A quick preview of something I have been working on for a long time. If we were friends in the Myspace era, this will look familiar….
“Once you change your philosophy, you change your thought pattern. Once you change your thought pattern, you change your — your attitude. Once you change your attitude, it changes your behavior pattern and then you go on into some action. As long as you gotta sit-down philosophy, you’ll have a sit-down thought pattern, and as long as you think that old sit-down thought you’ll be in some kind of sit-down action. They’ll have you sitting in everywhere. It’s not so good to refer to what you’re going to do as a “sit-in.” That right there castrates you. Right there it brings you down. What — What goes with it? What — Think of the image of a someone sitting. An old woman can sit. An old man can sit. A chump can sit. A coward can sit. Anything can sit. Well you and I been sitting long enough, and it’s time today for us to start doing some standing, and some fighting to back that up.”
– Malcolm X
My friend Rob and I were traveling south on 6th Avenue, briskly moving away from our workplace, coffee in hand. The conversation had broadened from the menial workplace topics to the greater arc of our lives up until then. It had been quite a journey to where I was. Physically I had come full circle. Mentally I had traveled far away from where I started. The present leg of my life journey really started in the year 2002, but my youth defined the terms of my imprisonment until then. This roundabout route took me from New Jersey and eventually back to the city of New York (close enough to home, but with actual jobs). My journey was repeatedly marked with people telling me that I didn’t seem like I was from New Jersey.
Some people just don’t understand New Jersey in the geographical, or the metaphysical sense.
Being tightly wound is what the East Coast is all about, most especially my chosen stomping grounds of New York City and the state of New Jersey. Being tightly wound usually leads to outpourings of culture. Lethargic chilled-out stoners have rarely made interesting music, movies or literature. It’s the paranoid, high-strung drug addled-manifestos that have bent minds and inspired adrenaline rushes of fantasy. The tortured minds, if you will, have something to say. The contented go home and bathe their dogs and/or children.
For my money, I’ll take pissed-off political Ice Cube over family-oriented movie making Ice-Cube any day of the week. I would never disrespect the canon of O’Shea Jackson’s work, or the fact that he’s gotten to a place of comfort in his life that allows him to back off the gas for a bit and make things of greater entertainment value. It’s just that his family moves don’t make me want to rip the chair out from under me and throw it out the window like “When Will They Shoot’. Cube was a lot more tightly wound back in the day, and in my mind, far more culturally relevant. Laid back celebs in Bentleys may get all the attention, but they rarely make a difference.
There’s no place more ill-fitting for a tightly-wound malcontent than a New Jersey high school classroom. You can’t really go anywhere, can you? Unless you mean psychedelically, but even that I didn’t excurse on until my college years.
There’s a lot of unknowns, when a person is sitting in a Triginometry classroom, staring at posters of beautiful islands and wondering where they were in actual existence. The blue brick walls of the classroom were, in fact, as prison-like as the mentality of a lot of people in high school, inclusive of teachers and administrators. The perspective of administrators is adverse to the perspective of the malcontent – they are average people trying to pay their mortgages and raise their children. No matter how bullshit the administrative procedures, they’re generally not trying to fuck it up. The malcontent on the other hand, could care less, and would like to actively fuck that shit up for twenty three hours of the day and pass out in the gutter for the remaining sixty minutes.
On Friday nights, we’d stand outside in abandoned cul-de-sacs, the backbone of an expanding suburbia. At that point, there are no revolutionary ideas, because every idea seems revolutionary when lacking the depth of thought. You’d get a skewed perception of the world, the streets bathed in a the strange yellow of the towering street lamps and the fluorescence of a Seven Eleven interior at the end of the night reminds you that you can’t outrun the boredom, you can just run until your mind is so tired that it collapses on itself.
If the representation of teenage life in suburban New Jersey was a landscape portrait, it would be flat, with dulled colors, an overcast horizon and a lonesome farmhouse far off and to the left. If there was a glimmer of something different from my limited perspective, it was most definitely outside the frame, so much that you would have to take the painting and smash that frame to pieces so you could unfold the expanse of the canvas and actually see all there was to look at. Its part the place and part the mind that make the difference.
One refuge was the anger of modern music. I don’t know why I was angry but anger felt like something, where boredom felt like nothing at all, except maybe dying. The only problem with the misappropriation of any emotion is that you begin to apply it to the most irrational of situations. You don’t like me Cindy Hawkins? FUCK YOU!!!! I AM GOING TO DEDICATE THIS TOOL SONG TO YOU! I WILL TOTALLY NEVER TALK TO YOU AGAIN!!!
When you’re so pissed off about that sort of thing and you’ve become accustomed to being angsty, you tend to miss the good things that come your way, because love doesn’t feel good it FEELS LIKE ANGER!!!! ARRRGGHGHGHGGH!!!!!!
The only other honest refuge for me over the next few years would be a few good friends from school, but also a handful of older kids from my neighborhood who saw some good in me despite my tendency for self-pity and overall teenaged stupidity. For some reason, a group of three or four, inclusive of my older brother, would see me through those years and well into college with a lot of good times, and it was really the first experiences where, for whatever reason, I had some degree of unconventional acceptance, which may be the plight of the teenager in itself. Sitting in the back of a neighbor’s truck listening to Stone Temple Pilots for the first time and tearing down the strip of LBI with these people, the comfort and the freedom and fun were just all too much for any kid to deny. You could taste that ocean air and see the lights of Fantasy Island against the warm summer night, while not caring about a damn thing.
So at some point you’ll lie on your back at the beach and count the stars, and the immenseness of those moments are difficult to calculate with words and convey to a reader, even if that night sky could swoop down and swallow you whole, you might swim in it or maybe realize that no amount of psychedelics or greed or writing could ever replicate what you are feeling right there. But you’re probably not thinking that at all. You’re probably just stoked out of your fucking mind. The grains of sand will trail you on your way back to the house, your bare feet slapping on the pavement with a spare piece of gravel piercing the bottom of your feet every now and again. And you’ll probably go to sleep feeling like heaven or maybe like the waves that swept you up all day swimming in the ocean.
There was just no chance of me ever being a normal kid. I wanted to become one, in fact I thought I was a failure for a long time, trying to step into a shoe that didn’t fit. This exacerbated teenage angst into anger, as everyone else seemed to outgrow that shit and settle comfortably into the situations and areas that were hand-tailored for a white boy of my upbringing and social standing. God was having none of that shit for yours truly.