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.

————————

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.

————————

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

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