Considering the Prophecies of Nostradamus

I’ve always been fascinated by the notion of prophecy. It’s something that has stuck with me since my days in the church trying to understand the strange and unworldly images of the Book of Revelation. While I’m no longer fascinated by the timing of the Second Coming I’m still fascinated by prophecy itself.

This, naturally, means that I’ve been studying Nostradamus of late. While many of his predictive quatrains have been poured over and used to show that he predicted many of the key events of the last two hundred years, from Napolean to Hitler to 9/11, the library of Nostradamus quatrains remains vast and often ignored by the mainstream. I’ve decided to bring some of the more interesting predictions to light.

Quatrain 18-35

A game suspects the desperate origin.
A defined incompetent advises over an appalling defeated.
A generator speaks across a leader.
When can the eminent passenger stomach the mordant copper?

Let’s start with something near and dear to all of us right now. I believe that Nostradamus predicted the economic collapse of 2008. Let’s pull it all apart.

First, “a game suspects the desperate origin,” could very easily apply to Goldman Sachs and Wall Street investment bankers in general. They were playing games with everyone’s wealth and started a time of desperation for many. The “defined incompetent” could be any number of people who did stupid things, like Jaime Dimon of JP Morgan. The “appalling defeated” could easily refer to someone like Bernie Madoff.

I believe that the third and fourth lines then refer to either George W Bush or Barack Obama attempting to use the government to fix the problem. Possibly both. It’s very possible that “the eminent passenger” was the government as a whole having to suck it up and eat the “mordant copper” of the government bailout. It could also refer to the great bankers having to deal with a world where they suddenly had to answer to the government and deal with greater regulation.

Either way, it’s a chilling prediction of economic collapse.

Quatrain 14-8

Every variable disorder applies a miserable attribute.
How will the doctor invert the dinner?
The ingenious teacher guards the nurse.
The uneasy fantasy consents.

I think this has something to do with the Spanish Flu striking Europe in the middle of WWI. It’s a little unclear, but the “variable disorder” seems to indicate several different afflictions at once and there’s a lot of medical imagery. Plus I think that “the ingenious teacher” refers to Woodrow Wilson.  The fantasy could be that it was the “war to end all wars,” which Nostradamus would have known was impossible.

Quatrain 6-95

The ironic mumble tutors the day.
The configured machination bites beneath a swimming beloved.
The mummy retracts inside the device.
A manned orbital reaches.

My theory is that this quatrain predicts the machinery of modern warfare. The machination beneath a swimmer had something to do with submarines. I think that the final two lines about a mummy inside a device and an orbital reach also has something to do with the nuclear missiles current submarines have the ability to launch. It’s possible that this is prediction even points to the beginning of World War III and some sort of pre-emptive nuclear strike.

We should definitely be aware of the possibility.

Quatrain 24-73

The squared cult rots under each turnaround.
The booklet doubts the wrapper.
A fussy battle dictates.
A traveled reign hails the contempt.

I think this has something to do with the freemasons. Their symbol is the square and they’re considered to be a cult by many. The booklet doubting the wrapper probably has something to do with the American Revolution and/or the Constitutional Convention, wherein there were many pamphleteers fighting battles in the newspapers.

As such, I believe that this quatrain is a prediction that the Freemasons would be involved in the formation of the United States. It’s more than a little disturbing that the notion of the Freemasons would bring rot at the very beginning of the American experiment. Given that there’s ample proof that the Freemasons were involved and that most of the Founding Fathers were Freemasons it could be an indication that Nostradamus knew about America’s role in the New World Order.

Quatrain 17-32

Around the drug prosecutes a south hypocrisy.
The advance pauses within an inn.
The relevance speaks on top of the barred wrath.
The sacred oil strikes the wood.

This one fascinates me because it can be nothing other than a prediction of America’s War on Drugs. I mean, it starts out with “drug” and “prosecutes a south hypocrisy.” There’s plenty of hypocrisy inherent in the War on Drugs and they’re all coming from south of the border, after all.

I believe that the “sacred oil strikes the wood” has something to do with the Iran Contra Scandal, wherein we sold weapons to the Contras in Nicaragua and used the money, which was drug money, by the by, to get money to release hostages and further American oil interests in the Middle East.

———————

So I’m sure you’re expecting me to source these Nostradamus quatrains. They come from watchout4snakes.com. It’s a random phrase generator. Turns out that you can take absolute gibberish and read any meaning you want into it. I did change a few of the words around and took a couple out, but it was mostly to get rid of any words that seemed too modern.

Either way, it’s a fun game. You should play it some time, too.

In the Moment

I once had my cell phone stolen by Scott Lucas. That would be the Scott Lucas of Local H and Scott Lucas and the Married Men. It was April of 2010 and the H was at some shitty bar outside of Fort Worth and I was using my phone to track the setlist. In the middle of a song Scott took the phone out of my hand and put it into his pocket.

I got it back at the end of the show. I think I got lucky, too, as I’ve heard stories of him taking phones and throwing them across the room.

Scott Lucas and the Married Men only did one show in 2014: the annual Christmas show. I was there. I was in the front. I was taking pictures. At one point I watched Scott turn and look at me through the viewfinder and shake his head. I put my phone away. He nodded.

———————

One of the coolest things that ever happened to me was at a Peacemakers show at the High Noon Saloon in Madison, Wisconsin. I had my camera out and was standing right in front of Jim Dalton. I decided to record “Banditos” and, well, just watch.

You can skip to about 5:50 if you want. The cool thing happened at the very end. Up until that point it was just a regular performance of “Banditos” that I’ve heard hundreds of times before.

———————

I am writing this particular post on The Beast. It’s the first time I’ve used The Beast for much of anything since I replaced it with Ludwig in December of 2013. Why? Because Ludwig the Laptop currently has a corrupt OS. I’m waiting for the good folks at Microsoft to send me Windows 10 or however that works in the hopes that it will fix the problem without me having to take the drastic measure of wiping the hard drive and starting over from scratch.[1]

This means that for the last two weeks or so I have been without my main computer.

It’s also why I got a really good go at restarting the blog and then just kind of stopped. See, Ludwig is my main computer and basically has been for the last year and a half. Then there’s The Mothership, which is a home built gaming rig that lives in my office and is kind of a pain in the ass to get to since my office should be considered a Federal disaster site. Then there’s The Beast, which was my main computer for a long time and which I just don’t care to use now that I have Ludwig. It has its own onboard video card and is basically hot as fuck to run. This isn’t good in, y’know, a laptop. I put up with it for the better part of five years but I don’t feel like I have to now.

The upshot here is that for the last couple weeks I haven’t been spending much time on the computer unless it’s intentional. Most of that time has been on The Mothership, which isn’t a good writing machine. That has meant, though, that if I’m on my computer I’m on my computer. If I’m watching TV I’m watching TV. If I’m doing something else I’m doing that other thing.

For the longest time it’s been doing that thing with the computer in front of me or being on the computer with the TV on or whatever. It’s been nice to break myself of that habit, at least for a little while.

———————–

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed yourself doing this. I find that from time to time I’m watching TV with my laptop open in front of me and using my smartphone to look something up. What the fuck is up with that? It’s disgusting.

———————–

The night Scott Lucas took my phone I couldn’t believe he’d do such a thing. I was only a few months removed from that night at the High Noon Saloon where Jim Dalton finished “Banditos” with his guitar front and center in my camera lens and thought that having a record of everything that happened at a concert was the greatest thing ever.

Now, five years later, I’ve realized that Scott was right. You can’t experience something and record it at the same time. You can’t split your focus that way and still be in the moment.

I guess there’s no real lesson here. There’s no profound realization. There’s just a moment. You can be in that moment or you can be out of that moment.

It’s like old family vacations. My dad always had some itinerary in mind so if the rest of the family was faffing about somewhere he’d say, “Take a picture, you can look at it later.”

Looking at the picture later is a pale imitation of being there in the moment.

Besides, how often does anyone actually pull out old photo albums or pop open their picture folder or go to their YouTube channel to watch old videos? I know that I have a lot of pictures I never look at and videos I never re-watch.

It’s better to be in the moment and to be able to say, “I was there.”

————————–

Also, yeah, blogging will return shortly, hopefully. I didn’t just give up again, as is my wont. My laptop gave up on me. The thing is that this time around I finally feel like I have something to say that might actually be important. I haven’t always been there.

————————–

[1]The good news is that I haven’t lost anything. Probably 75% of what was on Ludwig was on either the Mothership, the Beast, or both already. The whole corrupt OS thing wasn’t a fatal crash, so I was able to start Ludwig up in safe mode and hook it up to my trusty 750G Western Digital MyBook and move everything over. So if worst comes to worst I can do a wipe and start over and only have it cost me time. It’s just that since Win10 releases this week if I can just get that installed it should overwrite the current OS and replace whatever is corrupted without having to reload everything and that would be swell.

Nightwind Wednesdays, Chapters 3 and 4

[Author’s Note: This is a novel I wrote about fifteen years ago. It was my first attempt at writing anything longer than a history paper or short story. I’ll be putting it on here on Wednesdays and probably posting my thoughts about it on Thursdays. The Intro is here and Chapters 1 and 2 are here. As is my custom there will be a Thursday post discussing the lessons I have learned.]

Chapter 3

Earth Command Shipyards, Venus Orbit
May 18th, 2356, Terran Standard Calendar
1022, Terran Standard Time

The shuttle dove toward the small speck off in the distance. As it slowly took the form of a ship, David allowed himself to grow more and more excited. He knew the ship before him was his ship, the Nightwind. The most powerful ship humanity had ever produced was rising to meet him. And it was his. All his.

Gradually the ship grew large enough to allow David to make out its details, first elongating, then widening out. As it grew he realized just how little help the pictures and schematics the Admiral had shown him were. Diametrically opposite to the appearance of the squat, blunt ECS Phoenix, the Nightwind possessed an organic grace singularly lacking in other Earth Command ships. From a sharp point the bow spread out in an arrowhead shape. Halfway up the bow a round lump jutted out, a small bulge in the smooth, windowless expanse of metal, slightly mottled from the outer anti-radiation coating. Behind the arrowhead two spars connected the bow to the after section, a smooth, elliptical structure over twice as long as the arrowhead. The aft section, according to his schematic, contained much of the ship’s storage space and the engineering section. Smoothly tapering into a point at the very end, the ellipse almost gave the impression of a giant, elongated teardrop. Four tails spread out from the tapered end at ninety-degree angles. At the ends of the tails the engines sat at idle, waiting to launch the ship across the night.

The shuttle swept past the bow section before performing a fly over of the engineering section and turning around. It headed back in towards the bow section and the small craft bay between the spars at the back of the arrowhead. It was here that the ship’s sheer size finally hit David.
Nearly a kilometer in length and massing nearly three quarters of a million metric tons the ship was four times the size of his old ship, the ECS Phoenix. Only the huge colony ships: Jove and, until recently, Winged Messenger were larger.

Rotating to face back out toward space, the shuttle gently touched down in the large, uniformly grey shuttle bay. A blast door at the back of the bay opened and two lines of sailors filed out to form an honor guard. Three officers strode down the line, coming to a stop at the rear of the small craft. The ramp dropped and David stepped out.

“Captain on deck!” a petty officer yelled. The sailors in the bay saluted as one.

David returned the salute and looked at the officer. “Permission to come aboard?”

“Permission granted, Sir!”

David then turned to the middle officer in the group of three before him. The muscular, brown haired officer saluted him. “Commander Walter
Gregory, Sir. Acting commander of ECS Nightwind, prepared to turn over command.”

“Consider command transferred, Mr. Gregory. I’m Captain David Anderson.”

“It’s a pleasure, Sir. This is Lieutenant Commander Sara Jackson, head engineer,” he said, gesturing to the petite brunette on his left, “And this is Lieutenant Commander Mark Templeton, head Ops officer,” he pointed to the stocky, ebon-skinned man on his right.

David saluted each in turn. He turned back to his Executive Officer. “Is everything ready to go, Commander?”

“The Marine contingent boarded yesterday. The fighter squadrons joined up about an hour ago,” Gregory responded. “We are fully crewed, fully armed and fully supplied. Nightwind is ready for your orders, Sir.”

“Let’s head for the bridge then, Commander,” David said, gesturing towards the door. “I will have to save the tour for later.”

The Commander led the other three officers out of the bay and into a lift. As the small group rode up to the bridge, David noticed something. He turned to Gregory with a quizzical look. “Commander, are we moving yet?”

His XO smiled. “No, Sir.”

“So then how is there gravity?”

“One of the alien technologies in this ship is a gravity generating system, Sir,” Lieutenant Commander Jackson volunteered, “We now have the ability to create a mobile system that can handle any size vessel. Nightwind is, of course, the first to use it.”

“Of course,” David nodded in appreciation. “That should make life easier.”

“It also allows us to travel faster, assuming it works,” the woman added. “There are still a few bugs to work out in the system.”

“What do you mean ‘travel faster.'”

“The gravitational system compensates for the effects of acceleration on the ship. Now, not only do we not need to accelerate to simulate gravity, but if we are are going at, say, three g’s we won’t even notice. Again, though, it may not be perfect.”

“From what the Admiral told me, Lieutenant Commander,” David tapped on the wall, “I’m surprised you have all the wiring covered up.”

“We’ve been working nonstop to prepare for your arrival, Sir.”

The lift door opened, revealing an empty corridor. At the far end another door led to the ship’s bridge. David paused as he entered, unsure of what to make of the room. He turned to Gregory, “Are you sure this is the right place?”

“Been up here hundreds of times, Captain,” the XO responded, offering a knowing smile. “We figured that with a new ship we would need to create a new way of doing things.”

The group stood at the back of a smooth, oval-shaped room colored in a simple shade of gunmetal. About twenty meters long, six wide and four or five high, it seemed like an over-sized, spartan room. Against all design convention, less than half the floor space appeared to hold anything useful. A raised platform stood in the center of the room, surrounded by a huddle of consoles. The area outside the consoles was flat and uniformly gray. David walked up to the edge of the platform and mounted the two steps. Gregory followed, offering the Captain a rundown of the setup.

“These,” the Commander put his hands on the back of the chairs in the center of the dias, “Are our chairs.”

“I’d gathered,” David turned around slowly, deciding that being in the middle of the room didn’t take away the appearance of wasted space. A navigation console at the leading edge of the dias faced what he supposed was the front. Two more, apparently belonging to the engineering and tactical operations officers, defined the equator of the platform, both facing in toward the captain’s chair. A communications console rounded out the equipment. The room’s only other features were a pair of doors, the one he entered through and a second, labeled “Captain’s Office.”

“So what is this?” David asked after a moment, “Some sort of joke?”

Templeton laughed. He stood at the tactical operations console, running his hands over the controls. “If you’ll allow me a brief demonstration, Sir.”

“By all means.”

“This,” the Lieutenant Commander said, “Is standard running mode.” The forward section of the room’s wall became a viewscreen displaying the familiar star field of the Solar System at Templeton’s command. “We use it for navigation and it’s a visual communications screen.” The screen switched, replaced by a yellow grid pattern. “It’s also the tactical screen.”

Gregory nodded at the Ops commander. “Go to Combat Mode.” He turned to the Captain. “I’d hold on to something if I were you, Sir.”

The tactical overlay disappeared and once again became an outside view. This time, however, the rest of the room joined in. David suddenly found himself standing in empty space. Stars surrounded him, the walls, the ceiling, even beneath his feet. His knees buckled as a sudden sense of vertigo descended.

“Told you to hold on,” Gregory said, steadying the Captain.

“Nightwind is designed to fight enemies in all directions,” Templeton explained, “And to eventually be the centerpiece of entire fleets.”

“And you did all this in two years?” David asked.

“Well, no, actually,” Gregory responded, “Many of the components on the ship were put on the drawing board almost two decades ago. Nothing could be done until the engines were available, however.”

Now more amazed with the bridge than disappointed, David spun slowly in place. “Is everyone aboard who should be aboard, Commander Gregory?” he asked the new Executive Officer.

“Yes, Sir,” he nodded, “Full crew of five hundred and twenty is aboard, and all families reported yesterday.”

“Excellent. We’ll leave…” David stopped, furrowing his brow in confusion. “Commander, did I just hear you say ‘families?'”

“Yes, Sir. Many of the crew have families aboard.”

Angry that no one had informed him there would be civilians on board, David rounded on his new Executive Officer. “Doesn’t anyone realize this is a warship, Commander?”

“It was decided early on, Sir” Walter responded defensively, “Due to the type of ship Nightwind is she might be away from Earth for months or years at a time. So space was made for the families of the crew.”

“I wish Admiral Belden had briefed me on this. This is no place for families.”

The Commander sighed. “You mean nobody told you about this, Sir?”

“That’s what I’m trying to say.”

“Ensign Lindros,” Gregory turned toward the comm officer, “Get in contact with Admiral Belden so we can work this out.”

“No,” David ordered. “Cancel that. We need to get going. This can wait until we get back.”

“Aye, Sir,” Gregory agreed.

“Helm, are we ready to go?”

“Yes, Sir,” the young Lieutenant at the console responded.

“Excellent. Bring us about on course for Tethys,” David said. “Mr. Templeton, please put the viewscreen back on running mode.” He then turned toward the engineering station. “Lieutenant Commander Jackson, is the conduit drive ready to go?”

“Ye…yes Sir. It’s on spec, Sir,” she responded from his left.

“You seem hesitant.”

“Well, Sir, the Conduit Drive has never actually been used.”

“You’ve at least tested it, then?”

“No, Sir. We haven’t had time.”

“Great,” David sighed. “Just great.”

“Sir,” came the voice of the lieutenant at the navigation console. “Course is laid in for Tethys.”

“Well, no time better than now to find out if the drive works. Are you ready, Lieutenant?”

“Ready, Sir.”

“Let’s go.”

Chapter 4

Geneva, Switzerland
May 18th, 2356 Terran Standard Calendar
1045, Terran Standard Time

Robert Laird stood at the window of the hotel penthouse he had turned into his base of operations, his attention focused on the commotion in the street below. He smiled.

Everything was going according to plan.

Three days earlier — at an Earth Now-organized protest — a rock had been thrown at a sergeant of the 5th Mechanized Battalion as the unit stood guard around the Earth Command Headquarters on Oahu. The unit commander, unsure of how to properly react, had taken the worst possible course of action, ordering his unit to apprehend the rock thrower. Heavily armed soldiers pushing through a crowd caused a panic and three people were trampled to death in the ensuing stampede. The rock thrower was not caught.

Early the next morning the protest began again, but this time most of the crowd had rocks. Several also carried the ages-old weapon of civil unrest known as the Molotov Cocktail. Basically a glass bottle filled with a mixture of gasoline and soap with a gasoline-soaked rag stuck into the open neck, it was not so much a weapon of war as a terror device. All the user needed to do was light the rag on fire and throw it in the general direction of something that needed to be set on fire. The bottle would explode on impact, creating a firestorm that probably had a much greater psychological impact than anything else.

The 5th Mechanized had very little choice of how to react. They opened fire on the crowd, killing twenty protesters and injuring many times that number. Four more people were killed and another twenty required hospitalization after the ensuing rush to escape the guns.

Shocked and outraged, people all over the world poured into the streets protesting the United Commonwealth’s actions. Order was already breaking down. No one in authority understood how to properly deal with civil unrest, as the commander of the 5th Mechanized had amply proven. The army was composed of play soldiers who had never had to fight for real or kill anyone. The police were fat, lazy bureaucrats who pushed papers back and forth across their desks, mostly keeping track of the complete lack of crime in the prosperous Commonwealth.

No, they were not going to be able to stop him. They were soft and content. He was hard, angry, hungry with a hunger that would not be satisfied until he had his revenge.

He was, without a doubt, the proverbial right man in the right place. For those who paid attention to history it was obvious the United Commonwealth was slowly falling apart. After the explosion in productivity and huge advancements in living conditions the all over the world that occurred over the Commonwealth’s first century things had slowly begun to unravel. At first it seemed like the world was simply trying out a new way of bringing the nations together to discuss issues and prevent war. Frightened at the potential for mutual destruction if the War of 2043-2044 was allowed to progress, no one raised a voice against the change. As the quality of living steadily increased the new organization’s power grew until the world’s militaries combined and nations lost all vestiges of autonomy.

By the end of the Twenty-Second Century dissident voices were clamoring for attention. At first it was easily ignored, passed off as the complaints of people who did not understand the issues. Nationalistic movements slowly emerged, gaining power and momentum over the course of the Twenty-Third Century. Regional conflicts broke out, only to be quashed by the Commonwealth. At the beginning of the Twenty-Fourth Century terrorism reared its ugly head. A wave of attacks nearly brought the Commonwealth to a halt and threatened to ignite all-out war.

The government’s response was heavy handed. Large-scale assaults on suspected strongholds, secret tribunals and government cover-ups became commonplace. Far from helping the situation, the response revealed the Commonwealth’s weaknesses. Poor contingency planning and an undermanned, untried Army seemed to guarantee future unrest.

With the elections of 2325 a liberal government came to power. Several of the old nations were restored to positions of prominence and regional governments received greater levels of control. On the surface the Commonwealth seemed to calm down and become a big, happy family once again.
Some people knew better. Some knew the truth. He knew the truth. Drawing together the Earth Now movement as a front, Laird created a network of like-minded people. His supporters all agreed with him that the United Commonwealth was nothing but a teetering anachronism. Before he had arrived, though, none had been sure of what to do about it.

Most had actually feared the results of the breakdown of the Commonwealth. They were sheep, scared of what would happen if the shepherd was killed. Because of his efforts, though, Laird had turned them into wolves. Now that order was breaking down, his wolves would tear apart the real sheep.

Even though news of the Winged Messenger’s destruction came at the wrong time for him, it didn’t really matter too much. Public outcry after an incident like that would have been enough to bring the United Commonwealth to its knees on its own.

He was simply in the right place to make sure it stayed there.

No one would have expected the actions he took over the past few days. His parents, from what little he knew, were loyal Commonwealth supporters. They died when he was two, caught in the middle of one of the myriad conflicts between the Commonwealth and its smaller enemies.
His aunt and uncle had taken him in and raised him in a succession of neo-Luddite communes. The NeoLuds believed that technology was robbing humanity of everything good and important and attempted to get back to an older, simpler lifestyle. Communes sprang up in Australia, Argentina, South Africa and England, the spiritual home of the movement. By the time Robert was taken to live with his aunt and uncle the NeoLud movement boasted over half a million members.

The United Commonwealth basically ignored the group, believing it to be a harmless fad. Its members enjoyed almost unprecedented freedom, moving from place to place without having to register or even provide papers. Robert would come to see it as a breeding ground for dissent and the perfect place to recruit an army, but as a teenager he simply saw it as a backward, hopelessly useless collection of dreamers and idealists.
At sixteen he joined the Earth Command Navy, providing forged papers to show he was eighteen. For five years he worked his way through the noncommissioned ranks, but lacked the connections and resources to gain a higher rank than Chief Petty Officer. Then came Tethys.

Tethys was a moon of Saturn. Odysseus Basin, the Commonwealth research facility which was the farthest insystem settlement from Earth, suffered food shortages and famines on a fairly regular cycle. No one could explain them or predict them exactly, but once the warning signs showed a convoy was assembled and dispatched. Laird was assigned to one such convoy at the head of a Marine security detachment. As his ship docked with the station a mob surged into the cargo bay and pressed against the door, desperate for the new shipment of foodstuffs. The military governor of Odysseus Basin ordered his detachment to open fire on the crowd. It soon dispersed, leaving five dead and twelve wounded Tethians lying on the deck.

Laird was given a promotion to Lieutenant, with the understanding that his new rank was in exchange for his silence. Six months later he had a nervous breakdown and took a furlough. He returned to the NeoLud commune in Argentina and used his leave of absence to create his master plan for destroying the United Commonwealth. Within three months he had met with most of the leaders of the NeoLuds, as well as recruiting several like-minded military officers. Upon returning to the Navy he was assigned to train to take command of one of the patrol ships and promptly began working on a plan to make use of a warship.

A few years later he was promoted to Captain. Shortly afterwards he befriended the head of Mars Command and learned the Martians were unhappy with the United Commonwealth’s heavy-handed tactics. He immediately attempted to commandeer his patrol ship and take it to Mars.

His officers had not understood the importance of his mission. A cadre of mutineers conspired to stop him and nothing he did convinced them that he was doing the right thing. He was arrested and given over to the United Commonwealth for a court martial and eventual execution. On his way to the tribunal he escaped and returned to the anonymity of the NeoLud society for long enough to change his physical appearance and rally the Earth Now movement. Taking the destruction of the Winged Messenger as a portent for the fall of the United Commonwealth, he had struck fast.

He was already winning his war, as the scene below amply proved.

Laird turned from the window as the door behind him opened. A short, blonde man of about twenty-five entered the room carrying a folder. Twisted and cruel, he was a perfect fit to his role as a member of the small section of Earth Now to which its leader had entrusted his true goals.

“I used to think the neo-Luddites were weak and useless. I held the entire movement in contempt,” Laird said, surveying the destruction. “Then came Brisbane. Then Buenos Aires. Then Liverpool. Now we’re in Geneva and they again show their worth.”

“What do you mean?” the other man asked.

“They were never more than idealists,” Laird smiled. “Trying to change the world with peaceful means. They thought the Commonwealth would listen to their message and change. It wasn’t until nearly ten thousand died in Brisbane at the hand of the Army’s darling, General Schroeder, that they developed a backbone.” He paused. “But I suppose you didn’t come here receive a history lesson.”

The other man nodded. “We have received three communications, Mr. Laird,” he reported, voice barely above a whisper.

“All good news, I hope.”

The other man offered a smile frightening enough to make small children cry. “Yes, Mr. Laird. Very good news.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“First, the Captain of the Wyvern has informed us that Captain Turner of Dragon, Captain Hunt of the Zephyr and Captain Anderson of the Phoenix have been reassigned. Their executive officers have been given temporary command of the ships.”

“That is good news,” Laird responded, mulling the implications of such a drastic change in the command structure of the Navy.
Wyvern was a big part of his plan. Her captain was one of his old friends from his time in the Navy and had been easy to sway to the cause. Still, that had left him with three out of the four patrol ships as opponents. The Executive Officer of the Dragon was on his payroll and when the time came to take overt action Laird had considered using that asset to take Dragon out of the fight. This new development made that unnecessary. He now had, for all intents and purposes, a Navy to equal Earth Command’s. The Zephyr and Phoenix were still problems. He had been incapable of planting an agent on either ship, and he knew neither commander would give up their loyalties easily. Commander Horatio Semmes of the Phoenix would be an especially big problem, maybe bigger than his old Captain, David Anderson.

“Any word as to where the Captains have been reassigned?” he inquired, doubting it would be anywhere they could do more damage than at the helms of their ships.

“No, Mr. Laird,” the agent shook his head. “There are rumors of a big secret project, but no one knows what or where it is.”

“Very well. What’s next?”

“The 4th Mechanized Battalion has achieved their objective. Operations will go off ahead of schedule.”

“Excellent. What else?”

“Mr. Koff has reported that the package is on its way. You may take delivery at any time.”

Laird offered the agent one of his wolfish grins. “You’ve just made my day. Tell everyone to pack up. It’s time to move to our new headquarters.”

“Yes, Mr. Laird.”

“Oh, and send a message to all of our operatives. It’s time to begin the next phase.”

The other man nodded once, then walked out of the room. Laird couldn’t help but raise a fist in celebration. His victory was almost guaranteed.

On Manliess

I discovered several of my favorite bands back around 2004 when I was first discovering the power of Pandora. I also discovered some utterly terrible bands, but that’s beside the point. This post isn’t about Pandora and the way its supposedly scientific formulas of music likeage don’t really make any sense.[1] The three bands from those early days of Pandora that still stand out in my mind are The Saw Doctors, Lost Immigrants, and Matt Nathanson.[2]

That’s actually kind of a murders row right there. I love all three to this day and they’re all right up there in the clump of favorite musical acts behind the holy trinity of Soundgarden, Local H, and Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers.[3] If nothing else I will love Pandora forever for those additions.

Nathanson is kind of the odd man out of that group, though. The Saw Doctors are an Irish rock band. The Lost Immigrants are Texas Country. Matt Nathanson is a sensitive singer-songwriter with a propensity for a 12-string guitar who first hit the national consciousness because his songs appeared on shows on the WB.[4]

This, somehow, marked Matt Nathanson as making what could best be described as “girl music.” “Girl music,” of course, is a terrible thing to listen to if you’re a boy and/or you don’t want guys to mock you for listening to “girl music.” This had the potential of creating huge problems for me and I didn’t even know it until it was too late.

See, I discovered the music of Matt Nathanson in a relative vacuum. Pandora just threw his music at me all willy-nilly because I had some station with songs that were somehow related to his songs through the magic of their silly little music metrics. So when I first encountered Matt Nathanson is was not as a guy who wrote songs that would one day be featured on The WB’s Tuesday Night Teen Girl Block (featuring Blake Lively, three other girls who aren’t as attractive as Blake Lively but still hotter than, like, 99% of everyone you know in real life, and two boys who look good with their shirts off, one of whom is the sensitive guy and the other one who’s actually probably a sociopath. Both of them are vying for Blake Lively’s heart). I was, instead, being introduced to Matt Nathanson as a guy who writes really fucking good songs.

I have, in fact, connected to few albums like I have connected to Nathanson’s Beneath These Fireworks. See, not long after I met Amy I went to a party she was hosting and we ended up doing one of those “sit in the basement and talk until the sun came up” things that you read about in books and shit. I drove home with the sun rising in my rear-view mirror and Beneath These Fireworks playing on my car’s CD player. I couldn’t listen to that album for years after the whole Amy thing ended.[5]

And so but anyway, fast forward to late 2011 or early 2012. I’d been back in Chicago for a few months and when I first moved back I spent every Tuesday night (give or take) at bar trivia. One night I ended up on a team with a friend of mine and this seriously attractive redhead and her friend. My friend also found the redhead seriously attractive. Because she was. Like, seriously. Either way, at one point during the night a Matt Nathanson song came on and I was all, “Yeah, Matt Nathanson!” Turned out that the redhead and her friend were huge Matt Nathanson fan and that we had all, in fact, been at the same Matt Nathanson show at the Riviera when he came through in the recent past.

So we were all there bonding over Matt Nathanson. My friend, meanwhile, was sitting next to me and making fun of me for being a fan of Matt Nathanson. Because Matt Nathanson writes girl music. At the end of the night I said something to the effect of, “Hey, you know the hot redhead? I was talking to her. You were just talking to me.”

Nothing ever came of that (obviously). There’s no happily ever after from that. There’s also no, “And now she’s tied up in my basement and every night I conduct experiments designed to find out once and for all whether or not gingers really have souls,” either. It’s just a story about a random event. But it’s a story about a lesson learned at a random event and I think that the lesson and the attached story are pretty significant.

————————

Most guys spend large chunks of their lives trying to figure out how to impress girls. Most guys also spend large chunks of their lives trying to make sure everyone else knows they’re manly as fuck. These two goals are mutually exclusive. I’m pretty sure that this simple fact goes over the heads of a lot of guys.

There’s no doubt in my mind that, yes, some women are going to go for the guy who’s all manly and shit. Some people are superficial and stupid and don’t understand how they’ve been conditioned by social queues. So the guy with the muscles or the guy with the expensive car or the guy with the impressive sounding title will get the attention of some non-zero subset of the female population. This is inevitable. It’s also completely and totally unimportant.

Most of us are average in most ways. Take whatever metric you want: wealth, status, attractiveness, intelligence, whatever. Most people are, on balance, average. Say you’re really attractive but also pretty dumb. You average out to, well, average. Say you’re really smart, but you’ve poured your intelligence into your passion and that passion has left you in a place where you’re just barely above the poverty line. You’re probably pretty average on balance. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s an exceptional person who is attractive, smart, rich, and highly regarded. There’s a reason why the rest of us hate those fuckers. There’s also a reason why the rest of us secretly fantasize about getting the attention of someone like that.[6]

This is where a lot of guys fall flat on their face. We tend to believe that the guy who proves he’s the best gets the girl. So we turn the girl into an object to be won and fight amongst ourselves for the right to be the guy.

Meanwhile, one of the metrics that guys use to prove they’re the best is what I’m going to call the manliness metric. Manliness is best described as the absence of girliness.[7] Girliness, meanwhile, is best described as a combination of physical weakness and liking things that girls like.

Then, once the guy gets into the relationship with the girl, he spends most of his time complaining. Why? Because he’s getting dragged to all the things she wants to do. So he goes to his buddies and bitches about it and his buddies mock him for being whipped.

I will be the first to admit that I know fuck-all about relationships, but it seems to me that there’s a simple solution to this problem. Look for someone who likes at least some of the same things you do. This is another place where most guys fall flat on their faces, too, though. They assume it means they need to meet a girl who likes guy stuff. The solution is so much easier: stop making a distinction between girl stuff and guy stuff.

See, there’s a huge double standard here. A girl who likes baseball is regarded as being cool because baseball is sports and sports is a guy thing.[8] A guy who likes ballet is regarded as being gay because ballet is a girl thing. But a guy who goes to see a ballet because his girl likes ballet and he’ll probably get laid is okay because getting laid is just great.

I’m not gonna lie. It was hard to write that last paragraph because it’s difficult to type while you’re rolling your eyes as hard as you fucking can. We all know this is how it works. It also looks really fucking stupid when you put it out in black and white like that.

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I thought I had a larger point when I started this. The more I wrote the less profound it seemed. I mean, how hard is it to realize that we’re all diminished by distinguishing between “guy” things and “girl” things? If your goal is to find a mate then at some point you should realize that finding someone with whom you have things in common is super useful.

So let’s say you’re a guy who likes Matt Nathanson and baseball. Maybe you’ll meet a girl at a Matt Nathanson concert and then find out she’d really like to go to a baseball game with you. Seems to me that’s a win-win.

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[1]Music is so entirely subjective and the explanation of why I might like one song and dislike another can’t really be broken down scientifically. I mean, sometimes you like one song and dislike another for completely bizarre reasons. For instance, one of my least favorite U2 songs is “Where the Streets Have No Name.” One of my favorite U2 songs is “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for.” Why? Damned if I know.

Another example: I constantly make fun of Coldplay. In fact, if you enter “coldplay sucks” in the Google machine you’ll find a post I put up on my previous Typepad blog still in the top 5 Google searches. I am extremely proud of that. Yet I like Bastille (kinda, like, they’ll never be my favorite) and have been known to describe Bastille as “Coldplay with balls.”

Sometimes it comes down to, “These bands sound pretty much exactly alike, but the lead singer of the second band sucks ass.” Sometimes it’s, “This is the song that was playing when I met my ex-wife. Fuck this song.” What I’m saying is that music is too attached to the subjective to ever be objectively quantified. Which is half the fun of Pandora, really.

[2]Really, Pandora has had less of an impact on my music listening habits than I thought. Going through my current active collection only adds about half a dozen: Randy Rogers Band, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Reckless Kelly, Manic Street Preachers, Florence + the Machine (probably?), The Donnas, and The Dollyrots. The first three are obviously from my Texas Country phase, from which the Lost Immigrants and Wheeler Brothers are really the only bands still getting regular play (in that I consider Sons of Bill and American Aquarium loosely part of the same genre but they ain’t from Texas and I can split a damned hair like a goddamn pro). The Manics, Florence, and Donnas get regular play, but only The Dollyrots really have a chance to be considered one of my favorite bands any time soon.

[3]Which is really better defined as “Chris Cornell, Scott Lucas, and Roger Clyne,” as my appreciation for Cornell’s and Lucas’s side projects/solo work are on par with my appreciation for their main bands and The Peacemakers are really just a continuation of the Refreshments. In fact, if you consider that Clyne and PH Naffah were in the Refreshments together, then started RCPM with Scott Johnson, Steve Larson, and Danny White, then Johnson left, then White left and was replaced with Nick Scropos, then Larson left and was replaced with Jim Dalton you could think of the Peacemakers as just a continuation of The Refreshments based on the fact that bands do shit like that all the time because musicians find new projects or have kids and have to stop spending 363 days of the year on the road or whatever. Then add to that the fact that the Peacemakers play a lot of Refreshments songs during their shows…

[4]At least, as far as I can tell. Sometime after Some Mad Hope came out he was suddenly everywhere and I associate that with changing channels to watch a TV show that came on after the sort of show that teenage girls watch that finished off with, “tonight’s soundtrack included…” Also one of his songs was on Scrubs. And, yes, I tracked that shit down. It was “Little Victories” and it was on the season 7 episode “My Dumb Luck,” which is kinda funny because that’s a song from 2003 that got on a show in 2008 after songs from 2007’s Some Mad Hope were everywhere.

Do you care? No. No you don’t. Fuck you.

[5]This has a genuinely hilarious (to me, fuck you if you don’t like it) postscript. There’s a bit of crowd banter on the “Princess” track on At the Point about how he’d written an entire album about a girl who sucked. By the time At the Point came out he had a bunch of indie albums under his belt, so I assumed it was one of those. A few years ago I started watching Matt Nathanson videos on YouTube from time to time and finally realized the album about the girl who sucked was none other than Beneath These Fireworks.

[6]I assume this is, like, 95% of the initial appeal of Fifty Shades of Gray.

[7]Microsoft Word recognizes “manliness” as a word but not “girliness.” I’m not sure if this supports my point or not, but I figured I’d throw it out there.

[8]But, of course, girl sports aren’t cool because, um, fuck the WNBA for not being the NBA, I guess? Except we can all agree that when girls play beach volleyball that’s hot and that some of those figure skaters are pretty hot in their little leotards, too. And we’re all super psyched that the USA women’s team won the World Cup, I guess.

Friday Music Time – Covers A Go-Go!

I have several half-formed brain farts but nothing that’s actually ready to go, so let’s do one of those Friday music things.

To start, something truly awesome.

The thing about Scott Lucas and covers is this: he understands that the fundamental awesomeness of a cover comes from taking a song that someone else wrote and making that song unequivocally yours. This is equally true for a great song by Peter freaking Gabriel or a terrible song by someone terrible. Case in point:

I despise Lorde. I mean, I have nothing against Lorde personally that I know of. It’s just that Lorde’s actual music makes me want to drive a railroad spike through my skull. Local H’s cover of “Team,” though, is awesome. It’s just pure awesome.

So the whole AV Club covers series is kinda awesome if you keep following the rabbit hole. For instance, here’s further proof that Reggie Watts is a fucking genius.

Like, this takes my theory about Scott Lucas covers being great because he makes the song his own and makes it look like Scott Lucas just does straight covers. Let’s do another one!

Okay, I guess that’s not technically a cover. It’s a parody. Whatever. The point is that Radiohead sucks but Reggie Watts doing random shit while making fun of Radiohead is awesome. Because life’s weird, amirite?

Speaking of weird, how about Shania Twain covering AC/DC?

So the thing I noticed right off the bat is that, holy shit, that’s terrible. Like, I didn’t know it was possible to listen to a cover of a song I hate and think, “Wow, way to ruin that song!” But it just happened. It. Just. Happened. Like, it’s bad and she PG-ified a song about fuckin’. Just awful.

Let’s move on to something else, quick-like. Maybe Matt Nathanson can save the day.

Ah, that’s better.

And since I had no idea where I was going with this after the Local H, here’s Letters to Cleo covering Cheap Trick.

This, for some reason, reminds me of Chvrches covering The Arctic Monkeys. It’s good.

And that gets us, apparently, to Bastille covering Miley Cyrus.

Full disclosure, I assume this is better than the original. I have managed to make it through my entire life without ever hearing a Miley Cyrus, at least to the best of my knowledge. And there’s a hilarious tag in the middle, so that makes everything better.

And we’re just gonna stop right here, especially because this has not had an effect on YouTube’s insistence that I really want to watch Kacey Musgraves videos. I don’t, YouTube. I really, really don’t.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye

I shut down all of my dating profiles and whatnot earlier this year. I’d had some sort of internet dating presence active since some time in 2008 and have been willing to admit it since 2010-ish. I actually started with Yahoo Dating but have tried all of the big ones: OkCupid, Match, PoF, and a month on eHarmony that caused me to absolutely hate that service.[1] I’ve had a love/hate relationship with those services that’s been about a 10/90 percent split throughout. Even so, I’ve tended to have at least one (OkCupid, really) active at all times since completely deactivating all such activity seemed tantamount to admitting defeat.

Well, “admitting defeat” might be too strong of a concept. I’ve been referring to it as “retiring.” That’s also a bit too strong, kind of like “retiring” from my basketball career in junior high because I wasn’t good enough to make the school team and they didn’t have park district basketball for my age group anymore.

If you’ll indulge I’d like to offer a snapshot of my dating life.

Birth to 18 years: bupkis.

The summer after I graduated high school I started dating Ashley. It lasted nine months or so and ended when I found out she’d cheated on me. This didn’t actually completely destroy me, since it gave me a damn good reason to break up with her.

Six years later I met Amy.[2] That was three months of something approaching bliss followed by a year and a half of misery. She didn’t see any future but lacked the ability to tell me to fuck off for whatever reason. I kept thinking that meant I could come up with the right combination of things to say or do to make happily ever after happen. I also alternated with wondering when to call the whole thing off. For the record, the answer in that particular case was, “The minute I started asking the question.”

After the Amy thing ended I found myself at a crossroads. I had left the church and graduated from college. That made meeting women difficult at best. Internet dating seemed like a decent stopgap solution to the problem. For the next three years I went on maybe 4 dates a year. None of those were second dates. Fun fact: all of my dates in Texas were awful. If you’re single and in Dallas just give up.

I decided to try Match over my one Christmas in Texas. I signed up for their 6 month package with a free six months if you didn’t meet anyone (spoiler alert!). In June of that year as I was gearing up to move back to Chicago I switched that profile over to say I was moving back from Texas and almost immediately started exchanging emails with Megan. I think that one lasted all of three or four dates, plus one thing where we decided to hang out for reasons that may or may not involved me being a giant dumb shit who had not learned anything from the past. She basically decided that everything was going to be rainbows and sunshine for us before the first time we ever met. I was being cautious, as is my wont, so when it occurred to me that she started telling me how I was supposed to act on our first date I was not impressed. We tried communicating a few times afterwards and it always immediately devolved into her telling me we were perfect for each other while I was being busy trying to figure out who it was she’d met and why she didn’t just go off and date that guy because he obviously wasn’t me.[3]

This was followed by a string of first dates with no second. Of those there was only one where I’m all, “Yeah, too bad nothing came of that.”

Then in February or March of 2013 I met someone at a party. I immediately knew it was a bad idea but since I’m not given to actually follow through on bad ideas and I was bored I thought, “Eh, what’s the worst that could happen?” What happened was a series of phone calls where it became increasingly obvious to me that we had absolutely nothing in common and one terrible date wherein she picked several fights with me and repeatedly fucked with my radio, which is just not done. Also, she kept switching to this weird baby talk voice. I was a combination of baffled and annoyed by that one. Several months later I was reading some stupid internet listicle of the top 10 things women do that they think men find sexy and that was one of them. So I had an explanation but it wasn’t a particularly satisfying one. Should any single woman read this just don’t do that. Ever. It’s weird and off-putting.

In March of this year I went on a date basically because it occurred to me that I hadn’t been on a date in two years so, hey, why the fuck not? That one quickly devolved into a political discussion wherein I learned that she was, in fact, the mythological conservative woman who believes her boss should be allowed to decide whether or not her insurance should cover her lady bits. She also threw some hilarious Republican Party talking points down when I was all, “Yeah, I don’t call myself a liberal, I call myself a progressive.” That…that one ended poorly.

So now I’m 34 and I’m single and I’ve finally realized that’s exactly how I like it.

——————–

I was not cool when I was growing up. I was the fat, socially awkward kid who dreamed of the day the hot girl in class would suddenly wake up and realize that, holy shit, she should totally start dating me. Why she should ever come to that conclusion is beyond me, but it was the fantasy.

Religion got in on that act, too. I think it was part a Puritanical notion that god would show favor by bestowing the gift of hot girl and part my increasing belief that god was, in fact, a cosmic jackass and, as such, I would have to find salvation elsewhere. Women seemed like the option there, too. It was a form of validation that I couldn’t figure out how to get anywhere else and a form of concrete love that seemed just as elusive as the love I was told I was supposed to get from god.

Amy had the great misfortune of meeting me right at the moment all of that came to a head. I’d just gone through a stretch that broke my faith and nearly broke my psyche. I was not yet willing or able to completely give up so much of my past so when I met her I decided that she represented the thing that would make it all better and allow me to get back everything I had lost. That was not fair. It’s neither good nor kind to try to force another person to become something they aren’t just because that’s what you think you need them to be.

——————–

It’s funny how a song can take you back. The other night I heard The Saw Doctor’s “World of Good” for the first time in I don’t know how long. All of the sudden I was back in a cabin on a freezing cold night in Wisconsin listening to that song and realizing that Amy and I would never be a thing and I’d have to say goodbye.

The worst thing to me about that memory is that I know now that I would then spend the next year and three months fighting that realization tooth and nail. It was a desperate, rear-guard action from a scared, lonely person. I think I knew it at the time. I just wish I’d been able to do something about it.

——————–

The good thing is that I haven’t pulled that shit since. The bad thing is that I’ve pretty much swung to the complete opposite end of the spectrum. How else do you explain such an abrupt transition from a year and a half trying to convince someone to love me to seven years of not even going on second dates?

I’ve developed a theory that if you’re in your 30s and single there’s something wrong with you. For some people it might be something minor that can be fixed or at least dealt with relatively easily. For others it’s something major. I am in the latter category.

I’ve come to realize that I’m fundamentally emotionally broken. The weird thing is, though, I’m emotionally broken in what might be the best possible way. I would rather everyone just leave me alone. This, honestly, makes me kind of a shitty friend, as I’m prone to disappear for long stretches without explanation and I’d usually rather hang out at home by myself than go out and do stuff. Seems to me that that’s actually a beneficial cycle, however. Eventually people stop trying to hang out with me and I don’t notice.

The problem from a dating perspective is that I’ve held to a belief that some future me will eventually get mad at me for not finding someone. Over the last seven years as current me has gone on fewer dates than past me and future me ended up going on even fewer I’ve realized that the theoretical angry future me is less and less likely to show up.

I’ve also realized that keeping up this charade that I’m still active in the dating world is wasting everyone’s time. So I’ve decided to quit. There’s a pretty good chance that no one noticed, though. I’m totally fine with that.

———————

It’s hard to explain, I guess. I try to tell stories to fill in the gaps but they don’t seem like they really get the lesson across. I guess the best way to explain it is this. I got tired of trying to figure out how to get someone to save me and decided that instead it was best for me to figure out how to figure out how to value myself. In the process I accidentally created a life for myself. At some point I realized that I was spending so little time dating that any thoughts or effort I directed towards that activity seemed like wasted energy.

I stopped worrying about how much better my life would be if someone else would come in and validate it. Now I don’t need anyone else. That’s all there is to it.

Some people are meant to be alone. I am one of them. Everything got better when I just admitted that.

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[1]Every time there’s a long holiday weekend eHarmony does one of those, “Find your love for free this weekend,” promotions. Back in 2009 I was all, “Aight, sure.” That was a massive scam. For one thing, yes, you can send and receive emails for free during that particular weekend but, and this is crucial, you can’t see pictures. Also the site was set up so that you had to communicate in this really forced progression that required you and your match to basically send each other questionnaires for the first series of emails before there was even a blank entry option to say, “Hey, wanna see my dick pics?” or whatever. This could easily take more than the free weekend. So, y’know, scam.

There’s also about a 95% chance I also have a Christian Mingle profile floating around out there somewhere because I had the brilliant idea to troll Christian Mingle. In my defense I was bored. And they were advertising every other commercial break during the NBA Finals, which seemed really weird.

[2]No, I’m not yadda yaddaing over anything important. I did not go on a date for six years.

[3]The best part of that one was when she tried to convince me that she was right about the whole being perfect for each other because we’d been matched on a bunch of different dating sites, including eHarmony. She then called me a lying asshole when I told her it was impossible for that to have happened since the only time I was on eHarmony was a brief stint in 2008 and I would never, ever go back to that site again.

Faith

And you need blind faith
No false hope
No false hope
Do you have blind faith?
No false hope
No false hope
Where is your blind faith?
No false hope
No false hope
Open your eyes
Open your eyes
Step into the light
–Foo Fighters, “Congregation”

I have always been both enamored with and terrified of evangelists. Back when I was a Christian they were the ones who threw down the gauntlet. They asked, “Are you able to give up your comforts and give everything over to this notion that Jesus is big and amazing and can watch your back?” I always wanted to say yes, but knew that if push ever came to shove I’d say no.

I eventually moved my faith from the church to musicians. I was never a big fan of pop music, though. Once I got out of high school I gravitated more and more towards the indie world. When I started going to concerts it was small venues and bands that needed to sell every ticket and convince everyone who bought a ticket to buy a CD. I’m not one of those scene guys who gets pissed when a band gets big, though.

I’ve realized it’s because evangelists and musicians are the same thing. The evangelist says, “I will give up everything on faith that Jesus will see me through.” The musician says, “I will give up everything on faith that the music will see me through.”

That’s why many years ago I stood at a Local H show at Shark City, which is just a shitty place, and said, “This is church.” It’s why so many of the places I’ve seen Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers are now sacred ground. It’s why going to see Sons of Bill is going to church. Music is an act of faith. Schuba’s, the Double Door, Abbey Pub, and the Beat Kitchen are my temples. It’s why I only go to the House of Blues when I have to. Those are the megachurches built to the notion of religion as a business. The Beat Kitchen is a place of faith.

It’s not even a size issue. When Flogging Molly comes through Chicago they go to the Aragon. When the Saw Doctors come they go to the Vic. When Soundgarden first came through after they reformed they went to Lollapalooza. The next time they went to the UIC Pavilion. The third time, though, the third time they went to the Riviera. That was when I knew they still remembered. The Aragon, the Vic, and the Riv are temples to music, too. They’re where you go when you’re too big for the Beat Kitchen but still want to remember your roots.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who followed bands around, but I’ve always also been afraid of what would happen if I didn’t get to work on Monday. That’s the balance. Faith and fear. Fear and faith.

Which one do you listen to? Which one governs your life?

———————–

I moved from Chicago to Texas on two months’ notice. I was informed in the middle of October that my job would be moving a thousand miles on January 1st. It was 2009 and the economy in Chicago was in the shitter. I’d just finally decided I had some control over my own life and was truly living on my own for the first time in an 850 square foot walk-up three flat in the blue collar town of Brookfield. I had an easy commute and it was a quick jump on to I-55 and it felt like I could be in Chicago in an instant. I think I went into Chicago at least every other weekend for shows that year. If I wasn’t going to Chicago I was going to Madison or Milwaukee or Indianapolis to see bands.

Then in one instant it all went away. We’d just gotten a new boss and on his first day I was called into a meeting in the board room. My new boss was there with my interim boss and someone I didn’t really know but who turned out to be the VP of Human Resources. “Your job is going to Texas,” they told me, “It’s yours if you want it.”

They told me that I could go home early that day if I wanted. I went back to my desk for an hour or so because there was still work to be done. I couldn’t take it, though, and I went home. That weekend I ran away from home.

I went to Indianapolis, of all places. I knew my friend Jessi Lynn was doing a show at some shitty bar down there and it was as good as any place to be. I shut my phone off and just disappeared for a day. That weekend I decided I wasn’t going to Texas. Chicago was home. Fuck them for upending my life.

My nerves failed me.

———————–

The first concert I saw in Texas was Mike Doughty at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas. The last concert I saw before I moved was Mike Doughty at Shank Hall in Milwaukee. Shortly thereafter I saw Seneca at this awesome little bar in Deep Ellum. They were utterly shocked to see me, since I’d last hung out with them at an Irish pub next to the tracks in Brookfield, IL. The next night they crashed at my apartment.

In June of that year I basically forced my friend Tawni to crash at my apartment after a Peacemakers show during the stretch I called Rogapalooza. There was a show in Denton, then the next night there was a show in Oklahoma City and Tawni was just going to sleep in her rented car at a rest stop somewhere. I was all, “Fuck, no. I have a guest bedroom for a reason.” I also gave her a GPS unit that weekend, since I had one I wasn’t using anymore and she was really good at getting lost.

Somehow I decided that it was my destiny to be the stable guy who made sure the dreamers had a place to stay. I was the guy sending money to the missionaries. I was whatever it is that makes faith manifest in the world. I was okay with that because I was afraid of my own faith. Having a guest bedroom for that one night a year when someone needed it was great because it meant I had my own bed the other 364 nights of the year.

———————–

I moved back to Chicago to work for the same boss who’d been told he’d lose two of his people on his first day of work. He was the one who told me time and again that what had happened to me was unfair. It wasn’t until I finally realized what they’d done to him was deeply unfair that I could admit that I’d been treated poorly, too.

The last concert I saw in Texas was Sons of Bill with The Wheeler Brothers and Derek Larson & the Leavers in Fort Worth. The first concert I saw in Chicago was fucking Soundgarden. The second show I went to was The Wheeler Brothers at some tiny-ass bar on the North Side. I tried to make it a sort of coming back to Chicago party and invited a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in at least a year and a half.

No one came.

Too bad for them. The Wheeler Brothers were awesome.[1]

———————–

Time passed. I bought a house in the suburbs. I could not, for the life of me, figure out why. I still don’t really know. There was what I wanted to do and what was easy to do and I chose what was easy, I guess.

The thing is, though, that the suburbs are where you go when you’re married and have just had your first kid and are worried about good schools and the convenience of not having to park three blocks away. I’m not going to get married. I’m not going to have a kid. I moved into that suburban life without any real reason because it seemed easier to have a garage and get onto the train every morning and go to work in the city.

Eventually they told me not to come back to work. I stopped pulling out of the garage and driving to the train in the morning. I stopped running back to the train station in the evening. I got depressed. I drank too much. I ate poorly.

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I’ve realized that I want to be an evangelist. Every day I think of selling my house and most of the shit I’ve accumulated over the years, loading some shit into my trunk, taking my dog, and going west. It’s always been west. West is where adventure starts and life begins.

I just haven’t decided what to put my faith in yet. I don’t believe in god. I can’t sing or play guitar worth a damn. I’m just tired of living a life where some asshole in HR tells me what the value of my time and life are. I’m tired of being beholden to a system I know is broken. I know I’m better than that. I just don’t quite know what to do with that knowledge yet.

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[1]I think they’re defunct now. Nothing seems to pop on Google, at least. This gives me a sad.