Mellon Collie and the Impressionable Teenager

I can vividly remember getting the gift card from my uncle and aunt for my Birthday. I didn’t get to see my extended family very much as they lived about 2 hours or so from me in the desert, and I get the feeling my uncle disapproved of my mothers lifestyle. I can remember as a boy they had given me a Nintendo game, Joust, for Christmas. I cherished that game because it was from them. I tried very hard to like the game but didn’t quite understand the gameplay, but very badly wanted to like it because it was from them.

This birthday, I had $30 to spend at Tower Records. At the time I only listened to what my mom was listening to. Lots of 80’s bands like Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Guns N Roses, ect. Up until that point I hadn’t had much choice in my music, except what I heard on KROQ. I knew I liked Nirvana, Alice N Chains, Nine Inch Nails, ect. I held onto that card until I knew exactly what album to buy. No use wasting it on something frivolous, I needed to get the best album money can buy. Now, with $30 bucks in hand, I was able to get something I wanted. That summer there was one song in heavy rotation that I had to own, but the album came out in October, and it was only late June.

I waited with baited breath. Moments ticked by and more singles were released from the upcoming album. I was in agony. In the interim period while I sat on the gift card, I signed up for one of those CD clubs where you choose a bunch of cd’s for ‘free’, then pay an exorbitant fee for automatically shipped cd’s. They didn’t require a credit card so I had them shipped to the empty apt next door under a fake name. This is how I got The Blue Album by Wezzer, and Plush by Stone Temple Pilots. This method of deception had also introduced me to The Butthole Surfers, copies of Nevermind and In Utero, Bush’s Sixteen Stone, and Marilyn Manson’s Portrait of an American Family. The distinct difference between those albums and my first cherished album was that I didn’t really choose them as much as I had to pick them from a list. I never felt true ownership of them because basically I had lied to obtain them. Everyone can relate to that feeling of owning something for the first time vs something given to you. They had a profound impact on my musical tastes and development as a human being. The difference with this album was more than just ownership.

October finally rolled in and I was salivating. I bugged my mom to take me to Tower Records to buy the album, but I was in school and she didn’t want to go after work. Since my mom wouldn’t take me to Tower, I somehow convinced her to go and buy it for me. I had to describe in vivid detail what the album looked like, what song I was looking for, what the album was called. I even sent her with a picture of the album from Rolling Stone.

“Mom, ask for Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. It’s by the Smashing Pumpkins. Make sure it’s the right one, not the album with the little girls on the cover.”

“I don’t like them, the singers voice is whiny.’ My mom is very opinionated, which is probably why I feel the need to share my personal opinions with everyone regardless of their interest.

Now the wait. Oh god the wait. Since she was going to get it for me, I was at the whim of her leisure. I don’t remember how long it took, but an eternity seem to pass. When she finally went it was November. It had been raining that day, and my mom had either been out of work for the day or left early. I remember meeting her at her VW Scirocco as she pulled into the carport. She handed it to me in the iconic yellow bag with big TOWER RECORDS red lettering, and I quickly pulled out the thick double disk.

“That cost more than $30. You owe me.” The double disk was $29.99, an unheard amount of money for a cd at the time. I never paid her back.

I hurriedly gushed “Thanks mom,” and quickly pushed her out of the car and into her driver seat. We had two CD players, one on a crappy boom box in the living room which I wouldn’t be able to use till the night time, and the CD player in her car. All the music that defined the 90’s for me were heard out of the stock speakers in that car. I shut the door, put it into accessory mode, put in a pink disk called ‘dusk till dawn’ with a cherub sun on it, and then the rest of my life began. From the orchestral intro of ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ to the last song ‘Farewell and Goodnight’, nothing had gripped my young mind in the way that this album had. There are three other times when music had a profound impact on me, but this was the most memorable.

I can easily say that had I not heard that album at that point in my life, I would not be the person I am today. Billy Corgan taught me that it was ok to be pissed and full of angst, while expressing emotion and having deep feelings. I dedicated a song to my first love from album.  I endlessly wrote in journals listing to that pink cherub faced sun disk. When I felt angry or depressed I would put in the blue disk ‘twilight to starlight’ with the cherub moon on it. Years later I discovered that Smashing Pumpkins and my childhood love of Pee-Wee Herman where beautifully linked through the music video for ‘Tonight Tonight’, as artwork for both were done by Wayne White. It also introduced me to silent films and the work of Georges Méliès. I was inspired to find movies by Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and the Keystone Cops. For the next few years until I discovered punk rock I looked like one of the kids in the 1979 video. This album pushed me forward to start creating my own identity not only through music, but in clothing, politics, and art. I was no longer ashamed to be reading Poe and Dante.

This was my Zepplin, my Doors, my Black Sabbath. It started with The Smashing Pumpkins. The music revolution of my youth started here. The poetry of Corgan is what made them different. As a teen nothing sang to, it all seemed contrived or purposefully obtuse, but Corgan screamed my youth through his lyrics and vision, while D’arcy, Iha, and Chamberlain played the most beautiful melodies. My life is described as before The Smashing Pumpkins and after. I was a child and emerged overflowing with rage and opinions. Over the last 19 years I have repurchased this album 4 separate times, and I am considering buying the vinyl re-release just to to touch it and reflect on it like a mirror to my teen years.

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The fifth wheel is resting on my belt

Can’t write tonight. Foot hurts from impromptu run. I am trying to shape up. I am 31, 6′ 1″, 175 pounds, and I have never really worked out a day in my life. When I was a kid I was clumsy and didn’t play sports because I was clumsy. As I got older I told myself I didn’t play sport because only stupid jocks play sports because part of their conditioning is to compete from birth to become better obedient soldiers to die for god and country (thanks 80’s punk rock and hardcore), but I’m not cynical, always hated cynics.

Luckily I’m gifted with the metabolism of a Ethiopian child. My caloric intake was quadruple my calories burned. They just seemed to disappear with sleep and poop. Double lucky for me though that all of my teens and most of my 20’s I was either vegan, or a vegetarian (thanks again 80’s punk rock and hard-core). Oh, and I was a moderate smoker most of my life as well, been over 2 years since my last drag. It’s funny how I still sometimes crave it.

Now I’m starting to lose my breath while walking up short flights of stairs. I get winded if I have to walk briskly for more than 30 seconds. And somewhere in the past few years Michelin installed a spare right around my waist. Fuck.

So I decided to start running, again. I ran a cumulative 26 mile last year, mostly in June and July, then I just kind of forgot about it. Now I am finding that I need to motivate myself to eat better (not a vegetarian anymore) and stay fit so I don’t turn into Louie Anderson’s Dad from Life With Louie. I am the new poster boy for first world problems.

1.7 miles and I’m sweating like room temperature bacon and my left foot hurts and I am considering lopping it off and getting some of those leg blades that are all the rage in the Special Olympics. My body knows I am doing something to that it doesn’t like and it is expressing itself loud and clear. Screw you body, I own you and can do what ever I feel like to you. After years of smoking, drinking, and sleeping, I am waking your lazy ass up and moving you down the concrete. Bitch all you want muscles and limbs, I can just pain kill you away and do it all over again.

 

The Mute Boat Captain, A Homophobic Drug Smuggler, CGI in Space

THIS CONTAINS MOVIE SPOILERS. SO FUCK YOU.

 

I am behind on my journaling. I knew it was going to happen. Between the podcast, consuming media, and working, who gets the time to write anything down anymore.

The last journal topic I wrote about was death and nonexistence.  I skipped over the stream of consciousness day, I write to much of that crap anyway (plus you wouldn’t want to read it and adore me).  Also skipped ‘a mind dump’ where I write out everything that is worrying me. It worked for Eisenhower, and look where he is, dead. Then straight on into last friday and the topic is ‘Write a review on some form of entertainment you recently took in’.  In the last week I’ve seen two Oscar nominated films, Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, and Dallas Buyers Club with Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, and one that wasn’t All Is Lost with Robert Redford.

I like talking about movies with people, a lot. I seem to always be sharing my opinion about some film I watched recently. People are always so opinionated about films, an I am always the biggest asshole in the room when it comes to mine. I do feel a little strange giving a critics review of movies though, I always hide behind the guise of just ‘a big fan’ and here I am giving my incredibly narrow view of a few movies that everyone seems to love.

First I watched All Is Lost. I have wanted to see this since I first heard about it. I really like alt cinema and when someone tries something new in films, or at least something I find interesting. Robert Redford on a boat not saying anything as he struggles to survive? Its like Passion of the Christ without all the anti-Semitic undertones.

Within minutes I am trying to discern if Redford is wearing a hairpiece. He has wonderfully thick hair for a 77-year-old man. I am also thinking out loud to my wife why would a 77-year-old man be out in the middle of the ocean by himself not even remotely ready for disaster.

His small boat gets plugged by a shipping container, it starts leaking water, and for the next 130 minutes is a man slowly giving up on survival. It’s actually quite beautiful in its simplicity, or lack of color and depth. An orange life raft, orange rain slickers, and an orange cargo ship, it’s as if the director is screaming at as to take notice, these things represent false hope. I feel that halfway through a similar situation I would be cussing and singing and just all together cracking up. That definitely says a lot about a senior citizens mental well-being after being stuck out to sea for what feels like a millennia. The music is soft and haunting set against the often grey and blue bleak landscapes, quite brilliant. Then he gets shot in the chest and dies in the pool he never swam in.

Dallas Buyers Club had me contemplating the dualistic nature of the statement ‘Based on Real Events’. I always think that Hollywood sees an idea ‘ A man with AIDS selling AIDS drugs’ and really pulls at our heartstrings by crafting a touching hero story about a terrible person learning the good in all people and trying to make the world a better place. What if he was just a piece of shit drug peddler trying to make a quick buck and get his own meds at the same time. If going to court against the FDA was going to prolong my life then I would do what ever was possible to make that happen. Jared Leto was god damned amazing though, simply amazing. I can see why he came out of movie retirement to do this role. Looks like the emo band is on hiatus for a while Leto, them offers are going to start rolling in now.

Then there is Gravity. Beautiful. This movies visuals are stunning but not over wrought. It’s like a symphony of sight, with lows and crescendos perfectly paced to enhance mode and movement. This movie has such a fluidity to it that it’s almost like watching a waterfall in zero gravity backlit by the sun. I immediately recognize Ed Harris as the voice from Houston, and I feel like I am in a classic space movie. Clooney is his ever charming self, adding a bit of humor to this stoic beauty. Bullock is alright, but I feel like she was mostly a voice actor, most of her scenes are her in space which is 100% CGI. I came away feeling like Clooney stole the show, even though he wasn’t the main character.

There. That’s my opinion. Brief and somewhat scattered, but I don’t always watch movies the way others do. Oh, and Sam Rockwell plays a teenage thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Look it up. I have a theory that this is one of the greatest american films ever made. Ask me about it some time.

The Car wash.

 

 

Nothing feels so first world as taking your car to a 100% hand wash. It’s difficult to look at car washes the same after Breaking Bad. No it doesn’t make any sense that a hand wash can employ as many people as it does and still turn a profit without being a embezzling front for drug money.

It’s 81 degrees outside in the middle of January and I’m paying someone else to wash my car. It negative 30 in other states, I’m sure they would trade places with me to wash their own car in 81 degree weather.

The lobby’s are always a weird place in-car washes. This one has an exceptionally long hallway  leading to the cashier. On both sides of the hallway are plexiglass windows showing the workers hand wash your car, as if I wouldn’t believe them if I wasn’t watching them. On the left another large window showing workers doing oil changes and smog checks. It’s like Disneyland for unskilled labor.

Where there are not giant glass viewing portals of Hispanics making minimum wage plus tips, there are posters of race cars and race car drivers left over from the 80’s. Most are badly sun faded of long forgotten people, but there is one humongous hand painted mural of the exterior of the car wash that demands all attention. If I were to take it from the wall (and I’m sure hundreds of future car wash patrons would thank me) and turn it length wise, it would be over eight feet tall, about 5 feet wide.

I’m guessing it’s acrylic, it could also be colored mud and a Popsicle stick, hard to say. It has all the artistic merit of something a preschoolers parents would be proud enough to place on a refrigerator, and the composition of a cubist with one eye. It’s so bad that I am actually thinking about buying it and placing it over my couch, why? What a conversation starter.

“Why do you have a mural of a car wash that looks like it was hand painted by a elephant?’

And I would respond “Because fuck you, that’s why.”

I finally distract myself and shuffle on into the small lobby that is only lit by the sun. All the windows facing the sun are tinted black, so I speculate vampires get their cars washed here. There are shelves lining the walls with bric-a-brac and other car wash trinkets, several soda coolers filled with an array of brown carbonated liquids, and candies of questionable freshness and age. I open the last glass fronted fridge to grab a Fiji Bottled Water as that is the bottle water of choice for white influential middle class suburbanites (everyone has dreams) and approach the counter to a woman easily 3 times my body weight.

Without addressing me she says “2.95”. I look at her and say, “What?” As I had already forgotten what I was doing here. While still occupying herself with what ever magazine she is breathing heavily over she motions to my water. Confused I jut forth at her my small slip of paper that says what car wash I was getting. She then says “30.97” and I am even more confused because she has yet to look at me, my slip, or a treadmill, ever.

“Ok, can I get $5 cash back?” I always tip my car washer, car washie, car wash specialist. I’m always paranoid that more than one guy will be drying my car. What do they do, split the five? I would be cursing the asshole that gave me a $2.50 tip all day as change was jingling in my pocket. One large laminated advertisement for fake grass and 5 dollars and the woman points me outside and breaths “Give that to your car wash attendant.” That’s what they’re called, and how does she know the five was for him? I say in the most condescending voice I can muster “Have a nice day” and she fires back “You too.” Without ever breaking contact from her magazine. I would be pissed if I wasn’t kinda impressed by her commitment to ignoring everyone and still performing her job.

On the patio and a woman’s small child comes up and sit in the surprising modern patio chair next to me. I say “Hello sweetie” and ask her mother if she wants to sit in my seat. She says “No she will only be there for a few seconds.” As the little girl climbs out of the chair the dry warm breeze pushes the smell of shit from her diaper straight into my nose. Well, at least she’s not sitting next to me anymore.

I start to tack away on my phone before any of these thoughts slip away and realize I am a cynical piece of shit and cant wait to get in-front of my microphone and broadcast these thought all over the internets face. A honk from behind me and a wave from a man who couldn’t be living a life more different than mine holds my keys. He asks ‘Ok?’ and I do a quick glance over of my car not really looking for anything, as long as all four tires are still there and the headlights still work then Im a happy camper. I give him a five and get into my sussed up mini suv. What the fuck is that smell? Oh, thats the Spice fragrance I asked for. Smells like a sailors taint after three months out to sea.

Life, death, time, and looking on the brighter side.

Life, death, and time are the three components of life. Someone at work said the most valuable thing you can give someone is your time. Each day that I show up to work I am exchanging a day of my life.. Since it is all finite with unforeseen expiry dates, it seems like such a huge price to pay for a paycheck. I can never gain back that time and it seems so hefty because we never know how much we have to spend.

I will be dead, some day. Cease to exist and will no longer share my thoughts with the world via the internet. No more picture-taking, planning vacations to Rome that I will never take. I will never write again. No more masturbating. What really gets me is I won’t know I am not doing these things, because all existence will have ended, for me. In a small indirect way the world does exist just for me, because when I am gone I will no longer be aware of my lack of experiences, or a lack of world for that matter. Nothingness.

It certainly makes things bleak. Existence is the problem for me. I like existing, a lot. I like experiencing, I like learning and creating, I like it all. Even the painful parts, because I am alive and can experience it.  I don’t know if that motivates me, because then why do anything? It’s not going to matter because I won’t even be here to experience it. It makes it harder to do menial tasks because it all feels like its going to end the same way no matter what I do today or what I leave behind. There are millions of ways that this can go but I prefer to keep the subject of death light.

It all gets very overwhelming sometimes and I sometimes feel I can’t cope. I talked to a therapist about it and she told me to read Jean Paul Sartre Being and Nothingness which my wife happens to own. Ill get to it eventually. So what drives me you ask? I always come back to Monty Pythons ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ song. It perfectly sums up like is quite absurd and death’s the final word. It makes me remember that I sometimes take all of this just a bit to seriously sometimes and to get more out of everything. I mean –

what have you got to lose?
You know, you come from nothing
– you’re going back to nothing.
What have you lost? Nothing.

Read more: Monty Python – Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

Painting By “Premier Devil” (The First Mourning) by Bouguereau 

Emulation is the best form of self improvement

So catching up on some journaling, and what do you know, Fridays topic was to reflect on my weeks worth of journaling. Laugh out loud. Reflect on what this newfound practice has been like. It’s been a pain in my ass. I’ve gotten so used to writing on my own terms, when I felt like it that it’s hard to break that habit and force myself to write. I have always felt my talent was pure and unadulterated, tainted by no one or nothing. I was always the captain of my destiny and I steer my vessel where I want it to go when I want it. I am not a for hire ferry, I cannot be chartered to a destination not of my choosing.

Here is the problem with being the ferryman of your own destiny, places to go and the true ability to chart the waters. It’s only so long before you ship’s moored up because of failed adventures and unfinished trips, with little to show for you eventually give up. I have been an independent captain too long and now must accept that passengers have destinations not on my itinerary. That doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the trip and make a few stops along the way. Like Ishmael I am merely a lover of the ocean and like all men eventually drawn there by nature.

In other words I cannot always be the person to always dictate my content, occasionally, more frequently than not, I must write what as others have written. Hunter S. Thompson retyped The Great Gatsby and Farewell to Arms to feel what it was like to write a great novel. My one gray hope is to write something a fraction as well as the greats, but mostly to stop using the word ‘fuck’ so much and use proper grammar. Heres to hoping.

Quotes on Being a Man

“The way of a superior man is three-fold: virtuous, he is free from anxieties; wise, he is free from perplexities; bold, he is free from fear.” –Confucius

“Manhood is the defeat of childhood narcissism.” –David Gilmore

Wow, I’m really screwed then. I am constantly riddled with anxieties about everything. Having enough money, am I eating the right foods, do I exercise enough, am I doing the right thing with my life. I would have to say without anxiety I lack an actually personality. Most of who I am is because I am pent-up or wound tight about something, anyone who knows me can attest.

If I were to pick three words that best describe myself, I think I would choose sentimental, cautious, and angry. Now I can easily bring up Webster’s Dictionary and access the Thesaurus section but I already know that not a single one of those words  are a synonym for wise. I can certainly say I am knowledgable, I have experienced shit and am an information junkie, but being able to quote almost the entire Kevin Smith movie series and name all the original X-Men is not what I would consider wise.

Fear. I’m afraid to answer that question. No seriously, I’m petrified to talk about fears. I have an irrational phobia of death, actually I don’t think it’s that irrational, death is fucking scary. At any moment it could be all over, and that’s the end of you. No more anything at all. I’m afraid of losing my job for getting pissed off and throwing a laptop through a plate-glass window. I’m afraid of farting in front of people who have a direct impact on the future of my career, and I can go on and on and on for eternity.

And I obviously will never defeat my childhood narcissism, after all, this is my shrine to myself. So it begs the question, what is a man? I never really had a father to show me what it meant, and the step father I did have for a few years taught me things I’ve spent a lifetime repressing or forgetting. I choose those two quote’s because I don’t understand my own genetic makeup, I don’t get my sex, and I 100% don’t understand other men. Does that make me less of a man? I like to think that there are still common threads between all of us as men even though I can’t stand sports and competition. There must be more to us as a sex than just aggression and a penis. I’ve spent the last few years endeavoring to do things that interest me and feel manly. I grew a mustache and that helped a bit, but there is certainly something I am missing. Is really the only difference between me and my wife is X and Y?

There are obviously millennia of societal gender roles placed upon each of us, and I’m not saying that is always a bad thing, but am I still really the hunter gatherer my ancestors were back in the cave days? I don’t feel the urge to hunt or gather, just gather moss and sit comfortably on the couch. If I had to hunt and kill my coffee and pizza I would give up on it all together.

Where am I going with this. I don’t know, but I do know that I still have a lot more growing to do, and a hell of a lot more learning to do.

 

Sincerely:

Kevin Arnold