2002

Chatting with my then new friend, Jeannine, on AIM I became aware of something that I’d denied for a very long time.

My band, Document, played a show in her hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. The show was small. Our accommodations were interesting. The ride back to Detroit on St. Patrick’s Day was uneventful. Oh, I also remember that while we sat at a booth in the club, drinking beer, I told Randy and Mary that Kim and I were going to have our second child. Their gleeful faces made it so comforting and real. After the show, I also remember meeting a really nice girl that seemed super-excited about our music and our chance to play with Q and Not U in Detroit the following month. That’s Jeannine.

While getting to know her across the internet, I tried to glean as much information that I could from Jeannine concerning our band’s image, our presence on stage, our technical ability, etc. She was an out-of-towner, so it was important to me to understand how people that have never seen us or met us perceived us. Jeannine had some interesting notions about all of us – Chad was the emo guy, Jeff was the quiet guy, Randy was the thinker, and I was the spiritual one.

The spiritual one?

1999

200px-timesofgrace.jpg

Our practice space stunk a little like sweat and maybe some old cheese. I was in another band then, MINE. We sounded a little like a Steve Albini project, but then with a little more rock thrown in. Our space was a large room within a forgotten warehouse in the middle of Detroit, near the New Center area. The building housed eight such rooms for aspiring rocks bands to turn their musings into material. Gov’t Mule practiced there for a day or two – that was pretty cool.

Jason, the guitarist and main songwriter, and I waltzed into our room just as the band we shared the space with, Diegrinder, was wrapping up their session. Henry played bass for Diegrinder and works (even to this day, I think…) at a well-established indie record shop, Record Time. Jason asked about the new Neurosis album, Times of Grace. Apparently, it was amazing because Henry couldn’t stop going on and on about its inventiveness – the strings, the keys, the drums, the bagpipes, and the heaviness. It seemed like a recording bordering on revelatory experience.

I hadn’t really paid attention to Neurosis.

Yet.

2001

It was a cold day in the Detroit area late in the year. Go figure, right? I’d just pulled away in my work van from a senior citizens’ retirement complex in Southfield, sliding through some fresh snow. My stereo was thrusting Neurosis’ A Sun That Never Sets. In particular, I was at the the end of the recording digesting “Stones From The Sky.” My mind completely left the road on which I was driving when the final, drum-driven stanzas poured through. The roaring guitar, the tribal beat – it formed a vision of fire, of wanton dancing, of praise, of worship. I felt the rare tingling of my spine and an almost euphoric trance when the song came to a crashing end. As I came down, while turning down Telegraph Road, I thought to myself: this is it – this is the pinnacle of music for me. This is my revelatory experience.

2003

paine.gifMy mouth felt like it was shut with a thick paste of Elmer’s glue. I’m not good at speaking publicly, and I’d usually rather not. But, this was my last gig with Document. I needed to say something – these were my brothers-in-art, for Christ’s sake. But, damn it all, I hate speaking in front of crowds, not that there was much of a crowd. But, you get the idea. I felt like my mouth and throat were covered in cotton as I half-heartedly walked to the microphone to say good-bye and to leave with some sort of political bang.

I’ve been a leftist political thinker for the better part of a decade-and-a-half. But, with this comes a responsibility to learn the historical aspects of politics as well as the philosophies behind them. In June of 2003, I started a long-term, off-and-on personal project to understand progressive politics in America. I started with Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.

As I finished acknowledging my fortune in creating art with both Randy and Jeff, I concluded my two minutes behind the microphone with the following quote from Common Sense:

SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

March 2004

On an atypically sunny Portland Sunday morning in March I sat in the pews at First Unitarian Church. The preceding week had been monumental in the fight for equal rights in many cities across America. First Unitarian in Portland was one of the leading religious institutions to marry same-sex couples that week. Being that the congregation is predominantly liberal and has a high percentage of gays and lesbians, the fight for their marriage-equality was not a surprise.

However, that morning while I sat in the pews I noticed a certain electric feeling spreading through the air. As Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell stepped to the pulpit the hush of the crowd was undeniably deadening. As Dr. Sewell began speaking, always in her completely engaging and intellectually arresting manner, I sensed that something great was afoot. Indeed, greatness in the simplicity of equality unleashed upon the public was set into motion that week. Dr. Sewell announced that she was honored and privileged to preside over the marriages of some of First Unitarian’s same-sex couple marriages that week. The congregation stood, ecstatically roared and whistled, and clapped solidly for almost ten minutes. I couldn’t help but shed somewhat of a tear in seeing the joy that these people held in their unions. I couldn’t help but feel that something I did not understand but obviously alive was certainly present.

September 2004

Mt. St. HelensI got the call from my wife Kim while she shopped at Target. Mt. St. Helens was erupting again.

My stomach churned as if milk was being alchemized into butter. As I walked outside and looked into the crystal blue skies I saw the cloud shooting into the atmosphere. The cloud made me wonder if Portland would be covered in a snow-like blanket of ash.

God had belched.

2000

We were watching television on the night of February 24th. Delphina, who’d just turned five years of age, was fast asleep. Our home phone rang and my heart dropped. I knew what news was to come.

I drove through the frozen roads of the Detroit area to where my father was breathing the last breaths of his fruitful life. My mom sat next to me in the VW holding my hand. We knew that it was time and we were grateful.

Frank CostanzaAs we took those slow, pounding steps down the sterile halls of the hospital, I saw my older sisters staring forlorn into something far beyond the floors. I wondered why they were so sad. He’d obviously made desperate signs that he wanted it all over with. Why would an 82 year old man pull a feeding tube out of his stomach if he thought otherwise? It was time. He knew it. I knew it.

I peered into the room and saw his bright and beautiful complexion looking as peaceful as he did when I would run into his bedroom and wake him in the morning when I was five. I touched his hand and it was still warm even though he’d drawn his final breath moments earlier.

It felt like I floated from his bed to the waiting room near by. A Seinfeld rerun was on the television. I sat directly in front of the television and watched while everyone else deliberated what to do. I was done. Everything was finished.

On the tube Frank Costanza bellowed his now-classic line, “Serenity now!”

I smiled.