Thursday, October 8, 2009


Today is my first day off work since two Mondays ago, and my to-do list has begun to overflow with letters to out-of-town friends. As much as I like the idea of old-fashioned letter-writing, I'm not in the habit of it and since I do so little writing by hand I write illegibly and get cramps, so maybe it's better to do the regular life updating via new media and leave the analog communication to fewer letters with more personal content. So, without further preamble, back to blogging.

As most of you probably know, I'm living in Braddock, PA. Moving here was part of the first phase of a plan that will hopefully culminate in a radically-minded art and music collective situated on property that it owns and allowing its members to devote more time to their creative pursuits. Unfortunately, that plan is predicated upon a few of us -- those without partners, jobs, leases, or anything keeping us in one place -- moving here before there is really a place to move and long before the majority of the collective members. So in early August, immediately following, in my case, a six-month period during which I was already away from home for about 3/4 of the time, we borrowed my parents' Ford Focus and bike rack and drove from the suburban DC-Metro area that we know and love/hate/are often ambivalent about to a building that used to be a convent, which is now an informal hostel owned by the mayor, across the main street from the Edgar J Thompson steel mill in the post-industrial outskirts of Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately for Welch, who was to spend his second and third weeks in town mostly on his own, my transient period was not quite over so after a week of looking for jobs and getting settled in and a weekend of collective meetings I left town again for Dewey Beach with the family, a wedding in Seattle, and an aborted visit with a friend in Portland. Just before midnight on Thursday, September third (a few days earlier than planned), my plane landed at the Pittsburgh airport. A long busride later I was eating half-priced Indian food with Welch and Mo (who was visiting for the evening) in my new city, and feeling relieved to finally be staying in once place for more than a few weeks.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chapter 2: Chicago Weekend Part I

Running on one night's worth of sleep spread over the past three, I woke up at 11:30 Friday morning to walk downtown and meet up with Harjit and a bunch of west coast kids at the May Day parade. Talking to people about it I'm consistently surprised by how little Americans know about May Day, if they've even heard of it at all. The Europeans, on the other hand, were shocked that businesses were open at all.

After a series of phone calls and half an hour of wandering through a downtown to which none of us had ever been in a city with which no one but me had any familiarity, we met up with the march for the last couple of blocks. Since there isn't much of a radical labor movement in the states, May Day marches tend to focus on immigrant rights (or at least this one did). It felt weird to be at a march again; I'm pretty sure the last one was some time in 2004.

The march terminated at an outdoor speaking event in some square downtown, at which point it started to rain and the majority of our company began to agitate for a move to the Chicago Diner. The Chicago Diner impressed the shit out of Sean and me last summer with it's seemingly better-than-Red-Bamboo quality and slightly-lower-than-Red-Bamboo prices, although looking back I suspect that our enjoyment of the food was partially a product of having eaten nothing in weeks but crappy Chinese food, Subway, and an extraordinary amount of Cliff Bars, as well has having ridden 60 miles without stopping that morning. This time around the food was less remarkable (though still slightly cheaper than comparable places in New York), but the experience was dramatically improved by the presence of a few dozen friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances that showed up during the meal; the diner is apparently the first stop for vegans visiting town.

After some wandering around in search of a mythical Urban Outfitters (which was revealed to be an Anthropologie store that, due to its ownership by Urban Outfitters, turned up in an iPone search, our group split up and several of us headed for Subterrainian to see the first Burning Fight pre-show featuring, among others, Converge and The Hope Conspiracy. As I entered the club the bouncer saw my x'ed up hands and didn't ask for ID, so I wasn't given a wristband. I asked about re-entry and was told that it was only possible with a wristband, which I couldn't get because I was under 21. I told him that I as, in fact, 23, and showed him my ID, but he replied that it was impossible because my hands were x'ed up as though to indicate my underage status. After a frustrating conversation I was given an wristband and told that if I wanted to re-enter I had to wash the x's off my hands because even with a wristband they would assume that I was under 21 and now allow me back in. Sheer idiocy.

I had the good sense to buy tickets ahead of time since I knew the show would sell out and it was to be the second of two shows that THC planned to play during 2009, so I ended up having to collect wristbands and sneak in several friends just in time for THC's set. The show turned out not to be very fun, especially not Converge's set, which began with some girl (that apparently was as smart as the bouncers) standing 5 feet from the stage with a full beer right when Converge began and subsequently dumping most of it on me as soon as kids start moving around. Not wanting to start a fight while standing alone in a city where I knew no one (and not really being the fight-starting type anyway) I opted to spend the Converge's set stewing over it.

While several of my traveling companions went to the late show to see Indecision, I waited at Veggie Bite for Lee and a car full of Fist City's finest vegan straightedge kids. We drove back to the apartment from the previous night so I could grab my stuff and then to a much fancier apartment downtown in a building that was rumored to contain a pool, and in a well-lit room full of people I fell asleep within 5 minutes of arriving, wearing a had over my eyes and headphones in my ears.

The next morning I woke up on the early side and Josh No Job (AKA Josh Hate Edge AKA that kid that I got in a fight with (for at least half of Richmond's non-straightedge population)) and I took the L (is it L for "loop" or El for "elevated line? I'll just stick to L) to the end of the line where we met up with an assortment of anarchists and walked to the graveyard in which Emma Goldman is buried. I had my picture taken in front of her grave, but it either hasn't been uploaded or I haven't been tagged because I still haven't seen it. After the graveyard we headed for The Metro.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Summer 2009 chapter 1: Brooklyn to Chicago

We woke up early Thursday morning for french toast before leaving for Chicago, despite the fact that two nights before I got back to Brooklyn at 5am and only slept for a few hours and the previous night I was up late watching Buffy with Melanie, but it was worth it because Janne made the most incredible home-made vegan french toast I've ever had. At least, at first we thought it was worth it, until it turned out that meeting us at noon meant meeting us at 3:30 (of course it was no fault of Mike's that he was so late, but sitting around all afternoon made us all a little antsy). Because most of my belongings, including my computer, were already packed away in anticipation of Adam subletting my room for the summer, we all sat cross-legged around my room listening to records; all anxiousness aside it was a lovely afternoon.

The first stop was the Vegan Treats bakery in Bethlehem, PA, where I once again did not have the willpower to resist Danielle's excellent food presentation. I don't have much of a sweet tooth and most of the things she makes are on the rich side for me (the goal is Vegan desserts that taste as good as or better than non-vegan ones, and in the pursuit of that goal I don't think she holds out on the white sugar and Earth Balance), but every time I see the elegantly prepared mini-cakes and brownies I break down and buy at least one thing.

The next several hours of driving were uneventful - I tried to nap while listening to relaxing music on my supposedly sound-cancelling headphones but minivans are not as comfortable for sleeping as tour vans and I was distracted by the European style dance party infiltrating my attempt at solitude. Around 3am, not feeling particularly well-rested, I gave up on sleeping and took over at the wheel since Mike and Josh were both getting too tired. I drank about 3/4ths of a Big Blue - a midwestern soda that tastes like cotton candy flavored bubble gum and contains about as much caffeine as coke or mountain dew - and set the cruise control at about 9 mph over the speed limit, a speed that I have been told in the past by cops is safe to drive without getting pulled over. Not so in Indiana. Around 5am I saw a cop car pull off the median going my direction after I passed. I slowed to just under the speed limit and got over to the right, but to no avail. After checking my license and registration and failing to notice Mike hiding under a blanket on the floor (there were 8 of us in a 7-seater) he returned to my window, perhaps dissatisfied with my clean driving record, asked me to step out of the car, and told me that he smelled marijuana. I tried to suppress my laughter because stone-faced as he was I knew he was bluffing, and explained politely that there was no marijuana in the car. He insisted that I had better give it up because he was going to find it anyway and I'd be in way less trouble if I cooperated, I asked him if he was familiar with the concept of straightedge, and the blank look on his face told me that no, he wasn't, so I sighed and held my arms out to be patted down.

Two more cars pulled up and helped search everyone for knives, guns, illicit substances or any excuse to arrest the city slickers that dared to drive through their quiet Indiana town, population: 1000. By some miracle the found nothing on our persons and pig #1 proceeded to search the rental car, hand in latex glove, with admirable determination. His bluff would not be called by a bunch of punk kids, god damn it! The 8 of us, under dressed for the late-night cold and groggy from road trip napping, waited on the side of I-80 while I chatted with pigs #2 and #3. I've always prided myself in my ability talk with adults, and after a while we were all chuckling and conversing about punk music, tattoos (pig #3 had one or two and was frustrated that the local police department didn't allow any below short-sleeved shirt length), and my bike trip through Indiana the summer prior. At one point #2 quietly asked #3 if he smelled anything, which he didn't, and several times throughout the 20-minute ordeal they looked over at #1 and rolled their eyes.

Finding nothing, pig #1 wrote me a warning for speeding and Adrian and I busted Chain of Strength, Go It Alone, Carry On, In My Eyes, Count Me Out, Strife, and other such straighedge and youth crew jams (beginning, of course, with True Til Death) for the next several hours.

We rolled into Chicago at 8am, EST, now locally 7am, and shuffled into a large, fancy, and mostly empty apartment in what used to be the newspaper building. Being the only one still hopped up on caffeine, I offered to return the rental, and no one complained. I dropped it off a few miles away, and having worn my running shoes and mesh shorts, I ran 3 1/2 miles back the apartment, did some push-ups and sit-ups, showered, and finally went to sleep around what felt like 10am, only to be woken up less than 3 hours later for the Chicago May Day parade, vegan sandwiches at the Chicago Diner, and eventually, the Hope Conspiracy Burning Fight pre-show.

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's fucking cold in Florida

In the past I've had no trouble finding time to hang out with a computer on tour, but so far I've had scarcely a minute to spend internetting - hence the lack of blog updates. Sadly, I don't have a ton of time right now either. I'm in Orlando, a city I normally associate with warmth, sun, sunglasses, flip flops, and hardcore kids that wear Nikes. Unfortunately it is below freezing right now, my sunglasses and flip flops are pouting in my backpack, and the show that happened tonight was with a small handful of lame crust punks that were extremely reluctant to donate any money to the touring bands. We were doing really well in the beginning of tour (financially), but we've been losing money in the last 3 or 4 days. And on top of lame, poorly promoted shows, someone stole a bag containing over a thousand dollars worth of cables and pedals from us outside of a show in Hickory, NC. Unfortunately for that person we will be driving through the same area on the way back up north, and if we are able to identify the culprit he or she will most likely be severely beaten. Other than nearing the brink of financial ruin (and let's face it, I'm never THAT far off), tour has been awesome. Swallowed Up is awesome, our road crew (now also known by the name of our gang, Ruff Elementz) is awesome, and not having to go to work is really awesome. I still spend a reasonable amount of time stressing out about the amount of money I owe to Visa compared to the amount of money I can potentially make in the next 6 months without getting a regular job (which, since I have so far struck out in several attempts to identify irregular sources of income, is approximately none), but it's hard to be actively stressed about anything when one spends the bulk of one's day in a van full of one's friends, reading, listening to music, napping, and congratulating each other on how cool, handsome, and straightedge they are. Some highlights so far include the second show in Haverhill, MA, where I ran into some old scene-acquaintances; New Brunswick, where kids were fun, got way into Swallowed Up, and hung out at the merch table talking about how much they liked our zine distro and hand-assembled records; Richmond where the show sucked but Lee's roommate Paul baked us bread; Asheville where we hung out with ian; Savannah where we skated a backyard skate park, and Waldo, FL where we slept at Fiz' farm last night. Hopefully I will be inspired to write about tour so far in more depth at some point in the near future, but I have a lousy record with promising more detailed entries, so I'll keep ya'lls expectations low this time around.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yay! Tour!

I'm leaving for tour in two days. Fucking finally. Being on tour is always way better than not being on tour. I've missed waking up with no obligations, I've missed long half-asleep van rides, I've missed late-night silliness while cooped up with close friends, and I've really missed the south. Shorts and flip-flops here I come. You can check out my tour schedule on the website of the band I'm going on tour with, Swallowed Up.

When I get back from tour I will be unemployed. I saved up enough money to pay rent and minimum credit card payments until April, so I can coast for a while, but with several thousand in credit card debt looming over me I will need to get a job not too long after returning. I'm awaiting a response from Golden Voice, a concert promoter to whom I gave a resume, and from a college acquaintance that has some experience in the merchant marine world. If neither of those leads works out, I'll probably get all spiffed up and go door to door in SoHo looking for retail work in a low-foot traffic clothing store, relying on the appeal of young, hip, tattooed boys to the older gay customer base of stores like John Varvatos. And if that doesn't work out... I'll probably go back to couriering. But I'm seriously so sick of it, I hope something else does. If you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know. I need a job with minimal commitment and flexible hours because tour, traveling, spontaneous weeks off etc. are very important to me. Ideally I'd like to work somewhere that pays enough in a short amount of time that I can afford to work for a very intense month or two and then take off for several more months - the Ordinary Seaman gig is a perfect example. If you or anyone you know has ever worked on a ship, get at me.

Unrelatedly, I'm also looking for music recommendations. I've been getting into a lot of new punk/hardcore stuff lately but I've had a hard time finding out about new bands on the low-key side of things. Lately I've been listening to a lot of Appleseed Cast, Maritime, Pygmy Lush (Mount Hope), One AM Radio, Bon Iver, and, as always, shoegaze, and I'm looking for more stuff like that. Suggestions?

Monday, January 5, 2009


My dearest Welch explained to me in nearly incomprehensible tech-ese how to fix my image cropping problem, and gist of it is as I feared: either resize the photos or learn to program CSS. But I'm more of an outside of the box thinker, plus I'm lazy, so instead I'm going to leave them alone and suggest that if you want to see the photo full-size you can right-click it and click "view image" or your browser's equivalent. You can see everything you need to see in most of them anyway (bad composition notwithstanding), so the only ones worth viewing directly are the one of me moshing and the one of Chris cowering. Resizing them probably wouldn't be worth it anyway, since one of the drawbacks of fisheye photography is that everything looks smaller.

And while I'm writing, perhaps an update of the extended-break saga: my boss called today to tell me not to come in to work on Tuesday - which would have been my first full day since December 19th - because they over-scheduled, so it looks like I have until Wednesday to perfect the art of doing absolutely nothing worthwhile. Today is shaping up to be a productive day of not being productive, as I have already completed my entire to-do list as of 1:30pm. Unfortunately I will have to leave the house today for a tattoo appointment at 6. I will post pictures of my new blasphemous Buffy tattoo once I get home.


EDIT: all of my pictures are getting cut off a few inches from the right. If someone can explain to me how I can avoid this problem, I will mail him/her/hir a signed print of any one of the recently-posted photos. Leave a comment or email me at jackhsamuel - at - gmail - dot - com.

I worked a half day on NYE-eve and have not been back since, so this past week has turned out to be an extended Christmas break. Never fear, I've managed to stay busy with such activities as watching 9+ hours of Buffy and Angel in one day, sitting in my room alone and reading Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar while a hardcore show happened in my living room (I made an appearance for Surroundings' set and was rewarded with a Hatebreed cover to which I moshed like it was 2002), having a contest to see how many Cheerios Chris could stack on my face (he won), bashing holes in the wall with David's old golf clubs (and subsequently knocking the head's off against the second-floor supports, leaving us with formidable weapons in case of disrespectful show-goers/asshole 4th floor neighbors/cops, which we have so far only used to throw at Chris and Matt's wall in an attempt to play oversized darts), and mosh-boxing our houseguest/temporary roommate Kyle Bryant. The idea for mosh-boxing came to me in a flash of brilliance when Ben put No Warning on the stereo in preparation for the Weezy vs. Chris bantam-weight title match and everyone started dancing around the recently-cleared out living room. The basic idea is this: box while moshing. It turns out that mosh-boxing is far more tiring than moshing or boxing alone, and despite riding my bike 50+ miles a day for a living I am apparently way out of shape. Nonetheless, after taking a few taps to the jaw in the first several minutes, I managed to land a left cross that changed the tone of the fight in my favor and ultimately won. Pictured below: the devastating and fight-ending left jab a split second before reddening Kyle's nose, me moshing while Kyle (off-camera) recovers from an earlier and slightly less devastating right jab, Kyle moshing in a seemingly-celebratory fashion while I square up, and Chris looking terrified by Weezy (their fight was a draw because Chris accidentally nailed Weezy in his little man parts several times in a row). There are several equally good pictures that don't make Chris look like a coward, as well as a few of Kyle not about to get punched (to be fair, despite ultimately winning, I far from dominated the entire fight), and a couple good ones of Benny - the referee - moshing in between fights, possibly while listening to the bad Death Threat, but Chris didn't email them to me. Perhaps I'll make an additional post once I have them. You will notice Benny in the background of the third picture moshing the shit out of our wall (yes, he is wearing bib-shorts underneath camo shorts).