Inside-out t-shirt.

Breaking New Grounds, Portsmouth
Around 6 p.m.

As I’m sitting at a table on the sidewalk outside one of my favorite coffee shops in Portsmouth, waiting for inspiration for a blog post topic, I realize that I’m wearing my t-shirt inside out. It’s a plain black t-shirt so its possible that nobody would notice, if they would even care. I bought this shirt at a thrift shop and if there were any tags they’ve long since been removed, nor is there any printing left where a tag might have been to identify the size of the shirt. I only noticed when I turned my head to look at the street corner next to me and saw that my shoulder seemed pointier than usual. As I went to satisfy my habit of making things even and smooth I discovered that my shirt sleeve had not bunched up like I thought. Rather, what I had seen was the seams of the stitching which was meant to be worn on the inside.

So, what to do? I’m outdoors so there’s no law preventing me from taking the shirt off and fixing it. Yet now that I’m over thirty I rarely wear even shorts in public, let alone taking off my top. That’s not to mention my unusual amount of body hair, which doesn’t embarrass me so much but I recognize might disturb others. I could go to the bathroom inside the coffee shop. But then I might lose this great table I’m sitting at. I also only have an hour on the parking meter. I want to finish this blog post first. If I finish my post and coffee before my time is up I may go to the bathroom and fix this thing.

But then I have another problem. Suppose I fix my t-shirt. Like I said, it’s plain black. My deodorant is white. There’s a strong possibility that white streaks will become visible on the outside. (I had to spend longer than I wanted to thinking through that the streaks would still be on my armpits as opposed to my shoulder, as the opposites game in my head first suggested.) So, should I even bother? Like I said, nobody mentioned anything. It’s only bothering me. Even then, I’m not that worried about it. It may seem that by this point I’m obsessing over it. That’s only because it gave me a decent word count for the day. In other words, I got my inspiration after all.

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Taking inspiration from ghosts.

5/18/18, Around six p.m.
Maps (a bar in the Old Port section of Portland, ME)

I don’t believe in ghosts, at least not in the sense that we leave our bodies when we die or that there’s another side where spirits dwell waiting to communicate with us (would this make me a bad Satanist?) But I do believe in ghosts in a more allegorical sense of the term, where the ambience of a setting facilitates the conditions necessary to make one feel as if one is a visitor in what should belong to the past.

Earlier today I stopped by Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. I parked at the first available lot upon entering the park. Next to the lot is a small hill on top of which, surrounded by trees, is a hollowed-out, roofless stone building. I intentionally didn’t look at the historical plaque on the path leading up to the building so I wouldn’t know its history. (After I wrote this blog post I discovered that the building is known as Goddard Mansion.) For once I wanted to form my own impression of the place based on my feelings at the moment. Despite the sunny spring day the mood was haunting. I felt like I could see military officers going about their business on what had to have been the two stories in the building. Wire fencing keeps out the visitors for safety reasons (but sadly, not the graffiti “artists”). I could still see right through, however, seeing all of the vegetarian overgrowing the interior. A dirt path led around to the back of the building and further down the hill, where I took a few pictures:

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This would make a good Shadows of Immurement album cover, don’t you think?

Perhaps my mood was shaped by having just finished listening to “The Witching Hour” by Anne Rice this morning. Or maybe the year’s worth of hearing stories of ghosts and other ghastly tales from New England (it’s not uncommon for people here—myself included—to claim victims of the Salem witch trials as ancestors). Or it could just be that I need to look for inspiration externally rather than internally for my artistic projects, such as the aforementioned Shadows of Immurement. There’s a thought—maybe the next concept album I make revolves around such local history? There’s plenty of resource material out there. I just need to be less lazy when it comes to research.

Separating the art from artist: Watching “The Cosby Show” now.

I’ve gone on before about separating the art from the artist before, and I’ve resolved that issue in my head a long time ago. If I wasn’t able to do it I would be able to listen to some of my favorite bands, after all. So I have no qualms at this point about watching The Cosby Show at home on my own time. But it did feel weird, however, to buy a few seasons of the show on DVD without knowing that the next day Bill Cosby would be found guilty of sexual assault.

I’m not going to spend my time writing this blog post trying to justify his behavior, nor any of such abhorrent behavior at large. In fact, beyond this point I’m not even going to address it. It’s out there, I don’t need to rehash it. What I am going to write about is how weird it feels to watch the show at this point.

I may have been ignorant of when the day as to when the verdict would be delivered but I wasn’t ignorant of the allegations when I bought the DVDs. I knew that it would be awkward buying them at this point but the store had them for cheap. And besides, they were used—it wasn’t like any money from my purchase would go to him even indirectly. Still, I noticed that the cashier gave a weird look when she was what I was buying. Granted, she had a general look of disinterest of being at work in general and wasn’t really interacting with customers very well in the first place. What matters is that it felt like he gave me a dirty look, probably stemming from my feelings about making the purchase in the first place.

Yet I still made the purchase, didn’t I? For all of the misconduct perpetrated by the show’s star it’s still a show that I watched obsessively throughout my childhood. For the better part of the nineties its reruns were on my local NBC affiliate when I came home from school. On top of that, it’s a quality show. I remember hearing that a good portion of each episode was improvised by the cast, using the scripts as guidelines. This meant the dialogue usually felt very natural as we followed this realistic family throughout it’s eight season-long slice of life.

Yet I wasn’t always in love with Cosby himself. Even before the allegations came to light (at least in my personal, sometimes sheltered world) I disagreed with a lot of his political and religious views, some of which even made their way into the show. I came to find him a grumpy old man, even when I went to see him live a few years ago in Portland. And I can take or leave his stand-up—he was a great storyteller, but not a great comic.

Still, he was part of some good work over the years, with this one show in particular serving as part of my upbringing. I’m not going to try justifying my love of the show as I don’t really think I need to (and why would you want me to?). I understand why some networks and online services would pull the show from their line-up/selection. It certainly makes a reasonable public relations move on their part. I can even agree with it to a point, especially so soon after the conviction. But for my own viewing (or by this point as I’ve seen each episode two dozen times or more, background noise) pleasure, The Cosby Show is not Bill Cosby. I can’t let one employee’s misconduct affect my enjoyment of the work as a whole.

I did have one uncomfortable moment, however, when binge-watching the show so soon after the conviction. The DVD releases I got contained the original, uncut episodes before they went into syndication. This meant that there was a lot of material that I have never seen before. This included an anti-drug PSA that aired before the title sequence of the ninth episode of Season 3. Considering that several of the allegations involved drugs, it’s hard to not cringe at the first seven seconds:

 

Album review: Ámr by Ihsahn

Ihsahn’s latest album, Ámr, is characteristically Ihsahn—progressive without getting too fancy, catchy without getting too clever (usually), all the while treating the restrictions of what makes metal metal not as something which confines but to be toyed with. That is not to say that this is one of his more experimental albums, such as 2013’s Das Seelenbrechen* or Peccatum’s early work.

This can lend to a sense of repetition at times, such as when a good riff can outstay its welcome in a song, such as in “Lend Me the Eyes of Millennia” and “Arcana Imperii.” This feels a minor complaint, however, when one considers that none of the songs are very long, with the longest just going over the five minute mark. Ihashn also varies the sound of the music throughout the album through different vocal styles as well as a heavy use of synthesizers interchanging with guitar parts (as opposed to filling out the sound with ambient effects or “orchestral” voices). A perfect example of these variances are in the song “Twin Black Angels,” which starts off with a mild synth part and clean vocals, progressing to a soaring bridge accentuated by Ihsahn’s distinctive blackened death metal vocals.

If Ámr is your first Ihsahn album, then it’s a good place to start as it’s the culmination of the best elements of his work so far. However, if you’ve been listening to his work from the beginning, even just as a solo artist, then you may find it a bit lacking as it sounds like yet another Ihsahn album but not his best work overall. Still, it’s certainly worth a listen or two in its own right. In fact, Ámr comes across as one of Ihsahn’s more accessible albums since his sophomore release Angl. Ihsahn has matured as a songwriter and producer, applying what he learns throughout his carreer towards each successive release and Ámr is not exception to that rule.

 


*Which I still argue is his most successful solo album artistically, if not commercially.

Sometimes a hug is what a stranger needs.

This would have been a bad restaurant review but it turns out the night may have been worse for the staff than me.

Last night I went to Portland for a dance party and decided to go to a bar for dinner beforehand. I wanted to try a place that I had never been to before, not realizing that it was a bar that apparently appealed to sports fans (although judging by the decor I hesitate to call it a sports bar) and that the Kentucky Derby took place last night. Already something like this can make me irritable—it was my fault for going in so I couldn’t complain. Nevertheless drunken, obnoxious sports fans rub me the wrong way. Fortunately I was able to get my own table.

I didn’t know, however, that my visit was to last two hours. It took ten minutes for me to get a beer and then on top of that an hour for my food to arrive. I knew that I expressed my dissatisfaction through body language however I kept my cool and didn’t take it out on my server. I could tell by the way the servers were running around the delay wasn’t their fault. I overheard at one point a man whom I assumed to be a supervisor tell the servers that food service was cut off for a while. It seemed odd to me that a place like that wouldn’t be able to handle all of the customers. The bar was busy but not overcrowded, and it looked like most of the people were just getting drinks anyway.

As time went on my server became very apologetic to me about the wait. After my food had finally arrived I could see tears on her face. I became worried. I knew that I was visibly irritable but like I said I maintained my cool when interacting with the staff. But I do have a tendency to talk to myself. Could I have said something wrong to her? I asked one of her coworkers who then assured me that it had nothing to do with me. Apparently one of the kitchen staff had not shown up to work for the third Saturday night in a row, which backed up service immensely. It turns out the woman was just frustrated (as I had a seat next to their station I could hear them talking to each other to that effect).

As I left I went up to her and told her I hoped the rest of her night went smoothly. She was still on the verge of crying as she thanked me and apologize again. I could tell from her own body language this time that she was unsure to move in for a hug, not so much from what I said but she needed comforting. I patted her shoulder to give her the okay signal and we hugged before I left. I never got her name but of course I could always go back there (provided working conditions don’t drive her away).

Had this happened ten years ago I would have probably written a blog post about how I potentially had a romantic interest as a result of this brief interaction. (Yes, even though I’m asexual I can still have crushes on people from time to time, even if I don’t usually bother to act on them.) Now I take this encounter to mean that I may have helped somebody feel better, albeit briefly, through a sympathetic human connection, and nothing more. Of course I can’t speak for how she felt, nor would I try to assume to do so. Nor am I attempting to pat myself on the back for what I had said and done. But if anything I probably will become a semi-regular customer of the bar and perhaps make a new friend from doing so. I learned that even a socially awkward person like me can make a small difference in another person’s day with a simple act of kindness.

Although now I’m worried if I tipped enough.

New Year’s Resolutions.

2018 - 2

  1. Write for this blog on a regular basis again. This one is self-explanatory.
  2. Cut down on drinking. If that fails, cut it out completely. Alcohol has been getting the better of me the past year or so. I have a hard time limiting the number of drinks in one sitting and I’m getting sick much sooner instead of feeling the positive feelings of getting drunk. However, for anybody who has seen me in public this past weekend I’m not counting those activities. My birthday was Friday, which I celebrated at the Goth/Industrial night at a nightclub in Portland. I had booked a hotel room in order to stay up late and drink. Then on Saturday family and friends went bar hopping. I purposely was not the one driving. And last night I went to a New Year’s Eve party in Westbrook, and the hosts were kind enough to let me crash there. I admit that the beer got the better of me that time but I still have no regrets. However, this past weekend was supposed to be my last hurrah with alcohol. I now need to limit my drinking to weekends only (barring unusual events throughout the week) and stop at no more than two beers. If I fail this, I will quit drinking again.
  3. Whenever possible, when going out in public adopt as Gothic a look as possible. When this is not possible, such as at work, a quick errand or I just need to do a load of laundry, at least dress up a little. As I was getting ready to go to the party yesterday I contemplated wearing an old t-shirt promoting the album “Morbid Tales” by Celtic Frost. The party had an eighties theme and this was the closest I had to something that would fit. However, it just didn’t look right on me anymore. I don’t feel right going out in band tees. Dress shirts are going to be my new “normal” look while I am going to attempt to look outrageous whenever I can. I’m even contemplating growing my hair out after all despite the male-pattern baldness and seeing if I can’t still do something Gothic with it. After all, to be a Goth is to be morbid, losing hair is a sign of aging, which in turn is a sign of decay and ultimately death. That, and I want to try something different.
  4. Resume routines of exercise and meditation. I can start meditating again right away. Unfortunately, however, I can’t go out jogging this time of year considering how icy the roads are and how cold it is in the Northeast. I may have to join a gym. Even then, though, I won’t be able to until after February when I get my hours back at work. I would probably want to wait until after the RPM Challenge as well, which leads into my next resolution.
  5. Resume work on music with the intent on increasing output from before, but recognize it as more of a hobby than a career aspiration. Aside from my usual participation in the RPM Challenge, Mike and I were discussing new work for Popkin-Salvador. I want to also go back and re-record (and in some cases, rewrite) some older Shadows of Immurement songs.
  6. Pay off credit card debt. I know that I’ve whined about this before, but I am in a much better financial situation now at work than I have ever been. Paying off the debt should be achievable this year. I also had an incentive a few months ago to do so. I was looking at a house but I was denied the mortgage as I had too much credit card debt (fortunately I still have a good credit rating). I had already changed my mind on the house anyway by the time I found out about the mortgage but I will still run into the same problem if I don’t get my affairs in order.
  7. Start being more social. I’ve been going to the same nightclub for most of the Friday nights throughout the year. That’s great, but I still tend to be quiet.* I’m fine when other people start conversations but I have a hard time starting them myself. I’m getting better at it and have even introduced myself to people but I’m still getting the hang of this whole social-interaction thing. I should try to meet one new person every time I go out—not just to there but other locations as well, if anything for the practice.
  8. At the same time, reduce the amount of times going out. I don’t mean that I won’t go out to a nice restaurant for dinner if I feel like it. It does mean that I won’t go driving around all over the place to comparison shop for a pair of work pants at every retailer in the area only to decide to not get anything. I’ve also wasted too much gas using my car a a stereo on wheels. I have a friend who has a coffee shop two towns over and I like to support her business—but I can’t drive out there just for a cup of coffee with the excuse of “running errands while I’m out.” So, I will try to socialize more when I go out, but going out has to become more meaningful. Besides, staying at home will help with my next resolution.
  9. Catch up on my reading. The main reason that I stopped writing book reviews for a while was because of the tall stacks of books on my coffee table that I bought recently. I need to get through those because a.to get back to reviewing new-ish releases and b.I just want to.
  10. Finally: write, write, write. I didn’t just take an unintentional half a year hiatus from writing for this blog. I slacked off completely on any writing. I feel the need to try to start a fresh project (yes, again) just so I can get back into it but at the same time I must take a crack at the drafting process for my other work. This might not be the normal, “right” way of doing things but I can’t dwell on that anymore. I spend too much time worrying about how I’m doing things wrong instead of doing anything about it. This the biggest problem that I have with writing, which I want to make the biggest part of my life.

I normally don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I hate the formality and commercialization of bettering one’s self that has developed this time of year. But I usually have these sort of thoughts after indulging over my birthday, which is only a few days earlier. On top of that, knowing that this weekend was going to be essentially one long party I felt that it was a good time to refresh myself. It all started with the resolution to drink less (or not at all) after the weekend. Everything else went from there. I remembered that when I quit drinking the last time I was more creative and motivated to become healthier, both physically and mentally. Why not try all of this again?


*Originally I had written that I still tend to be a wallflower at the club. I started dancing pretty regularly when a good song comes on so I wasn’t sure if I could correctly use the term. I’m still not making conversation while dancing—one could even make the argument that dancing allows me to not have to. Does that still count under the “wallflower” category?

Flash fiction: “Q & A.”

“Let me look through your eyes,” he said.
Amused, she took a sip of her coffee, allowing the curve of the cup hide her grin. “Why would you want to do that?”
“To see the world how you see it.”
“Don’t you think that would involve more than just sight?”
“To feel someone else’s tears, then.”
“The tears would be meaningless without the reason why.”
“One could argue that all tears are meaningless.”
“Who would argue that? And what would they gain by it?”
“Does every argument have to gain you something?”
“It might make it worth the effort.”
She took another sip of her coffee. He stared intently at her, though off in the distance. He had yet to touch his tea. If she recalled correctly, he didn’t even like tea.
“If you let me see through your eyes, I will let you feel my pain,” he said.
She put her cup down. This offer intrigued her. “Why would I want to do that?”
“If you need a reason, then the pain is weakened.”
“If we do this, can I pull out if the pain is more than I can bear?”
“No.”
“All right, then, ti’s a deal.”
They shook hands. She sat back in her chair, looking across the town square. She took her cigarettes out of her coat pocket and lit one. “I’m ready,” she said.
She could still see through her eyes, but she could feel that they no longer belonged to her. She moved her head around to allow him to orient himself to her perspective. Shen she sat straight up so he could see his face with his eyes closed.
“Very good,” he said. “Now it’s your turn.”
“Oh!”
Whether he could see anymore through her eyes or not didn’t matter anymore as she closed them quickly, wincing. She tried to take a drag on her cigarette but each time she held it to her lips she cringed. The pain started in her chest but quickly spread across her shoulders, as if somehow her body could become sore from physically lifting a lifetime worth of anguish. She felt nauseous. She wanted to cry out to make it stop but she knew better.
She opened her eyes when the pain stopped.
“I still had your eyes,” he said. “I wanted to know how my pain would look inside someone else.”
“Yes,” she said. She took a long drag on her cigarette, staring at him, raising her eyebrow. “Yes.”

Written in Portsmouth, 10/23/17 around 6:30 p.m.