Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Lonesome Death of Sean Costello

Last week was rough for semi-famous musicians, with long-time Springsteen sideman Danny Federici succumbing to melanoma at the age of 58. Federici always seemed like working-class Jersey personified: at first a long-haired, mustachioed guy with an accordion and permanent swing-shift scowl on his face. As he aged, he took on that Italian Jersey look, gruff and no-nonsense, cut his hair, filled out. His organ playing on songs like “Hungry Heart” and “Racing in the Street” are signatures of each as much as the melody or lyrics – there are a lot of songs in the Boss’ canon that have his stamp on them.

But the death that shook me up more was of someone you may not have heard of: Sean Costello. He was one of these blues wunderkinds, starting his career in his late teens, putting out a handful of albums in his 20s, each growing in terms of his style and talent, when he died a bluesman’s death, alone in his room at the Cheshire Motor Inn in Atlanta, the night before his 29th birthday. (For every hard-living, tattooed bozo out there who’s muttered the short-sighted “won’t live to see 30" line … and is now gazing in the mirror at a 59-year-old looking 40-year-old with a rubble-strewn life … I guess this is how it’s really done.) No cause of death noted yet, but you can figure on some type of misadventure.

He died alone, as every one of us will. Don’t ever let anyone tell you any different. From what I saw of Dad’s last days in a hospital bed, death will be like someone throwing a sheet over your head and hitting you with a shovel. Not some poignant, elegant farewell to heroes where all issues are resolved and everyone sheds a sentimental tear and sigh. Like most elemental things in life, it’s hard as hell, much harder than you anticipated, and there’s never any sense of resolution for the living. That’s fairy tale and movie shit, the soldier clutching his mortally wounded buddy whose dying words invoke heartfelt, perfectly-scripted promises to Mom and Peggy back home. Like love, or birth, it tends to be a fucking mess. But ultimately one of the most human things you’ll experience. You sense the finality of death, and the total lack of finality surrounding it.

I can tell you how alone Sean Costello died, call it the 21st century version of a bluesman’s funeral. I went on the web to seek out live material on various torrent sites. (Via Emusic, I already have a good dozen or so tracks from his various studio albums. In all honesty, I’m not a huge fan. A lot of his earlier material had that rote blues feel that I’ve never been enamored of, but you could hear him growing with each album, and learning how to write his own songs. I also gather the guy made a lot more sense live, which is often the case with the blues.) When I went looking for live/bootleg material, I only found a trace on a live music site, two fairly recent shows. The one I chose to download as a torrent, there were two seeders and two leeches. If you want an idea of how lonely that feels, pick a torrent for a current Top 40 act, and you’ll find hundreds of seeders and leeches sharing the material. The death of any recording artist tends to spark a flurry of activity on the web regarding his work. This was a Potters Field burial for Sean Costello, which I suspect he may have preferred.

The taper’s notes that came with the torrent of his show from January 26, 2008 at the Helen Stairs Theater in Sanford, Florida says it all: “The show was moderately attended by a mostly older audience.”

I did a quick Google Search on the Cheshire Motor Inn in Atlanta and came up with the following customer comments:

“If cruising is your thing then this is the place for you. There are 3 buildings but they've never offered to put me up in the ‘cottages’ and its just as well. If you are looking for discretion and privacy then choose the back building.”

“This place is the worst hotel or whatever it is! The drawers were filled with roaches! The closet was filled with urine smell. Which reek throughout! Disgusting and despicable! No one should enter! I would not let my dog lay on this floor.”

“No, the Cheshire is not the Ritz. But it is not marketed as the Ritz. It is also not a place to take children. Furthermore, this area of Atlanta has nothing that is geared toward children To me, this is a good thing.”

“Small roaches in the bathroom but I could have lived with that. This place is a cruise area for gay men. The curtains at the front window would only close with about a 1/4 inch gap remaining. Men would go by the window and peek in all night long. One man actually knocked on my door while I was asleep and asked if I wanted company. I advised him no and then he told me about this being a "gay cruise area.’”

“I stayed there the weekend of February 20, 2004. Two friends, both male, were in the room adjacent. That Saturday morning, a heavily tattooed man with multiple earrings and a nosering walked right into their open door. First he asked to borrow a pen. Then he asked if they would like some ‘southern hospitality’ (his words). When they politely declined, he repeated the offer.”

It sounds like the Cheshire was the perfect place for a bluesman to hang his hat for a few nights before hitting the road for the next show. You can paint his death as depressing, but, Christ, while he surely died too young, it sounded like he died doing exactly what he wanted to do. He could afford to make a living with music, he was traveling, putting out music on small labels where he obviously had total creative control, more famous musicians were playing with and seeing him all along the way …

… and sometimes when you pull back the curtain on that way of life, you’re at the Cheshire Motor Inn at 3:00 am with a roving bear in assless leather pants outside your door asking if you’d want a little “southern hospitality.” Not quite as dramatic as Stevie Ray Vaughan’s helicopter flying into the side of a mountain in Wisconsin, but I’m willing to bet scores of bluesmen have gone the way of Costello, albeit much later in life.

Again, I was shocked that his death has registered nary a blip on the web. I checked The Hype Machine website, figuring there had to be at least one person out there among all those music bloggers who wanted to honor the man with a tribute and some free MP3s. Not one. Not even a previous mention. You get nothing when you type in his name. The Hype Machine pretty much is what it says it is: geared to hyping mostly indie bands, who invariably sound like half-assed versions of The Talking Heads and Joy Division, while some white kid who's been to college raves about the band as if the wheel has just been reinvented. The writing and limited senses of taste and musical history actually makes me miss music critics, which is a tall fucking order. Emusic has the same bullshit going on: go to any hyped new indie artist on there, and you’ll find endless gushing commentary and four-star reviews … of stuff that wouldn’t have cut it in the early 80s, which is the exact musical time period most of these bands long to emulate these days.

Meanwhile, guys like Sean Costello fall through the cracks, when he was a consummate blues guitarist with a steadily growing fan base and reputation. I suspect had he not gone too far down a very bad hole the other night, he would have found his way to the jam band circuit, or at least should have in terms of playing to larger audiences. He’d have surely gone on to write more of his own material and shape his sound more clearly. My favorite track is his studio version of “Simple Twist of Fate,” with his solos sounding like the exact shading Robbie Robertson would have added to the track.

Since it feels like I’m standing here all alone, while a stray dog pisses on the mound of dirt in Potters Field where Sean Costello now rests, I’ll send him off with two live tracks from that January show in Florida. If you're impatient, hang in there for the extended solos, and you’ll hear why his passing deserves more attention than it’s receiving. The man could play.

Sean Costello: "Simple Twist of Fate (live)"
Sean Costello: "It's My Own Fault, Baby (live)"

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Portions of a speech Barack Obama gave recently at a private fund-raising event in San Francisco:

“Here's how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by -- it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama, then that adds another layer of skepticism … You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

And his apology shortly afterwards:

“Well look, if there — obviously, if I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that. But the underlying truth of what I said remains, which is simply that people who have seen their way of life upended because of economic distress are frustrated and rightfully so. And I hear it all the time when I visit these communities. People say they feel as if nobody is paying attention or listening to them and that is something — that is one of the reasons I am running for president. I saw this when I first started off as a community organizer and the steel plants had closed, and I was working with churches in communities that had fallen on hard times. And they felt angry and frustrated.”

It was a good idea for him to apologize, although his apology didn’t address the real issue: portraying rural Pennsylvanians as gun-and-Bible toting rednecks. The fallout is predictable: Clinton jumped all over it, as well she should have. Bloggers and pundits bemoaned a return to the “old way” of politics, although I’m not quite sure what they mean. Wouldn’t Obama degrading such a massive group of potential voters be playing into that old “red state/blue state” trope with all its attendant stereotypes, in a far worse way than his opponent or detractors using this against him?

His advisors are obviously telling him to publicly run his campaign as cleanly as possible because he’s winning, whereas they’d advise he attack if he wasn’t. (I suspect his advisors are privately telling him: “You got Philly and Pittsburgh, later for the rest of the state.”) To the folks who thinks he represents some “new wave” of political honesty and integrity … fuck you. That’s what you need to hear if you’re that naïve, or more honestly, that misled. It’s politics, and the real issue in this situation is 24-hour news coverage to the extent that something like this mushrooms into a disaster, not political strategy. The guy made a statement of casual bigotry, amplified because it crossed racial boundaries. Place it in the overall context of how you view the man. Judge accordingly. Might be a blip on your radar screen. Might be fighting words.

I stay out of politics as much as possible, and I’m addressing this instance mainly because I’m from Pennsylvania and know the drill. It’s nothing new. James Carville once described rural Pennsylvania as being like Alabama (once you get out of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh). Never been to Alabama, but judging by his accent, Carville ought to know better. Pittsburgh is hardly a cosmopolitan center. Philly is a bit run-down. You got places like Harrisburg, Allentown, Williamsport, Reading, Wilkes Barre, Altoona and so on, that are good-sized cities, parts of which are just as gritty as any inner-city neighborhood you’ll find in New York. Carville’s an asshole, but I don’t think he’d argue the point with you. “Professional Asshole” is a more apt job description than political consultant. (Maybe these doctored lyrics should apply: "I hope James Carville does remember/Northern man don't need him around anyhow.")

I like Obama in general, although I suspect he doesn’t have the political clout to pull off a fraction of what he puts forth. My main problem with him, much like the Grateful Dead, isn’t him, but his fans. The smugness. The feigned naiveté of people who should or do know better, which I find far more cynical than any other factor in this election. There’s a certain kind of liberal, the one who perceives himself as smarter than everyone in the room, who ought to be put out to pasture. Or just grow the fuck up and recognize no one cares how incredibly “enlightened” he is. The concept of millions of these annoying, luke-warm twats supporting Obama doesn’t sit well with me. And I basically like the man and see his worth.

I think Obama’s problem is going to be there are plenty of people all over the country in places like Pennsylvania who recognize they’ve been slighted, too. The real issue is the sense of being put out to pasture, of being made a joke of so, in this case, Obama could say something “insightful” about rural America to a bunch of wealthy, cosmopolitan Californians, who could just as easily take a drive one hour in any direction and encounter the exact kind of folks you’d run into anywhere in rural Pennsylvania. I don’t understand the game of painting these people as fearful, bitter, racist rednecks. I do understand it – he’s playing to people’s worst perceptions and using the white working class as a convenient punching bag – but I don’t understand someone as smart as he should be not recognizing the next step, that he will be held accountable for these words, and held accountable by people who are far more tired of being perceived as invisible, unless they serve as the butt of jokes and insults coming from the aforementioned twats in the previous paragraph.

Besides which, Pennsylvania’s really not doing that bad. The unemployment rate is not that far above the national average, and I’d wager that most of the unemployment focuses around the urban centers. It’s doing much better than when I was of employment age in the early 80s. Click on this URL for the US Department of Labor, then click on the back data for the unemployment rate, choose the range to go from 1976 to current, so you can see how the unemployment rate has plummeted over the past three decades – nothing like when I was a teenager and facing a double-digit unemployment job market.

And ask yourself how hard it was to find employment in the early 80s. That chart seems to demonstrate sky-rocketing employment and labor force in the past two decades – correct me if I’m wrong. What I wouldn’t debate: the type of work you can find. Because I can see in my own home area, it’s all industrial and retail type work, not glamorous work, or even traditionally factory/coal-mine type work the state was historically noted for. I gather when Obama’s talking to people who feel “forgotten” in some sense, he doesn’t understand that he’s talking to people who are referring to a way of life that no longer exists, as opposed to people who are probably pissed off that their area is flooded with McJobs and other low-level employment opportunities that are nowhere near as romantic as coal miner or steel-driving man. The economy has shifted and grown in ways they may not grasp.

And that’s why I don’t live in rural Pennsylvania! (Believe me, after 20 years of dealing with New Yorkers, I have far less problems with rural Pennsylvanians than I'd have ever imagined. To be totally honest, assholes are everywhere, in all colors, shapes and sizes, so I don’t really dwell on which place is better or worse, as both have their merits.) As for this “bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations” business, man, that has to be one of the biggest political gaffs I’ve heard in a long time.

Again, he’s kissing up to a bunch of wealthy white folks who don’t know their ass from a whole in the ground when it comes to working-class people of any color. So he used these easy, regrettable reference points that have nothing to do with people struggling in any sense. The words sound like something you’d hear at an upper-middle-class dinner table, offering excuses for these poor, dumb white folk who don’t get they should be using the color of their skin to make more money and thus be enlightened. (Pass the tofu, spinach and sun-dried tomato salad, Dylan!) The “clinging to religion” thing is a political kiss of death. If it doesn’t sink him with Hilary, rest assured, McCain will give him a rough time over that one. Again, as well he should!

I’ve seen it put forth by a few bloggers that this will only inflame the red state/blue state divide. Got bad news for them. The only people I've ever seen harping on that divide are liberals. Because the perception is that “blue state” people are smarter/more affluent, ergo the only thing to be gained by any sort of “red state” pride is a shit-kicker/country music video sort of faux authenticity that might sell pick-up trucks, but not political candidates. The whole red state/blue state nonsense began as a negative reaction/explanation of the inexplicable … Bush winning a second term in office. How could this happen? Oh … it was all those dumb, gun- and bible-toting rednecks who made it happen, those rotten, inbred bastards! Not us. Don’t blame us! We’re smarter than that! Don’t you know we’re smarter than everyone? Here, look at this pill-shaped globe map of America that shows where all us blue-state people really live and how we voted! It wasn’t us, man! I hope they don’t hold this against us when we go to Paris in June!

I honestly don’t care who gets elected president this time around. (I've had friends on both sides of the fence lament that their candidate not winning would be catastrophic for the world and nation. Bullshit. Life will go on, no matter who wins, and I recommend they cut back on the silly political grandstanding.) As noted earlier, I like a lot of what Obama has to say. McCain, hate to say it, I simply like because the guy survived a desperately hard-assed situation in the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam, and that impresses me, no matter what the guy does for a living. Even Clinton, despite all the dogshit she and her husband put the country through with the constant lying, I still like – she’s done nothing horribly wrong in New York state the past few years and has proved her mettle as a politician. I just came to the realization a few years ago that most politicians are lawyers, and that was enough for me to throw out the baby with the bath water. That’s all I need to know about most politicians. Call me cynical or unfair. But I’ve worked with lawyers, many times over in my adult life, and I trust those fuckers about as far as I could throw them. I keep that in mind with any politician. Should be an interesting few weeks in Pennsylvania. Those poor gun- and bible-toting rednecks!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Can't Escape the Schoolyard

One of the recurring themes of my life has been living next to schoolyards. Not a bad concept when you’re a kid, but it gets old, fast, when you’re not. I imagine people living around bars have the same reaction. There’s a brief window in life, assuming one goes through a reasonable “social drinking” phase in his 20s/early 30s, when living next to a bar seems like a cool idea. For most other people, it means loud drunks exiting the bar, early-morning street fights, drunk driving, vomit and sometimes feces on the street, drug usage in parked cars and alcoves, etc. In general, buffoonish behavior that while not a full-court press of bad times, is often an ongoing concern. What kind of bar it is makes a huge difference, too, i.e., an old man’s bar won’t be anywhere near as bad as a happening night club.

Schoolyards in and of themselves are not bad places. They’re usually one of the few places kids can congregate in their own autonomous world and learn how to inter-act with each other without parental control. They can do the same at school, but only in the down time between classes, coming and going to, at lunch, etc. I think the problem comes when kids get to be around 13 to 16 years old and don’t recognize they’re outgrowing the schoolyard, should be moving onto organized sports if they’re so inclined, because if not, the logic seems to shift from innocent game playing to insufferable assholery. There were a few kids like this in my neighborhood when I was growing up, although most surely bolted the schoolyard upon receiving a driver’s license. The most nightmarish time in my neighborhood had to be the early-to-mid 70s, when there was a whole crew of drug-addled bozos who missed the “get out of the schoolyard” memo and were a constant negative presence.

Luckily, that hasn’t been a burning issue in my adult life. I’m writing this now based on an adverse reaction I’ve had to a critically acclaimed movie the Sundance Channel broadcast last week, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. Guide is about a group of wayward working-class kids growing up in Astoria circa 1986, the regrettable altercations that arise from various “gang” style scenarios, and the eventual resolution when the narrator returns as an adult (Robert Downey, Jr.) to make peace with his ailing father … and the neighborhood by extension. (None of the aforementioned bozos in my neighborhood grew up to be soulful, wounded artists a la Downey, Jr. If they were lucky, they snapped out of their downward spirals and latched onto a factory job that saved their lives.)

The movie’s a text-book example of bad Italian over-acting in all its bellowing, dick grabbing, pinky ring pointing, sub-soap opera glory. Think a mixture of Kids (one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen) and The Basketball Diaries (also in the running for worst movie ever, despite being based on the great memoir by Jim Carroll). It’s kids being very naughty, to the point of murder, with the viewers’ noses constantly rubbed in amoral excrement, that sort of heavy-handed, didactic, “this is how far gone kids really are, man” style exercise that ends up being puerile and sanctimonious. Virtually nothing has changed in this ham-fisted formula since Marlon Brando starred in The Wild Ones in 1953.

A small sample? Most people would find it innocuous, but I was struck by one scene, part of a typical musical montage, featuring a 14-year-old girl in summer clothes lasciviously sucking on a Bomb Pop. I ask you: what’s the point of this? If you have a 14-year-old daughter, you know I don’t have to tell you what’s wrong with this scene! If you don’t, you should still be able to recognize how sleazy and exploitative this is. Not quite pedophilia, but suggesting it. It’s the sort of thing that seems innocuous, but when you really think about it … when did casually presenting images like this become acceptable or in any way cool? I don’t think you need to be a strict moralist to grasp the cheapness.

(Sidenote: the soundtrack in this movie was odd, too. I don’t think one song from the mid-80s was featured. Plenty of rock songs from the late 70s and early 80s. The movie ends with “New York Groove” by Ace Frehley … from his 1978 solo album. At the start of the movie, the narrator makes a point of noting he knew Puerto Rican kids into the band Journey. Maybe so … but not in 1986. That reference makes more sense for 1982. Call it nitpicking, but it would be like putting out a movie now, about life in 2008, using soundtrack songs like “Who Let the Dogs Out” and “Hit Me Baby One More Time.”)

I’m hardly a strict moralist. I just don’t like crass, baseless exploitation when I see it. And I don’t subscribe to the theory that being shown kids doing “bad things” holds any hard truth. Depravity has existed for centuries, in every form imaginable, many much worse than kids acting like adult slobs and buffoons, which is stiflingly normal behavior where I live; kids acting like clean-cut 50s stereotypes would provide a major jolt to my senses. This sort of stuff isn’t shocking or in any way revelatory; it’s depressing when you consider that it’s become formulaic film-making as opposed to ground-breaking cinema.

The whole movie seemed to revel in that ersatz sense of depravity. And it got me to thinking of the schoolyard and the mentality associated with it, since, in effect, Astoria and their lives in it were represented as one big schoolyard for them to stumble through in that perpetual “no adults” state that’s largely fantastical.

What occurred to me with that movie is the gulf that exists between reality and teenage nostalgia. And I don’t consider teenage nostalgia the pathetic invention of adults looking back and romanticizing their youths. It starts with kids looking back, days or even hours, and romanticizing events that have just occurred in their lives, already constructing mythologies around them that will serve as some strange bonfire of youth to them in the cool darkness of oncoming adulthood. We’ve all done this. Part of the attraction of hanging out with my friends in our teens and early 20s was regaling each other with tales of all the wild and bizarre things we’d done (which were legion), and laughing to the point of tears over our heavily embellished stories. The telling of the stories was often more uproarious than the events themselves.

I particularly recall doing this with brother J, neighbor Bubba and friend George, any time we’d hit the all-you-can-eat buffet at the steakhouse in the local mall. I was in college at the time with George, J and Bubba were at loose ends, so we’d go there once a week or so and gorge ourselves on the cheap salad bar food, sitting in a corner booth for hours, reloading our free sodas (probably over 1,000 calories right there), merrily telling our strange stories, some more recent involving all-night drunks and the odd situations that routinely transpire while getting bombed. There was something about the salad-bar food that made Bubba vomit in the parking lot – literally every time. It served as an exclamation point to our recap sessions of youthful abandon.

Because we were young, it didn’t occur to us that what we were doing – romanticizing the past – was something that would be considered if not taboo for adults, then mildly pathetic and backwards looking. I’m having a hard time now seeing the difference, save no one busts the young for their nostalgia, regardless of the sell-by date. When you think of it, kids are rarely doing anything all that radical, or even minutely strange by the standards of their communities: it’s all been done before, most likely by their parents before them. Sure, in a way, it’s kids stretching their boundaries, but they rarely break them. Unless you knew kids who committed felony crimes on a regular basis (a distinct possibility with native New Yorkers). But to us, and I imagine in the context of our lives, these things are often viewed as legendarily bad behavior.

I think the main problem I have with Guide to Saints is I gather the book was written (as was the movie, too) by a guy at least in his 30s, more like the cusp of his 40s, and I can tell you as someone slightly past that age bracket, at a certain point in life you see through all that nostalgia and no longer romanticize it. It just … was. It happened. You did some crazy shit when you were kid. You did even more crazy shit in your 20s. You have stories to tell. Man, things got strange sometimes. That time you whipped your girlfriend’s bare ass with a jump rope? Shit … that was out there, dude. That parking-lot episode where you mooned the guy dressed up like Mickey Mouse? Priceless.

Think of the TV show Jackass and the two movies based on the series (which I actually like), and all these twentysomething guys filming themselves pulling crazy stunts: shopping-cart jousts in parking lots; vomiting contests, taking a shit in a hardware store display toilet, etc. All this stuff is clearly meant as a goof, which one will find funny or not. Theoretically, I don’t see any difference in intent between an artistic endeavor like Guide to Saints and a goof-ball show like Jackass. It’s the same thing: romanticizing the “wildness” of youth. Save I can laugh at Jackass, because I can relate back to my 17-year-old self, when the concept of doing all that crazy shit in public seemed like it would have been the epitome of cool. And Guide to Saints makes me feel like I’m being forced to worship in some misguided church of bad nostalgia (part of the problem being I never would have hung with the type of graceless, bad-time goons romanticized in the movie).

I wouldn’t bemoan any of this, save I can see it all feeds into a larger problem, that we’re all being trained to never become adults. Sure, we look like them. Act like them at work. But everything else seems to be a senseless bid to retain all the qualities of youth, with stressed place on irresponsibility and that sort of selfish, ego-driven lack of concern for anyone else. Maybe it’s because I can see these bad qualities so clearly in kids, particularly living next to a schoolyard, that I have a strong urge as an adult to be the exact opposite. Which makes me uncool by some warped teenage standard, one I was glad to abandon long before I rolled the odometer at 20. A subset of the problem is too many people are recognizing their teenage years as some standard of coolness, when the act of “being cool” all together should be abandoned, recognized as the mirage it is, since the definition changes constantly in countless ways throughout our lives.

In other words, things that strike a teenager as cool will more than likely strike me as being anywhere from silly to morbid, while rarely being “cool.” And I’m not viewing this on some sliding scale of coolness. I’m viewing it as me seeing the world much more clearly now, based on decades of good and bad experiences, and recognizing that a lot of what I thought was cool at 17 was based on seeing other people make fools of themselves in some sense, and having some false sense of security with myself that I appeared nowhere near as half-assed. Now, I’m perfectly OK with appearing half-assed, would rather run this risk than be wrapped so tightly that I’d never make one false move and lose face with some imaginary audience of hipsters. And I’d rather hang around similarly half-assed people who make an effort to see life clearly, who aren’t out to get over on me or anyone else, who depend on some developed senses of taste and morality to judge the world by, as opposed to these flip, empty cultural identifiers that get attached to every generation as we go along.

That moral center of adulthood was what I found missing from a movie like Guide to Saints, and it bugged the hell out of me. It was like a movie made by an 18-year-old who imagined how cool and soulful he’d be at 38 based on all these ragged teenage experiences. As opposed to a 38-year-old truly grasping where he is in life and how silly shit from his teen years is just a small part of the story that doesn't need to be glorified. But we live in a society that has made a monument out of our teenage years, which is a guarantee for prolonged depression. To me, it was just another phase, and a very awkward one at that. Why we haven’t made a monument to our 8-to-10 year old selves, I don’t know – because I do have fond memories of how life was then, and how I saw the world at the time that more clearly represents “youth” to me than being a teenager. Probably because the concept of a 10-year-old lasciviously sucking a bomb pop is going a little far, even by our bullshit standards. Give her four years, we can pretend she’s an adult, and sell the image as acceptable perversion.

About the only thing I bemoan in my adult life is that I can see I don’t take as many chances, try as many new things as I should, as I used to when I was in my teens and early 20s. It does bother me, and it’s something I should work on, because there are many things in this world I haven’t done, and that’s something that sinks in as one gets older. My only advice is that when you look back, see everything, the good and bad, and don’t bullshit yourself that life was any more magical (or worse, for that matter), than it is now. When people talk about “being happy” with their lives, I have no idea what they mean. By the same token, when people romanticize their negative choices, that rings far more hollow than any broadly painted definitions of personal happiness. Live long enough and life makes negative choices for you, beyond your control. That's when you learn how to be happy in some sense, when the clear choice becomes life kicking the shit out of you, or you fighting back. These are things that never would have occurred to me when I was a teenager, and I was looking for any sort of negative option to make me seem like a more complex, hardened individual. Oh, to be that fucking naive again! (Last line was facetious.)