boatman's Call, which I must have picked up used at a Pawn America store in Minnesota around 2001 or 2002.

I felt for a moment, just now, that I was getting off topic, but really this is all on point. Culture Bully was something cool, for me, for a long time. It was a personal blog that, over the course of about 7 years, turned into a music blog, which turned into a music and pop culture and sports and whatever blog. It was a way for me to feel like I was a part of something larger than myself, a means of obtaining outside validation, and ultimately it helped me learn to write. The blog helped connect me with people, and it even granted me an income. But the regret I have, in looking back on that time, is that I didn't write about the things I really wanted to write about. I didn't write about the things I really cared about. I didn't use it as a vehicle to connect with the things that connected deepest with me.

I was dating someone recently. We really enjoyed each other's taste in music. I think it's the first time that's ever happened in my life — where I was genuinely open to suggestion and excited to hear what someone I was dating wanted to share with me, musically. Maybe that makes me an asshole, or something. The first time I remember connecting on a similar level was right around when I bought that Nick Cave album, and I was smitten by a System of a Down fan. I just really enjoyed the idea of someone who was into wacky heavy music like that. Back to a few weeks back, though, where — before my recent crush came crashing down — I suggested we share an album with each other that had a big impact on us — and if it was a good time, maybe we could share an album a week or something. All just as fun, to see what has helped make this other person who they are. Depending on which circles you run in, both of our choices are arguably questionable: M's was Interpol's 2002 Turn on the Bright Lights, and mine Type O Negative's 1996 album October Rust. I can only speak for myself, but I don't think we'd say either is our "favorite" album, just a good place to start. And tonight, after I got home and put my hard-bound linen Push the Sky Away on my dining table, a moment of inspiration struck. Why am I not doing this now? What am I waiting for?

Last night at an A.A. meeting, someone put to words what I often catch myself feeling — that, for them, happiness is right around the corner; the perfect woman is right around the corner; the ultimate job is right around the corner; the feeling of pure satisfaction is right around the corner... and on, and on, and on. For me, it's living a better life is right around the corner. Or maybe, just living a life I actually want to live is right around the corner. The other day I was thinking that I want to be more intentional with what I watch and listen to. I want to get back to learning more about music. I really enjoy that stuff. Which is to say there's one more set of examples of me enjoying the things I take pleasure in being right around the corner. Maybe there's a long way between living a good life and contemplating the merits of a Type O Negative album, but the ache to help use the latter as a means to contribute to the former is active in me right now. And the words are flowing.

It's 43 degrees in Nashville. Tomorrow calls for rain. It still feels clean.