Saturday, January 23, 2016

High hopes for a young punk

Starting school in September
Hello friends.  It's been ten months since my last update and since then I've started grad school, set a date for the wedding, and generally, things are good. With school, work and new health-related commitments, I haven't found the time to sit down and complete a blog post. That isn't to say I haven't tried -- I have a dozen posts that are in various stages of completion, but as Blogspot bluntly reminds me, they remain only drafts. Some are music-focused, others are more extensive personal narratives. In the interest of actually finishing a post, I wanted to seize the moment on this snowy day and update the blog with a short post to write about how I am feeling now, how I felt when I was a kid, and the music that speaks to both Harry's, young and older.
Before motivational textbook covers, there was Warzone urging us kids to "not fall victim to the dropout disease."
Another NYHC song with the pledge of allegiance? Better do my homework!

This fall, I started grad school, and it's going very well. It is nice to be around a new set of peers who share a common interest, and the work is challenging, but rewarding, very different from the academic blender of professors, classes and classmates you're in when you are an undergrad.
This fall also greeted me with another medical surprise. I don't know to what extent I've written about it here, but for the better part of last year I've experienced tightness that has limited my mobility, making it difficult to play guitar and even put my socks on. This is a long-term side effect of my donor stem cell transplant. So since September, I've been visiting the hospital twice a week for 4 hours at a time while my blood is sucked from me, zapped with ultraviolet light, and put back into me. Don't ask me how (or even if) it works. I've accepted that these sort of pain in the ass health issues are things I just have to deal with, and are a small price compared to how dearly I could've paid if things worked out a different way.

Well, it still pisses me off. I still get anxious and angry, and sometimes I feel like I'm going to lose my fucking mind. A lot of the feelings that I've experienced as a young adult fighting illness are the same feelings I had when I was a kid. Feelings of frustration, alienation, not fitting in. 17 years later, I escape these feelings the same way -- through the music that resonated with me and made me feel that I wasn't alone, and that there was something better beyond the walls that my emotions sometimes built around me.

Times are hard it's true -- but I'll cope
I remember the first time I listened to this record. I bought it at Spinnaker's in Hyannis, back in the wonderful days of trial and error record shopping, when I was a young punk thrilled at the idea of vinyl, the fact that there was a scene that relied heavily on a "dead medium," where I would sometimes choose between records based on which one had the most songs. (Unaware music critics and idiot industry types love to talk about the "resurgence" of vinyl, but most people reading this understand that vinyl never went away, and much of this so-called revival comes in the form of $40 vinyl reissues to be sold once a year on "record store day.")
I had heard of Gorilla Biscuits, and was aware of them as one of the late 80s straight edge NYHC bands. But I had never heard them. I went downstairs and threw this record on my turntable. I remember the moment the opening bassline of "High Hopes" kicked in, sitting in a beat up purple armchair in the finished room in the basement, listening as the song built from its slow intro into the explosive first verse. Hearing Civ's voice for the first time is one of those things I wish I could relive, with all its cracks and squeaks. This record has some very melodic parts, and some very mean parts, preferring fast punk over heavier metal influences. Maybe it's my personal experience with this record, but I think this is one of the great NYHC EPs.  

This is one of those records I would listen to over and over, in the same sitting. I was never bored because listening to records was a ritual for me. I'd put the record on the table, drop the needle on the groove (ideally -- sometimes in my haste the needle would miss and scratch along the slipmat, creating that horrible burst of "Fuck you, why did you put me here?" static). Nowadays I don't have a turntable set up, and although I miss the ritual, I turn to many of the same tunes to break me out of whatever funk I'm in.

High hopes for a young adult.

Till next time....