I once read this phrase by a Guatemalan poet, Humberto Ak’Abal: “No, distance does not exist. Far away are only those who by being close to you, harm you”. It is yours too. My measure of time and space has become just like that phrase. From the beginning of my reconstruction to whom I have become today, no matter how under construction or how slow the process has been… the one thing that remains is that marveling measure of distance, which can only be explained by invisible strings, connections of hope and stardust mixed in with plenty of fighting in our surreal present, the path where we each walk, so different from one another.
If you could see me now, what would you ask me? where would our scars divide us? How far are we now from each other, after the world has ended and rebirthed so many times, again and again?
Confusion has taken over. Within the flesh and through the streets. Mistrust, hunger, corruption, hoaxes, lies, deceit. These words are in the dictionary of our children, of our women and men, and in the eyes full of fear of everyone around us. My house has fallen. No heat and no water were OK, no money and no food were OK, no sun and no alcohol were OK, but ceiling and walls have plumetted because these were not material. I had a friend, you see, a warrior. Fought by his side till the time came for him to part. I’m blinded by anger; waves of monstrous deception, as if I had been tricked by the great puppeteer… I’m dissappointed to no end… when I get a hold of myself, I see me finding new rules and inventing machines to bring back time, because I’m selfish and care not much about anything, except returning home. But there’s no such thing. I must ask… was there ever?
Talk to me. Find me. can you see me? I’m in the middle of a babel that does not breath dreams. I’m surrounded by asphalt, authorities keep telling us we’re not welcome here. I’ve been volunteering at a non-profit org to feel useful while the thunderstorm goes away. Just doing the basics, using colors and words, mirrors and memories to keep the ghosts away. The children I work with are the greatest warriors I have met in years. Each day, they share with me stories of ravaged childhoods, separated families, discriminated brothers, overworked parents. Each day, they split their food with the smaller ones, and go out to the world, less and less afraid of standing up for themselves. Now I know it is them teaching me to keep going, not the other way around. I was a fool for years.
Forgive me if I sound defeated. It is not that my light has vanished. I’m a firefly and soon you’ll see me fighting by your side. I have not lost my belief in humanity, my hands still stretch out to give out and thread, and I’m hungrier than ever for a friend, a challenge, a reason. If I scream my voice will not be drowned by the numbing sounds of burden, law, oppression. The many who have been lost along the way, remain with us, and with their strength we continue. And so, among the stench of darkness, death and vigilance, the cynical laughter of the reckless ones keeps on asking: Will you let them silence you? My answer is no. I will not submit. I am not alone.
Two new walls stand right in front of me. See how in a previous letter you told me you were giving up your passport? hiding it under a bus, and trying to be rid of a title? Well, it is my time to put it around my neck, for that’s the only way to open doors and join you and the rest of them. I cannot stay here as a guardian for too long. The paperwork is tiring and burocracy makes me want to rip my lungs out and eat them, but I need them so I just wait patiently for my number to ring.
The second wall is internal. Just like your cancer story, but without the happy ending. Upon my return to this land, I had to run to a hospital, since apparently I was having an internal hemorrage inside my head (yum, who would’ve thought I would run from a description like this), and so I had the needles sticking in, and drops and machines, and doctors and pokers and plenty of days of just white lights. After it all, no answer, plenty of headaches (even worse than before), and a bill that fits into the loophole of not-insured-so-you’re-fucked deal, and here I am. Half an eye and a pile of rude phonecalls. My credit wasn’t worthy of a lollypop loan anyway… Since I’m stuck in this land for a while, I’ll just have to keep piling them up until I know I can get on a plane or a boat without having my head explode or the doors close after me forever if I want to come back. I’m not one of the priviledged ones. it fills me with pride.
What else can I tell you? What else is there to say? Distance and time do not exist. They don’t separate us. For this reason, by closing my eye I can be right beside you if you are to miss me… you’ll fall asleep with my crazed lullabies. (I will be the greatest cyclops of our time if necessary), and I will rise.
Teletransportation. Is it an option yet?
6 – Why the fuck not?
In this life of constant running it is difficult to take time to reflect and give serious attention to the road ahead. most of the time I am caught somewhere between the hand and the mouth, always trying to fall forward.
With all the rushing and chaos taking up my attention it is hard to follow the news with any regularity. So one day I get online and hear about disputed election and then a few days later i re-enter the social stream only to discover that there is a fire in Cairo. It is exciting to see these unexpected events unfold, but my experience tells me that it requires some serious consideration before we declare that humanity is on the mend.
As I said, there is little or no time to properly monitor the news stories and research the facts. What there is, is plenty of time for speculation. And this leads to some questionable, yet entertaining ideas. For example, when Obama became king I was travelling around Europe and constantly questioned about what I thought that meant for the planet. So I used my powers of deduction (or imagination depending on your politics) to predict that Obama would be assassinated in an attempt to spark a class war in the guise of a race war-like the Mansons tried to do. Then the armies could use their post 911 training to move into poor neighborhoods and wipe out the troublesome populations. I was only partly wrong. Insteqd of the king it was the hope that died and instead of Blackwater (XE as they like to be called now) the invasion was numerical trickery. It is actually worse than I predicted in the sense that the effective use of propoganda has divided the populations even further and every eye on the prize is a desperate, hungry eye.
Ever since I made the dreadful mistake of hoping the fall of the towers would serve as a catalyst to unite the oppressed and do away with all these centuries of slavery and exploitation my interpretation of events has followed a darker path. I know there were many of us shaken to our core that morning. Of course none of us took delight in the destruction of human beings, there was still a hope that the event could be transformed. Instead, armies were sent in to destroy some of the poorest people on the planet. I felt stupid and angry for being so surprised so I had to compensate for my crippling belief in the power of human kindness. I learned to expect the worst.
Zizek claims that it is the American sense of guilt that fills our heads with fantasies of destruction. According to him we are so confused by all the misinformation and manipulation of our desires that the only way we can imagine relief is by completely clearing the landscape and starting over. This, he explains, is why we love horror movies and disaster scenarios. So be it.
I do not think it is too outlandish to expect a scenario of class war on the streets of America as well as around the world. I think it is obvious that it has been going on since before we were born and it would be crazy to deny it. As long as there is no poverty with dignity there will be this war. If I could imagine an end I would do it. Instead I can only see the means to an infinite number of possible ends. The mind boggles and in that comfortable state of confusion I face each moment with an optimistic attitude of, “well you can’t fuck THIS up.”
Day by day the task at hand, whatever it may be, consumes all of the energy there is. The struggle to survive is THEE FIGHTING and we are all caught up in it. It would be so easy if only there were some omnipotent being measuring and maintaining a balanced order to every human action. That is the very thing I was told at an impressionable age. If only there were exact measurements that could be be read for every single particle in the universe so that we could collectively employ the scientific method to determine the course of human kind then we could all be occupied by the necessary tasks of living in a mutualist relationship with world around us. It seems that people are more inclined to decry the burden of enlightenment rather than find joy in the opportunity to grow stronger and carry a heavier load. And I can not hold out hope that we will all come together in a moment of clarity, hold hands and take our steps together into a brighter future. No, we all just get wasted.
So where do we go from here? If all the “movements” of human history have been co-opted and perverted then how can anyone believe in anything anymore?
The only answer is, “fuck if I know.”
Chomsky is a clever guy who has done great work to expose the invisible hands that run the machine. It is his advice that we the people organize ourselves into the gazillion various movements it takes to address the problems facing humanity. I want to believe this idea, but I see repeatedly how things get fucked up. The internet gives people a false sense of accomplishment in that many people feel that simply sharing information and being aware is enough to bring down an empire. So while the blog world might be blowing up with wikileaks documents and videos of open market violence it is only reporting of events; safe and from a distance and long after the fact.
Here’s a riddle:
How many flash mobs does it take to bring down a helicopter?
Here’s another one:
What do the Anti-Fascist youth groups do with the world after they eliminate all the fascists?
Unfortunately the answer to both is, “they don’t.”
Bernadine Dohrn of Chicago’s Weathermen(Weather Underground) once spoke at the University of Chicago about the importance of institutionalizing these movements. This seems to be a large jump from her Days of Rage techniques undertaken by the Weathermen. And obviously it is the result of years of thoughtful contemplation after the huge failure of their angry, youthful approach.
But I have seen what kind of weight the academic world throws around the cage, and ain’t nobody making a movie about what Bernadine Dohrn is doing now. Who would buy it?
The point I am getting at is that information and good intentions will only get you so far in this world. We spend our intellectual time and energy staring at systems and trying to expose their flaws so that some magickal “other” can come in and clean it up. We spend our physical time and energy shaking our fists in the air and working just enough to afford a little protection from the gazillion things we can’t seem to handle. We spend our bargaining chips on whatever creature comforts we can indulge in like school, art, music, alchoholism, politics, science, sports or whatever our little obsession may be. We all have a jones and we indulge it when we can. We earned it. No doubt.
So here we are now, trying to connect and organize while holding on to our sanity and instituionalize our ideas and pay off the cops and shape the future. In order to better go boldly forward I would like to make a prediction of some possible scenarios we will have to face.
In the last year some interesting developments occurred. There was the discovery of millions of red-dwarf stars that are old enough to earth like planets in their orbit that have existed as long as our own little planet. The chances of discovering intelligent life out there gets exponentially greater as a result. A new life form based on arsenic as opposed to carbon was discovered in a poison lake in California. An entirely alien life form grown up in the United States. (So much for sealing off the borders.) I predict that the world order that has developed will continue to unravel and these drug wars and terror wars will not sustain their believability amongst the masses. In a desperate attempt to uphold their dominance, the powers that be will try a new “towers” approach. The stage is set for giant death rays from space to come and wipe out entire populations while alien life forms emerge from the oceans to spread diseases we cant overcome. Christians and Muslims can all stand together to battle the new enemies and marshall law will be the only way to “secure” what “freedoms” our home planet can afford. So many prophecies to be fulfilled and so little time, things are getting desperate.We better get busy.
5 – Always on the run
Here we are in December and it finds us in Denmark. Paris was a trial of incredible difficulty on all fronts. The legal issues have both expanded beyond my grasp and at the same time I have just let them go without difficulty. The real problem is that the United States has me as a member and that may give me a great deal of shame but it also affords me a lack of scrutiny. This lack of scrutiny is often confused with freedom and liberty.
As I was trying to figure out what to do about being in Europe longer than my visa would allow I discovered that my pink skin(although i am darker than you) makes me invisible to the eyes of most servants of the “law” that I come in contact with. I mean, they see me, but they are not trained to fear me. An example of this is when I went to the police and customs people in France to see what they thought about my illegal status. They didn’t care. In fact, they changed my status from “illegal” to “irregular” with the magic of language. So suddenly, I was free from the burden of giving a fuck about following the law. Some of these representatives spoke to me in a whispered voice to give me advice on how not to worry about what the law says. How nice for me, but there is a huge community in Paris of people without papers. A lot of these people come from Africa and Eastern Europe. Thee Law takes a very different approach to them, and as a result these folks have a different view about how important it is to have national identity than I do. Hostility breeds submission because don’t nobody want to get any more hassle in this life.
We attended a demonstration with the Sans Papier(without papers) group and then went to a community meeting to hear their concerns. These folks would greatly benefit from having national identity because then the police wouldn’t fuck with them so much, the shit work they can get would pay them a better but still not liveable wage and they would be allowed to pay for the social services that the state claims to offer. For these people, I want them to get their papers or whatever it takes so that they can take it easier. For myself, I want to be recognized as a legitimate human being over and above any nation state and I declare that all these borders don’t exist – these armies are unjust – these money systems are a scam – these industrial complexes serve only to enslave man and are therefore criminal – and on and on and on. At the same time, I don’t want life to get any more difficult than it already is for me either.
In Paris, we were homeless and it was cold. We wanted to be warm so we asked for the kindness of strangers. And we took it. Then we left for Denmark to take the kindness of friends and try to pull our shit together a little bit.
To get here we took a bus ride for 20 hours. En route we crossed the German border and as I anticipated trouble at the German border I deliberately packed my passport with my luggage underneath the bus. As the cops came on board they were arresting(or detaining depending on which side of the gun you are on) people without passports. Funny enough, they were mostly from Africa. As the police were growing more and more hostile with teh two guys in front of me for not getting off the bus fast enough I began to worry about my little plan. Then the cops turned to me and asked for my passport. I explained that it was in my luggage under the bus but I showed him my Transnational ID and Texas drivers license. The Transnational ID did not impress him but as he saw I was from the U.S. and pink he just said, “as long as you have it with you it’s ok.” and he walked on down the aisle.
And now I am in Denmark, What a fucked up world.
Always on the run,
4- Loss, Love, Liberty.
i am in paris now. nothing has worked out as i planned and i guess that should be a good thing. i am on the run as always. spent a few weeks in berlin meeting new and old friends while researching the possibilities of living without national identity. it turns out the the united states will not actually let you go stateless voluntarily. the embassy will offer you a form to do it, but as soon as you fill it in the person behind the desk is entitled to judge you as either criminal or insane. so the immediate follow up is to put you in jail or the hospital. i decided to take my chances on the run. now i am playing their game from a new angle. this one speaks french.
in researching issues of immigration i have been interviewing people to find out what they think. i am surprised to learn that many people are happy to have their national identity. i can not imagine what these people are thinking, even after talking for hours.
i have also learned that the notion of human rights is only recognized as it pertains to nation states. without national identity you are not considered a human being with rights. and depending on what nationality is placed upon you, your rights are very different. i guess you already knew that.
the other part of the research has been health insurance. it is a condition of residency and the reason i am illegal. i can not afford the luxury of legality. most people i met can not afford it either. everyone just lies. the folks behind the desks encourage these lies to keep one complicit in the overall injustice. it is as if they want you to lie so they will always have something to hold over your head. honesty is the worst policy.
so here i am, serving the system against my will. every step i take brings me closer to the heat. but i am slow to burn and will find another way. i promise.
as i am further and further from being free to move the call of america gets stronger. i need to be over there to visit family and friends. my relatives are dying off and my loved ones need love. all i can give is e-condolences. so sad.
speaking of love, i am in it. i have embarked on this never ending journey and i feel as if i have sucked this poor soul into my world. i had hoped i would be able to share another world but cycles have a way of repeating. as i struggle for my own freedom i am making her aware of her lack of it. we both go crazy together. it should produce some good work. and that is what we are here to do, the good work.
as always you are an inspiration. thanks for keeping up your end. apologies for my own shortcomings.
there is more to come and i am forever your girl,
3-LAYER UPON LAYER
well jen, i do not know how to start. after the gruelling process of starting over again, i am starting over again. someone broke into a very secure practice space and stole all my new gear. whereas the shock and awe of the first robbery had a surprising result, this time it was not so life changing. i mean, it changed my life to be sure, but this time it was mostly internal.
This event was doubly troubling as it comes at a time when i am being forced to leave europe for a while in order to avoid confrontations with the law and it’s very long arms. i am tempted by the fruits of the system. there is money to be made if i want to go and make it. i am not so sure that i do.
chasing money to get some kind of security seems as ridiculous as buying a guitar and expecting to keep it. this world hates poor people. but it ain’t exactly friendly like with the “middle” and “upper” classes niether. it could be said that this world is a motherfucker. in fact i believe it has been said repeatedly.
motherfucker or not, this is the world we are farting around in. so i accept that as it is, it is an unjust world. and i do not want to waste my time shaking my fist in the air and pointing at problems to a confused and generally good hearted public trying to tell people what a just world would look like. i only got four hundred thousand ideas and that doesn’t seem to be good enough.
so maybe i should take the job, take the money and run again. but jen, i have been running non-stop for a long time now and i am running out of options as a result. i mean, i could go anywhere and be homeless and poor, but could i go anywhere and not do that?
it doesn’t seem so much like freedom to move when the only direction to go is out from under the weight of oppression. what real opportunities do we have?
i am trying to find them out here, jen. but the more i look around the more things seem the same. there is a different flavor to each and every struggle. an individual heart beet specific to each one. i am trying to touch these hearts and know what to do. but ijust get confused at the spectacle. and i am pushed by madmen in directions i do not want to go. the salt in my wounds deadens my sensitivity to those around me and i feel the same anger and frustrations i did as a child.
i believe in the things we do. i have to. in that there is hope. hope dies last. i hope that means after me.
i must be running off now. the first show starts in eight hours and i still have a lot to do before we even leave town. it has always been this way.
forever your girl,
as you know, things have changed in my life. today i am sitting in berlin. i played a show with some friends last night and it was a sort of closing ceremony for my past life. today everything is different.
in some ways i am all alone out here. that is, there is no recognized system that can support the weight of my being. i find myself completely disconnected from the relatively safe pathways through the world as i understand it. there are no hands to guide. the light in the distance turned out to be another false light. (there are so many devils dancing in the darkness.)
upon complete recognition of this fact, i instantly became aware of my connectedness to a world full of completely disenfranchised systems. i was touched by the fingers that shoot from a swirl of chaos. the world as seen through my eyes became something different. there was a spark of recognition in my brain that gave me the sensation of temporary clarity. one of those moments where the invisible details of the instant stamp an imprint so deep in your subconscious that time appears to freeze and even your mind is still. beyond the recognition of such a moment the details are difficult to explain. it remains true that the instant you become “aware” of “it”, the moment is gone.
to give you an impression of my current state, let me tell you, briefly the details of this past few weeks. please understand:
as we were getting ready for tour we found out that we were going to lose our warehouse space where i live and practice. the city is going to tear down the building. then i got very sick and i got everyone around me very sick. the sickness began to lift as we hit the road. our first night we stopped in frankfurt to visit a friend. we had a long drive ahead of us the next day so we planned to get to bed early. and of course we didnt arrive in frankfurt until 1am. so i promptly started drinking and talking to some of the hardest working people in life until 6am. i was in prime shape for the road trip ahead.
we hit the road the next morning at 10am. the cops pulled us over and we literally sticking their noses in everything at 10:45am. we were off to a good start.
we arrived in genova to play our first show and were greeted by a wonderful group of people. the first band was a horrifying psyched out noise group that shocked and awed us all. we played our set with a few difficulties but had a great time. we slept in a lovely hostel at the top of hll overlooking the harbor. and i woke up very sick. it came back with a vengeance.
the next day we left genova to go to the beach. we missed the beach but drove along the coast and had a picnic on the riverbank. all in all a lovely way to spend your life.
we had two wonderful days in parma with good friends and good shows. i was very sick so i laid low and tried to feel well.
then we went to napoli. and the sickness set in with a furious vengeance rendering me unable to hear or breathe. i put everything i had into playing that show and the rest of the night i was laid out in the van trying not to die. after the show we loaded into the van and headed to the home of our host. and he said it was safe to leave the stuff in the van.
normally i am overly protective of such things and wouldnt dream of leaving the gear in the van. but i was very sick. and that is what i will say for the rest of my life. i was very sick that night and everything was gone.
the next day we walked back to the flat totally devastated. it was a mind numbing experience. the immediate shock, followed by the impotent rage, the sad reality setting in, the hopeless conversation with the police(i told them i had a 1966 fender jaguar electric guitar in a black case. they wrote down “black case.”) and then the realization that we were four days in to a three week tour and not even enough money to drive back to hamburg. we were fucked.
i went online and posted the news. i called out for help from the universe via the internet. a cyber prayer to the gods of the media age. and the gods spoke.
within minutes we received responses from all over the world with words of kindness and offers to help. the people setting up shows for the rest of the tour found gear for us to use in each place. the people we were staying with gave us a place to practice and an acoustic guitar. our friends and even complete strangers donated money and gear in any way they could and we were lifted up by this network of invisible hands. and we went forward.
the shows for the rest of the tour were an interesting experience. i was still very sick and playing stripped down versions of songs on foreign objects is a difficult thing to do. i will not say that the shows were sonically the best, but we did the best we could do and had fun doing it. and over time, the shows progressed to something more akin to our hearts.
at the end of the tour we were in berlin. i decided to stay a week and lend a hand in the preocess of creating an opera. a week of experience that is entitled to another letter. and it will get one. for now, suffice it to say that it was a learning experience. and it culminated with last nights show.
today i am sitting in berlin. i am leaving for hamburg in 2 hours. i have no place to live, practice or work. i have no gear to work with. i am still forced to live and work illegally so there is a constant pressure from the law. and i feel good about it. i have no fear. i will never stop.
1-Nailpolish, for the record.
it has been 9 months since you took me to the airport and i left the united states. so much has happened since then. we have been playing lots of shows and done a few small tours with more on the way. our records are coming along, only one is finished so far. there is so much still to do and here i sit with the time to do it. a fortunate thing indeed.
on the flipside, things are tough all over. i have been living through the hardest winter in germany in a state of poverty. i am illegal in this country and anything i do to earn money is against the law. the only way i can earn money is by taking these shit low-paying jobs where i get screwed because the people i work for know they can exploit my desperate situation. as soon as they realize i cant speak the language the attitude toward me changes. it is clearly visible in the words and actions. i find myself carrying heavy objects across a field of ice in the middle of the night and when it is time to pay me, there is always some sort of deduction for things i did wrong. i consider these conditions to be hostile acts against me and my liberty, but i know i am powerless to do anything about it. i need an army.
i had yet another run in with the police the other night. i was quite drunk when it happened and somehow managed to avoid capture. in fact, i used the opportunity to let out some of my frustration on these agents of the state. i am afraid i was not very eloquent as the final message came out as, “the work you do is complete bullshit.” still, it felt give a little nudge back against the forces engaged in counteracting the effects of being alive. that is to say, the actions of the police serve the purpose of maintaining the order and control as dictated by the interests of the ruling class. this is not just the owners of giant corporations but also the pimps and organized crime bosses. these things are very real here. prostitution is legal here and there are real life slaves on the street begging for money. the pimps take it all. the cops are there to insure that nothing disturbs this operation. this fills me with hate. being full of hate destroys me and yet i am unable to control it. i feel as though i am in wartime conditions. a war that was lost long ago and only the ghosts keep fighting. it requires a great deal of energy to dodge the bullets.
i know a great many people who have devoted their time and energy to creating “communities of love” as they say but the reality of their action is that they capitalize on a different kind of misery. when the liberators are also exploiting us, where can we go? we are all alone.
i spent the winter months in our practice studio outside of town. rather primitive conditions out there. no water, no heat, no plumbing etc… but it gave me the time to work on music and art non-stop. i find my ideas are centered around self liberation and collective action. so far these ideas have not come out strongly enough to effect the world around me. but i am still working on it.
i am always on the run and right now is no different. i must leave off here, but this will be continued. i look forward to your words of wisdom. but for now, let’s go!
forever your girl,
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