Monthly Archives: January 2009

Spiral Out

This is a reposting of something I first wrote on 05.13.06.

Some friends and I have started up a new music site – What Gets Heard? – something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now. Basically, the site is all about the power music has to change us. To impact us. To enlighten us. We’d love for people to write guest posts about records that changed their lives. Because that’s really what the site is all about – sharing with people the glory of the music we hear buried deep in our heads/hearts. The records that changed our perception of what music is/was/could be. The records that inspired us to unleash whatever we hold inside of us. The records that kill us, even after not hearing them for ten years. If you’re interested, just drop me an e-mail…

There are sometimes these flashing and brilliant moments in my life where all kinds of elements come together and blow the doors off of my mind. When these moments happen I am more than likely going to be moved not only emotionally – but also psychologically and spiritually. I try very hard not to question them, and just flow along with whatever knowledge or insight can be gained, because I have learned that questioning the why is not always appropriate.

Sometimes you just have to roll with whatever comes your way.

These moments almost always have something to do with some kind of artistic endeavor of some sort. Seeing a movie, devouring a book, or even a viewing a painting can open the door just enough to let the light in. But more often than not, it’s music that flips the latch and the door swings wide and true. I’m of the opinion that music is the preternatural grease for my squeaky wheel, and without it I’d surely be locked away in the bughouse(some of you may feel as though I already should be, but that’s neither here nor there) Music is the mile marker, the accelerant, the trigger, and the cure. Music makes everything just go

Show me someone who doesn’t have an internal soundtrack that plays right alongside their collected memories, and I’ll probably shit twice and die right on the spot. It’s beyond my realm of understanding to think that music doesn’t play a monumental role in everyone’s lives. All of my own memories have songs that are synched up with the movie in my head. Each and every moment of my life has a song for it; some sad, some beautiful, some inspiring(no, not “Gonna Fly Now” or “Chariots Of Fire” – don’t be retarded), and some downright perfect. Most of the people in my life have their own theme songs that I associate with them, and those songs cue up when I think about them, or the moment they come into my view(it’s actually quite entertaining to live inside my mind sometimes). Certain situations and feelings that come over me have their own distinct soundtrack as well. I’m not sure(and I don’t really care) if this happens to anyone else. I know this happens to me, and I am okay with the fact that I might be the only person on the planet who is this mentally ill. I’d also be okay with it if everyone had these same things happen inside their own heads as well. I’m not such a scumbag that I’d want to keep all of this good shit to myself, or I wouldn’t be writing about it, now would I?

Like I said – pretty much everything has it’s own song attached to it.

Okay, I sort of covered the music angle for now(it’ll all make more sense as I continue to ramble – I hope).

Now, when I say that sometimes things just click and shift into place, I’m saying that there are times when everything is flowing properly. All distractions fade away, and the din that all of the rigamarole and day-to-day bullshit creates goes hush. These are those magical moments when you can look up at the sky in the deep inky night, and understand your time and place. When everything that is weighing you down goes as silent as it possibly can, and the only thing you can do is see and know the beauty and the simplicity of everything around you – from the sweet and musty smells of Autumn to the shimmer of any given body of water under the light of the moon and stars. Everything you take for granted on any other given day or any other passing moment, becomes mystifyingly beautiful.

I’m talking about a momentary glancing blow of innocence. But – that momentary innocence has some kind of gnosis attached to it, because you wouldn’t be able to see the beauty without being able to understand or recognize the beauty. How do you know that the way the light hits the water is attractive to you? When did you decide that laying in the grass and reading a book on a cool Autumn day was something you enjoy? I don’t know if we even make these decisions. Part of me thinks these are things that are just programmed into our subconscious mind, and we recognize them as pleasing before we even realize we’re in the midst of enjoying them. Mind you, I’m also the same guy who had a three hour debate with someone because I do not believe we’ve actually been to the moon, so I might be a little off. Regardless, this is my site, so I can write about my own stance on things. If I say this is how I feel, then this is how I feel, you know? I can tell you that from my experiences in this little life of mine, I have come to these conclusions.

Can you just imagine how ridiculous I’d be if I had taken hallucinogens?

Another thing about music, and it’s power over us meatsicles:

Music always manages to move something. If you take the time to look through our collective history, music has been a catalyst for many different things throughout our time as a dominant species. And it’s not just about the combination of notes that might invoke a pleasing reaction from within – there’s some metaphysical magic at play as well. Rhythm, cadence, tempo, and tone have been used in rituals as far back as our bloodlines can reach. Music is always present in a church, because music helps people to relax, and ultimately feel comfortable, and it’s pretty evident that once we’re comfortable, we’re easier to deal with. In my opinion, a Catholic mass in Latin could probably move just about anyone if they went into it with an open mind, as could being a part of a service on Yom Kippur. Those are just religion-based examples. We used to chant over our dying loved ones, before we had the blips and bleeps of modern medicine to take away that warmth. Mantras are timed to coincide with a heartbeat, and the tone that is used while chanting(not to mention the ringing of the bells) is used to help align our conscious mind with certain sections of our subconscious mind – to relax. Every mother, irrespective of race, creed, or religious background, will sing to their children. Even when they cannot carry a tune.

We have always used music as a Tool.

Obviously, a truly powerful song recently unlocked itself to me, and in turn unlocked a door in my mind. The funny part is, the song in question had always been a song that I loved, even before it truly revealed itself to me. Now that it has, the fucker is stuck in my brain, and it’s setting down roots. Big, Sequoia-type roots. The song in question moves me in so many different ways(the changing and haunting melodies, the shifting time signatures, the chord progressions, the lyrical content, the bombast – and the utter fucking humility) that I find it impossible to dissect what it has done for to me. I’m actually at a loss for words. I’ve been sitting here, with every intention of just writing about this one song, and instead all of this other stuff is rushing right out of my head and into this document file, which will end up on this server. All of my thoughts seem like they are swirling around above my head, giggling and taunting me…”You see? It’s not so fucking easy to be the guy who thinks he can just kick some science on one singular song, is it, Mr. Writer Guy?

I hate it when my own mind taunts me.

The song feels like my life. Everyone knows that I am not like other people, and that I look at my entire life like it’s some spiritual/metaphysical journey. Not everyone knows how far I’ve gone to ensure that it is exactly that. I’ve studied things that other people wouldn’t even be able to define. I’ve purposely put myself into situations that have tested all of my boundaries – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically. I have been relentless for over a decade now, in my quest for finding an acceptable level of understanding. It has always been this way, but it really became an earnest quest when my mother passed away in ’96. I opened myself up wide and deep, and made myself available to all that may come. Any bit of knowledge and wisdom I could find – I devoured and tried to assimilate into myself. I accepted the fact that I was a spiritual infant, and that everything I felt as if I had known was false. I granted myself clemency for my past misdeeds and misfortune, and I tried very diligently to forgive myself for all of it. I try to take every moment and every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow. Each day is a gift, and every second of every hour is precious and viable. People talk about being “born again” all the time, even though it’s usually in reference to someone becoming an Evangelical Sheeple. This song makes me feel that way, and that is precisely why I am probably coming off as if I am preaching about something. I’m just excited that I have been lucky and blessed enough to have something like this happen to me. An Auditory Epiphany, if you will.

This song takes me from birth, all the way to the end. This song is almost a complete encapsulation of my spiritual journey. This song freaks me the fuck on out, each and every time I listen to it. This song has so many metaphysical messages within it, that there are tiny parts of my mind that feel as though there are hidden secret triggers that are being tripped – as if the gentlemen who created it knew what the fuck they were doing. The movie that rolls along in my head when I listen to this song is peaceful, beautiful, and filled with a cool blue light(I sometimes see sound as colors – I’m sure I am not the only one who does this). This song feels like it is a gift, made just for me.

And that, is a beautiful feeling.

The payoff:

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You Can Go Home Again.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last couple of days.

That’s always a really loaded way to start off a ramble, but it’s the truth – the last 72 hours or so have been filled with me going through my mental hard drive, trying to clean up a ton of raw data. This is a tedious process, one that has a habit of consuming me. Whenever this happens, I get lost in it, as if the rest of the world falls away, and all I have left to deal with are my own thoughts and emotions.

This is not necessarily a good thing.

Sadly, I am just naturally wired for too much introspection. It’s one thing to be self-aware, but another altogether when you start nitpicking yourself down to nothingness whenever you feel as though something is off.

I’ve been feeling pretty off for a bit now.

It’s funny to me that I can forgive other people for all kinds of heinous shit, but not myself. I’ve learned an awful lot about myself over the last few years, and during all of this learning, I have come to realize that no matter what I do or say – there will always be some kind of inner conflict that stays buried deep inside of my being.

It’s as if this conflict is some tangible thing, shifting around in me. Depending on the circumstances of the conflict, it can grow or shrink – or it can disappear for a time. But most of the time, it’s there, waiting to remind me that there will always be work to be done, and that letting myself slip into complacency is a dangerous mistake for me to make.

Reminds me of a Murakami story.

Basically, the rundown is this: I have done a lot of terrible things in this life, and I spend a lot of time trying to reconcile those terrible things in my mind. And when thinking about these terrible things, I always seem to let my heart gravitate toward wondering why people have even put up with me. I have been told many times that I am some kind of monstrosity. A man who hardly ever pays attention to the damage his actions cause to others. A man who never takes responsibility for his own emotional asshattery. A man who is dishonest with himself, according to some.

It’s not fun to hear shit like this, I assure you.

Most of the time, I am told these things through other people. For some reason, people who get too close to me have this misconception that I am not one who can be reasoned with, which might be true of the me ten or fifteen years ago(when anger was fuel and drugs were the match that lit the fires of hell), but life has beat the fuck out of me over the last few years, and really hit me in the humble spot something fierce.

I hung out the other day with a friend I had not seen in twenty years. Immediately upon seeing him in the flesh, my mind was just flooded with all the stupid shit I used to do. It was actually kind of an odd feeling, to be having a conversation in real time, while my mind was dancing around in the past, searching for anything terrible I had done to him or anyone he was/is close with.

I was really kind of taken by surprise at how natural it felt to hang out with someone from my past, considering how much of it I have tried to erase or bury under the me I have fashioned myself into since the terror of High School was finally over. And then, sitting there, I realized that most of the misgivings I have about my past are due to the fact that no emotional door has ever truly closed. The delusion I live within is my own creation. I have wasted so much time and energy hiding myself, my misappropriation of trust, my vulnerabilities.

It was really enlightening to reconnect. Maybe now that I am older and more entrenched in the me that I am in the rightfuckingnow, I wasn’t so afraid to open up and share who I was back then. I admitted to some really silly shit that you couldn’t have given me a grip of money to cop to before.

But then I realize the most important factor of all:

Fuck it.

Yes, we try to evolve. And yes, we try to clean up our Karmic Debt. But really? As self-policing semi-evolving motherfuckers, can we honestly think we’ll be able to make “amends” or play “kissyface” with everyone who has ever been hurt on our path to our own supposed enlightenment? That’s a silly notion, when you really dissect it down to the smallest molecule(which I always apt to do) – it’s not like these motherfuckers who have been in our lives even give a rat’s ass. If they did – they would have confronted us or tried to talk to us since then, right?

Not everybody is about their own evolution, you know? 95% of the population would rather swim in the muck of their own misery, because it is so much easier than admitting you’re broken and need help being put back together.

Neal Cassady, the muse for Jack Kerouac’s “Dean Moriarty” character from On The Road, had the best quote I’ve ever heard in my life about friendship:

“We all get to heaven, leaning on the arm of someone we once helped.”

And to Gumpify that – that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

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"Nihilism Is Best Done By Professionals."

Trade Secrets:

Personally, I think I do my best writing either very late at night, or way too early in the morning. There’s something magical about the small hours – like my mind connects the dots in a much more cohesive way, blocking out all the other shit that seems to never stop getting caught in the spokes. The nutty spiritualist in me attributes this to the fact that 85% of the world is sleeping, freeing up my subconscious mind from the cluttering and clamoring of everyone else’s thoughts.

Music is a very helpful tool for me to get shit done. If I am working on something heavily emotional, like a piece about my past/family/horrorshow childhood – something cinematic and atmospheric like Mogwai*, Grails, or even Followed By Ghosts(these amazingly talented kids from the middle of Iowa – you might want to check them out if you’re into this kind of music) works really well. The lack of lyrical content helps me to focus, and to get the movie rolling in my head, which is ultimately what writing is about for me – releasing the movies stuck in my head.

*A quite lengthy live video of Mogwai, performing Christmas Steps – which turns into a monster @ roughly 3:49 in. This is what it sounds like inside my head, FYI.

ANYWAYS…

Earlier this week, we lost a music pioneer.

Ron Asheton of The Stooges was found dead in his home of an apparent heart attack – he was 60 years old.

Let me go ahead and break this down for y’all, Rock and Motherfucking Roll History 101 style – nobody ever put it down like The Stooges did. Ron Asheton did more with three primal chords and a fat-back beat than anyone in rock and roll ever had. The Stooges in their prime? Shit, son. They were an unstoppable force. Raw, visceral, full of furious bludgeoning beauty. The were, in my humblest of humble opinions, The Heavyweight Champions. People ask me all the time – “Sean, what album can you NOT live without? Like, if you had only one record to listen to for the rest of your life, what would that fucker be?”

I never hesitate at all. Fun House. Hands fucking down.

The proof is in the pudding:

I don’t think I have ever made a mixtape for anyone(unless it was a girl I was trying to woo) that did not start off with TV Eye. This song completely destroys all comers. Iggy’s blood-curdling opening scream. Ron’s fucking snaking and twisting riffing. Thunderous drums. Plodding bass lines, pushing air. Proto-punk in it’s infancy.

You see, you wouldn’t even have punk without The Stooges or Ron Asheton. I’m not trying to blaspheme on the MC5, neither – they are just as, if not even more important on the political tip. Both bands brought the fucking ruckus, stirring up the pot later rekindled by the Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Ramones, The Clash, etc.

I’ll never forget the emotional/chemical reaction Ron’s guitar playing created in me. Irrespective of anything else, it allowed the movie in my head to roll in a magically free-form and careless manner. Ron’s playing inspired me to let a little more of the animal out whenever I picked up my guitar. He will be missed.

Don’t let me be the only one to preach to y’all about how amazing Ron was – his friends are speaking up, too:

Iggy Pop.

Mike Watt.

Go out and buy Fun House. Set your headphones to stun, and let it take you over. As if you even have a choice…

Rest In Peace, Ron. Thanks for The Riffage.

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Here To Take On Fuel And Burn(Part Two In A Series Of Spiritual Misadventures)


This is the second installment in what is starting to feel like a large series of rambles based upon my Spiritual Misadventures during my never-ending quest to “find myself”(part one can be found here for reference) – I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy writing them. I sometimes forget how funny my real life is/was…

That first Mass/Meeting/Class I went to was something else, man. I think the last time I had been in a Catholic Mass was when my father and I flew back to Rockland County for his father’s funeral, in December of 1988. I passed out from the combo-platter of the previous evening’s beer/Jameson’s/Valium, and the never-ending sensing the Priest was doing in my general direction. My cousin Jodi had to drag me outside and put my face into the snow, so that I could snap the fuck on out of it.

Historical Interlude – we had a service for my own father in that very same church in January of 2006. Life is weird, man. Weird.

ANYWAYS…

Basically, we all met up in this cat’s condo in North Phoenix. Humble little place, pretty low-key and all that. Cindy and I drove in together – I met her at her place, and I left my truck over there. Cindy promised me I would not be too weirded out, and that I would probably learn a thing or two.

This is the part of the story when I have to start using fake names, because I do not want to call anyone out or fuck with anyone’s livelihood. That just isn’t how I roll, you know? That being said, from here on out, I will refer to the “leader” cat as Reverend Sassypants, since he took his position so highly that he had to take every opportunity to try and make himself appear smarter or more evolved than everyone else. Which, upon reflection, is exactly what a “cult” leader should do, isn’t it?

We get up to the door, and Cindy knocks.

I was weirded out the second the fucking door opened.

Almost as freaked out as this makes me feel. For real.

Reverend Sassypants is standing there, in full Liturgical Vestments, with a Pope-ish hat resting on his dome. He’s a stout little bastard, looks kind of like an actor who would play a shrink or maybe a literature professor. Before I can even enter through the doorway, he is already cupping his hand around my shoulder in that half-hug/pull-you-into-my-lair type of way that makes me very uncomfortable.

“Welcome, Sean. We’re very excited to have you here with us tonight, as we’ve heard a lot about you. My goodness, you have such presence! I can feel your vibration so deeply. So glad to have you!”

I didn’t feel dirty as much as I felt kind of confusingly comfortable, as the good Reverend was quite charming. Warm, even. He asked me how long it had been since I had gone to a Catholic Mass, and I told him it had been about a decade. When I jokingly asked him if this was going to turn out poorly, like some oddball Rosemary’s Baby type of scenario, he just giggled and guffawed like nobody’s business.

“Quick-witted. I like it! We need a good smartass in the group.”

After a few minutes, the rest of the group starts to slowly arrive. My observation skills immediately hone in on the fact that they all seem to have that downtrodden, overlooked-by-the-world look in their eyes. It was like a secret meeting of The Nervous Shuffling Feet Gang – everyone shaking hands with me upon being introduced, without a single one of them making direct eye contact.

Obviously, I was an interloper.

ANYWAYS…

All of us get summoned into The Holy Oratory, which is basically a back bedroom which has been converted into a space with an altar, the altar vessels, representations of four Archangels(Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel), and all of the other accoutrements one would find in a Catholic church. Even though we were in a small room in someone’s condo, it certainly felt like being in church.

Reverend Sassypants and his assistant, who will from this point forward be referred to as Moustache McGhee(he had a killer ’70s porn ‘stache going on, which when coupled with his overall creepiness – really, this guy is someone I need to explore as a character for later use) – they just jumped right on into the whole shebang right quick-like. I had no real serious background with Catholicism, as I felt more in tune with my Hebrew blood(which the good Reverend was always keen to point out at every fucking chance he got). All that kneeling and chanting, coupled with all of the frankincense and myrrh* filling up the room, well, that shit kind of did a number on my monkey ass.

*I, being a smart and nosy little bastard, came to figure out all on my lonesome why the frankincense and myrrh were so important in the ritual itself. Just file away that knowledge for later – it’ll come in handy, I promise.

After making it through the Mass itself, which was all done in Latin, I felt a little bit refreshed. Definitely a little high from all of the sensory overload. And my interest was certainly rising, as it felt quite natural for me to be there. We all filed out of the room, and out into the sitting/living room area of the place. As we all took seats staggered throughout the room, I noticed everyone staring at me a little more – obviously trying to figure me out a little bit, which was understandable.

Rev. Sassypants told us he had put on a pot of coffee(which always makes me a happy participant in pretty much anything going on – I’m the kind of cat that would probably grab a free cup at a public execution if it was available), and that dinner would be served shortly. Everyone seemed quite pleased with this announcement,which was promising to me, as a home-cooked meal was not something I’d had in quite a while – unless you counted my drunken late-night drives to burrito stands home-cooked.


If you’ve never been to a Filiberto’s, you are missing out on some of the greasiest, most beautifully destructive of gastro-delights available to human beings 24/7 in the Southwest. Trust me on this one now, I am an expert.

My comfort level was steadily rising, what with fresh coffee, some awkward smiles, and being in a room full of fellow chainsmokers – which is always a good thing in my book. As we were all sitting there in our Mass afterglow, Rev. Sassypants decides it’s time to have everyone take turns asking me questions about myself, which seemed innocent enough to me at first…

To be continued…

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