Monday, July 16, 2007

"the future" demonstrated poor performance in round one, but seems to have made a pretty solid recovery since.

two trains and a bus later, i was on the side of the highway in the outskirts of madrid. unfortunately, the highway itself has no shoulder and no exits. the service road has exits, but they are very small, and it seems that all of the traffic on the service road is local. i walked around 12 miles looking for a good spot, and the best i could do was a gas station. every trucker i asked - and they were few and far between - was not going much outside of madrid. had i the patience, i probably would have gotten a ride eventually, but given that i had a plane ticket out of barcelona in 4 days, i figured i might as well cut my losses and take a bus, because i'd hate to waste the time i could be in barcelona on the side of the highway in madrid just because i was stubborn. oh yeah, the signs on the bus stops said that it was in the high 40s celsius, which is above 110 farenheit. it didnt seem quite that hot (maybe the bus station thermometers are too close to black metal strucutres and err a couple of degrees high or something) but it was hot enough that when i put on a light-colored long sleeved shirt i felt cooler than having the sun directly on me. and there was no shade.

so i got back into the city around 7, feeling sheepish, and got a 7:50 bus to barcelona. i watched angels in the outfield dubbed and was pretty proud to unerstand most of it, and got to barcelona around 4. julio came to meet me and walk me back to his place, and the next morning we took his scooter to the skate/nike store where he works. chad got there around 1 in the afternoon. so far: parc güell (the unfinished gaudi housing developement), the beach, lots of the closer on dvd, walking around, fantastic vegan food, good people, hanging out, and fucking transformers, which was awesome. today chad and i are going to find some more gaudi stuff while julio is at work, and then i think we might be going... out. to a club or something. we'll see.

Friday, July 13, 2007

this is a quick one: took my last final (ever), turned 22, said goodbye to a lot of people i'll never talk to again (and a few who i hopefully will), stayed up too late with a friend, packed up, checked my email, and wrote this entry. im going to hop on a metro train to the highway, and hopefully be in barcelona before sundown (sundown here is at around 10:30, so if it takes long than that ill be sorta pissed). the future: barcelona, rome, prague, home (DC), home (brooklyn), work, debt, no more school, new roommates, and...? see you there.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

after getting locked out of paris and sleeping for the better part of an afternoon, stephanie and i got indian food and then walked around old madrid for a few hours. around midnight she decided that it was bedtime and that there was no way she was going to see 28 weeks later with me because she would not be able to sleep all night. so i went alone. in retrospect, maybe not the greatest idea, given how i tend to deal with scary movies. i would have been better off in a living room with someone willing to cuddle during the scary parts, and in the middle of the afternoon, than in a theater by myself at 12:30. but i had heard such good things about it that i was determined.

i dont remember being horrified to nearly that extent by the first one, although maybe its just been a while since i first saw it, but more than being scared the way scream did when i was a little kid (which was mostly about just thinking something was going to jump out at me from spaces that where sometimes so small as to make such a thing physically impossible), i was deeply shaken. when the movie got out at 2:30, i decided to ride my bike around old madrid for a while because i wasnt tired yet (having woken up at 5 in the evening). i have these in-ear headphones that block out most outside noise if the volume is turned up enough, so i put on godspeed you black emperor! and took off. the movie had me in a rather surreal mood to begin with, and biking around a city that is full of people (contrary to popular myth, new york is more like the city that doesnt sleep all that much, but on the weekends, madrid truly never sleeps) without being able to hear them only exacerbated it. in a good way though. with in-ear headphones on you can hear yourself breathing through your own head rather than through the air outside (like with earplugs), and it sounds the way peoples' breathing in movies sounds when they are running for their lives. i biked to the top of a very large hill behind a cathedral that overlooks what im told used to be the royal hunting grounds but is now just a part of the city. the hill is steep enough that it might be technically a cliff, and at the top of it is a parking lot with no lights, so it's quite a view. eventually i got bored, biked home, and spent 3 hours lying awake in bed, less scared than expected i to be but certainly feeling pensive. i had that feeling of intense emotion of some indeterminable type, and the presence of many important thoughts that were just below the surface of my consciousness. its a feeling of being very emotionally and intellectually intense but without the emotional and intellectual content. the last time i felt that way was in amarillo, texas, last summer. i didnt do a very good job of explaining it then, and i dont think i am this time either.

the whole evening i also had that in-a-movie feeling. since moving to new york, i finally gave up the romantic idea that interesting things just happen to you, the way they do in the movies. new york city is a place where you expect fate to be lying in wait around every corner, but it isnt. around every corner is just more road, and more life, the same as the one you just came down. if you want something interesting to happen, you have to make it happen. i know that sounds more like a motivational speech than a lament, but for me, that realization was one of the most disillusioning ones ive ever had to face.

my life isnt, by most traditional accounts, boring; touring in a punk band, working as a messenger in new york, living in a loft in bushwick, traveling europe solo, these things sound to some people like adventures. but the thing is that every step of the way, i had to make it happen myself, which takes all of the adventure out of it. adventure is what happens when you arent expecting it. it surprises you, and even if its mundane, the novelty is what makes it adventure. take wandering around an unknown city. if you get bored and take a train to a place you've never been and wander around, its just sort of whatever. but if you accidentally get off on the wrong stop and wander around because you have to, thats adventure. for so long i was waiting for interesting stuff to just happen to me like it does in the movies. turn the corner and bam! theres a natural disaster that forces the hero out of you, or the weirdo with the idea that changes your life, or the girl of your dreams. but if you turn a corner in new york, its just the same people. everywhere you go its just the same people. faux-hawks, crew cuts and euro-mullets, its the same fucking people. but that night, after the movie, i was expecting something to just happen. that was the kind of mood i was in. i thought i was going to get hit by a car, see an alien land or a bomb go off, get shot at, or fall in love. nothing would have surprised me because i was expecting to be suprised. by the time i woke up the next morning, it was gone.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

something strikes me as being somewhat comical about a 22-year-old who has just finished college (and i allow myself to cheat on that point a little due to the fact that on thursday afternoon, after my spanish final, both of those things will be recently true of me) writing a livejournal entry about the catcher in the rye, but i didn't read it in high school, so here i am. i decided recently that trying to force myself to read the brothers karamozov so as to better myself intellectually (and to give myself credibility when quoting the famous proto-existentialist line that says something to the effect of "if god is dead anything is permitted", varying somewhat with the translation) and in reality getting nowhere (im on page 80-something out of nearly 1000 after almost 2 weeks) is less productive than reading less ambitious books that i will actually finish. i've been trying to catch up on the classics that i skipped over so i bought a copy of the catcher in the rye yesterday afternoon and read it yesterday evening in a little over 2 hours.

i've been thinking lately about the mixed messages that a traditional american upbringing sends us (share and cooperate like a good kindergartener, but remember that the greatest good comes to the socieity in which each of its members acts strictly according to his rationally conceived self-interest), particularly in the form of literature. i bought a copy of to kill a mockingbird some weeks ago for the 13-year-old that i tutor (for the absurd hourly pay of 12€) because it was one of my favorite books when i was little younger (i think) than him. it turned out to be too hard for him - his english is a little worse than my spanish - and yesterday, after several hours of staring at the ceiling so as to avoid another dry dostoevskian sentence, i picked it up and read it cover to cover in one fairly long sitting. i still love it. certain parts made me hopeful (no small feat, as some of you may know), certain parts made me furious, and during certain parts i could hear my mom doing the voices, with their alabama drawls, and feel lucy curled up next to me on the couch (see my previous entry about the lost feeling of home), and i nearly cried. one line, however, caught my attention for the first time: "the one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience." it made me think about the way that our culture's heros, the atticus finchs, are honored for denying the status quo in the face of tremendous popular opposition, but i find that when i defend animal rights activists who use extra-legal tactics i'm compared with abortion clinic-bombing christians and reminded that change comes from letter-writing, ANSWER marches, and, above all, voting. of course atticus finch, the law-abiding citizen that he is, fights his battle in the coutroom, but our founding fathers weren't afraid to shed a little blood, and harriet tubman does not appear to have been too concerned with what the then current administration and police force considered property. which founding father said the famous thing about refreshing the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots? jefferson? i have no idea.

this may appear half-baked and i suppose it is; i've only recently begun to think about some of these things and i haven't the head for facts, quotes, and dates. the point is that i wholeheartedly agree with the above quote (the one about majority rule, not the one about the tree of liberty) and in some ways, i dont mind the comparison to the fanatical right-wing christians because they believe so strongly in their principles that they are willing to do what they feel is necessary to see them put into practice, and damn the state that moves too slowly (or in the opposite direction). of course, i disagree with their principles and would rather bomb the churches themselves that spawn such ideals, but such, i suppose is the dialectic (i know that philosophy major was good for something!). no government, i've heard it said, can give you liberty (was that a famous anarchist writer or a punk band?), and no state that operates within the boundaries of this culture will ever give liberty to animals or the earth.

when i read animal farm in 7th grade, the overt message that we were to absorb was dictatorship=bad, but the implication hidden carelessly just below the surface of the curriculum was, "thank god our government is nothing like that" (thank him figuratively and literally, of course, as we are one nation under Him, having the life choked out of us slowly by the pillow that He has been holding over our faces for some thousand years now, sighing about what embarrassments we all are). somehow i doubt orwell would be too stoked about the state of things (pun intended), the same orwell who wrote, "every line of serious work i have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalinarianism and for democratic socialism as i understand it." no to put words in his mouth, God rest his soul, but i doubt that the same man who appears to have sided most strongly with the anarchists during the spanish civil war (the revolutionary socialists being a close second), understood "democractic socialism" to mean clintonian liberalism with a solid welfare system and high OSHA standards for the wage-slaves (not to suggest, dad, that these things arent good, just that they arent nearly good enough).

it seems like the only people who remember these books after graduating from high school are the english teachers, who, in my experience, tend to be an apolitical lot (not to mention beaten into submission by the hollow curriculums of no child left behind), and they often leave out that lee, orwell, and salinger might have been trying to make a fucking point. as with anything subversive, the powers that be have pulled off the time-honored "if you can't beat 'em, assimilate 'em" approach that reduced the entire black liberation movement, of which pacifism and civil rights were only a part, to the face of an uncontroversial martyr who had such a nice dream that one time, and which we celebrate once a year by congratulating ourselves on what a fine job we've done setting things right. luckily someone offed him before he had a chance to be disappointed by the ongoing, deliberate, urban racial segregation that the "success" of the 60s either failed to prevent or, depending on whom you ask, encouraged (this is a subject about which i know only a little, so if my timeline is off, forgive me, for i believe that the spirit of my criticism is valid), all of which resulted in the current state of affairs which most liberals seem to regard as basically a damn shame and some fucking worthless academics like samuel huntington have the nerve to blame on the defeatist, blame-shifting "political culture" of blacks in the contemporary urban ghetto.

the slave-owners got one thing right: the blacks were and are much like animals, as are all of us, white and otherwise, because we fucking are animals. of all the trite explanations i've heard for what seperates us from the rest of them (we learn from our mistakes? i call bullshit!), one of the few compelling accounts i've heard is that we apparently have the capacity to wreak obscene amounts of destruction upon the planet and everything else living on it, and, what's more, to rationalize it. lions, presumably, do not feel the stabs of a guilty conscience when they kill and eat their prey, yet the same people who are so proud of their consciences that tell them that there is something deeply wrong about taking food from a multinational corporation, nay, are ethically offended by it, will defend a system which, among other things, results in beagles being tortured in order to ensure the safety of consumer cosmetic products. you want an indictment of the way things are? i dont need theory: fuck the nation, fuck peter singer, fuck emma goldman for that matter. i contend that any cultural and philosophical framework that defends the rights and properties of these and other torturers against the peaceful (in the long and rich history of the ALF and ELF no human or animal has been harmed in the course of an action, yet they are the #1 domestic terrorism threat according to the FBI) liberators of these animals - many of whom are currently serving sentences of several years or more federal prisons - is FUCKED, right to its rotten idealogical core, QED! so head earnestly for the polls, and if you so much as even think about a molotov cocktail, you are as bad as the abortion clinic-bombers. well, than so i am.

now, a word of indemnification: many intelligent folks whose hearts, i believe, are in the right places (or close to them), have challenged my more militant sentiments on purely tactical grounds. i believe that there is a serious debate to be had about the usefulness of various forms of activism and resistance, and though it is probably obvious on which side i ultimately rest my convictions, i do believe that there are good points to be made by both sides. this... whatever this is, however, is not concerned with practical concerns, but with the ethics themselves of thinking outside of the traditional means of attempting to work for chance, thinking outside of the law (which is, according to the ideology underlying many of my politics, part of the problem itself).

"let the fires of justice burn away this plague" - 7 generations

Saturday, July 7, 2007

i tried to go to paris this morning, but to no avail. i took a nap and got up at 3am, took a bus to where i thought i could catch the bus to the airport, and was wrong. walked a couple of miles, found the bus to the airport, got on. turns out that it drops you off in the same neighborhood as the airport, but not at the terminal. followed a group of dutch travelers from the bus stop to the airport, getting to the checkin counter 3 minutes before they closed. got my boarding pass, feeling a little smug, and discovered that the plane was delayed and they were promising more information in an hour. fell asleep on the floor with one earphone in listening to the movielife. 6:30am: expected departure time 1pm. fuck that. i was only going to be there for a day anyway, and i dont fancy spending 7 more hours in the airport. they are refunding the money to my credit card, and i went home and went back to bed.
cooked some good pasta sauce from scratch, spent the day in bed listening to music and thinking. im meeting a friend for dinner in 15 and maybe seeing 28 weeks later. i guess ill have to go to paris next time im in europe.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

the show in hengelo was fucking amazing. it was a tiny club, capacity supposedly 125 but maybe twice the size of CCAS, and not even totally full. the first three bands were european youth crew hardcore, and not bad. the carry on cover was a bit chilly (has it been long enough? i dont think quite yet). eye of judgment played second to last and fucking rocked. they are so heavy and played pretty tight, plus they rock the over-the-top XVX. "I'm not saying we're better than you/I'm saying you're worse than us/Your lack of discipline/Is a disgrace to humankind". wow. then, earth crisis. holy shit. earth crisis playing on a stage about 2 feet high in front of maybe 60 kids, the majority of whom knew most of the words to at least the hits. highlights included the most ridiculous sing-along to firestorm ive ever seen, finally getting to see ultramilitance played live (karl dedicated it to me because i asked them to play it before the set, but i was much more excited about the fact that they played it than the shout-out), and mike raio dancing with his arm in a sling. it was crazy seeing them play on such a small stage, with so much of the right kind of energy in the room, and karl is not afraid to share the mic. jake, i wish you were there. the dutch are a tall people. seriously, everyone at the show was at least 6´2". the disadvantage was that i couldnt see the band if there was a single person in front of me; the advantage was that if i wanted to climb up on top of the crowd there was always a huge dude there to help me up.

after the show we got an international xvx crew to push the van up to speed so we could pop the clutch, and josh dropped gijs, satina and me off at gijs' friend's house in arnhem. the next morning the three of us walked to the train station, blah blah blah, and i was back in madrid. oh yeah, but the fuckers at the airport security checkpoint didnt let me bring my peanut butter (which is impossible to find in spain) or vegan nutella (which is hard to find almost anywhere) with me. its solid fucking food, but apparently it counts as a "gel" and could be a bomb. what the fuck ever. i was so blown, because i was really looking forward to eating that stuff when i got back. oh well, que pasó pasó.

Monday, July 2, 2007

after antwerp, we drove to amsterdam to stay at the apartment of a vacationing friend of theirs named john. he lives above the healthfood store where he and gijs work. this store sells vegan smoked gouda. holy shit. it is made by the same brand that makes the mozzarella used by the vegan pizza pace in budapest which im told has the best vegan cheese pizza in the world. i dont think ill have a chance to check it out this time around, so i guess ill just have to come back to europe some time.
on friday, the show was in east germany and we didnt feel like making the drive, so we hung out in amsterdam. we ate maoz falafel, which is extremely mediocre, and i had hot chocolate which was fantastic. it rained on and off all day and was probably in the high 50s. apparently summer has not yet hit northern europe. right before it started to rain hard, we saw a belligerently drunk street magician. in the 45 minutes that we watched him try to draw a crowd large enough to actually start his show, we saw him do one coin trick (his french drop wasnt bad and drunkenness did not seem to impair his sleight of hand abilities), one cigarette trick, light a torch and then leave it on the ground until it burned out, try to light it again later and fail, spin a bullship around his head for a total of maybe 10 minutes (stumbling occasionally), and try to crack it twice successfully and once unsuccessfully. he spent most of the in between time muttering to himself, telling the same jokes over and over (to two guys walking together: "so when did you two get back together"), telling people to come up to the edge of his "stage" or fuck off, and calling random walkers-by "homos" and "dickheads". he eventually gave up, packed up his box, and went with a friend to get dinner at the marriot, without ever starting his routine. we were all laughing nonstop, and mike raio and i were particularly amused. it might have been the funniest thing ive ever seen, although im sure my retelling of it is unconvincing.
friday was randy's birthday, so once gijs got off work, we all ("we" at this point including 4 americans, one roman, one brazillian, two austrians, and gijs and his partner satina from holland) had dinner at a chain japanese place called wagamamas. it was the best meal id had in weeks, and i was so hungry that i ate one and a half entrees, two appetizers, and a bowl of rice, for a grand total of 20€. it wasnt cheap, but it was worth it.
randy, mike, and kelly were fixated on going clubbing, kelly reminding me that i promised her that some day i would and randy pulling the youll-ruin-my-birthday-if-you-dont card. i relented but when we got back to the van and discovered that it wouldnt start, i was relieved to be off the hook. we walked back 3 miles or so to john's and went to bed.
the next morning, some of us took a cab back to the van to meet the dutch equivalent of AAA, which satina had called pretending to be john's girlfriend (who was on vacation with him). in holland, they try to actually fix your car instead of just towing it, which is nice. the guy took a look and determined that it was the starter, so we got all set to push while he pulled with his little mini-minivan so that gijs could pop the clutch once we got up to speed. it worked, but in the process mike got his arm slammed in the door, and then it stalled. the repair guy called reinforcements, and this guy that i call the all-purpose dutchman showed up on a motorcycle (wearing fully terminator-esque futuristic motorcycle gear). he hit the starter with a pipe and make the van turn on, and then looked at mike raios arm and pronounced it broken. we were in awe, and i was temped to ask if he could help me with applied differential calculus or my plumbing, since i was convinced that he was the guy to call for just about anything. 4 hours of mike sitting in a hospital later, it turned out that he was wrong and mike's arm wasnt broken.

that brings me to saturday late afternoon, and i think ill pause here to reflect on some things that ive been thinking about since i got back.
first of all, i think that, as is the case with so many things, balance is important when it comes to addressing the issues that i was talking about before, RE: making connections with civilians/muggles/rando comandos (for the last term i credit katy otto). im often afraid of culturally ghetto-izing myself by spending too much time around people that i agree with. i dont like to take for granted that im right about everything or spend too much time nerding out about the handful of subjects that interest my peers, but too long away from people like that and i get very lonely. this weekend was good, and now im ready to spend the next two weeks around people that have no idea what "queer" means, why anyone would choose not to drink, or that there might be (notice my use of the word "might" as a hedge; im not trying to say that i know the right answers either) fatal problems with capitalism, patriarchy, industrial civilization, or what have you. some day, maybe ill commit fully to radical ideologies and the lifestyles they entail, get a throat tattoo (i really want one but am clearly not, at this point, ready to commit to looking like a weirdo to 99% of people, including potential employers/girlfriends, and bumming out my mom), and embrace the fact that i really only belong with a small group of people, or, on the other hand, nihilism could win out, and i might find myself living a comfortable materialistic life, eating brie, and reminiscing about my "anarchist vegan straightedge phase". right now, im stuck in between commitment and doubt, so ill keep trying to find the right balance to maintain my sanity (which sometimes feels like a much more pressing concern than figuring out The Answer anyway).

on that note, i had a really long conversation with kelly about the need for connection. some people can be not only happy but even productive on their own, while some dont have the temperament for solitude. i chose to come to madrid partially because i wanted to force solitude upon myself, without the distractions of television or the internet (at least, not at home), so i could catch up on my reading and learn to sink or swim - emotionally - on my own. sometimes i think im too dependent on my friends to feel ok, and sometimes i think that they arent even really enough, but maybe just enough to not totally lose it. i need to either find whatever it is that feels like its missing, or learn to accept that it doesnt exist and figure out how to go from there. so far, it hasnt worked, but talking to kelly gave me a lot to think about in terms of what friends can offer, the need for intimate contact ("intimate" not to be conflated with "sexual"), and a whole slew of related subjects. ill probably be thinking about some of this stuff for weeks.

gmap pedometer of my trip

the points are just the cities where i stopped, not the actual locations within the cities. i also skipped utrecht, NL, where i transferred trains en route from arnhem to eindhoven.