I decided I wanted to offer a bit more explanation with this muxtape, appropriately titled “Loved Live”. I’ve tried to collect some live recordings that I have specific and fond memories tied to, while at the same time offering a thread of aural continuity throughout.
Neighborhood (Tunnels) - The Arcade Fire
I think this recording is from an Arcade Fire show in Paris, 2005. When I first listened to The Arcade Fire, I think it was with my dad, I remember thinking how big they sounded, how grand the mood of their music.
The lyrics to this song have always reminded me of winters back in New Jersey, especially of a severe blizzard that hit the East Coast when I was maybe four or five years old. My brother and I were small enough that we could attempt to tunnel through the snow, though I can’t remember being very successful. The snow came in so quickly and at such an angle that it could form outcroppings of snow and ice that extended sideways from the corners of the roof of our house, reaching out into the air.
The Leanover - Life Without Buildings
This track is from the album Live At The Annandale Hotel. I was first introduced to the studio version of The Leanover by my friend Abbey more than a few years ago. Exchanged in a fit of letters and handmade mix tapes (physical cassettes, oh!), this was but one of the many songs by which she pried open my ears and heart.
Abbey lived nearly an hour and a half away and when I would drive to see her, far too rarely, the tape deck of my bruise-blue Mazda 626 was never empty. I memorized this song, along with so many others on her tapes, speeding South on Interstate-287.
The Clap - The Unicorns
I saw The Unicorns live once, before the band exploded and then collapsed in on itself to form Islands. I only remember a few details of that show though, and some of them are a bit confused with other shows I went to, but this song brings the whole mess bubbling up in my mind.
It’s a dark hall, except for fluorescent neon lights over the bar. The stage lights are dim and there’s some kind of strange cheap candy-land set in the background. The crowd is sweaty and bouncing and I’m there with my then girlfriend Andy who turns back to look at me wearing a huge open grin. In one break during a song the band stops to sing a new interlude, “Come dance with me, I taste just like candy, come dance with me, I taste just like candy.” At the end of the night my friends and I got in trouble for being underage, but the bouncer went easy on us kids.
Wild Pack Of Family Dogs - Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse is surely one of my favorite bands, and I blame this entirely on my friend Goldy. He’s responsible for the cultivation of a lot of my tastes, but this muxtape isn’t titled “Jono
When I hear this song I’m reminded of Goldy’s dog Diego. When Goldy first got him he was a wild-ass pup, and when I saw him last he was a grown wild-ass dog. We would play a special game where he chewed on my arms, and I nicknamed him “shithead”.
The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton - The Mountain Goats
I remember when my brother first introduced me to The Mountain Goats. We were in his old bedroom back in New Jersey, it might have been maybe a month or two before we moved to California. He played No Children and Cubs In Five for me. I was so impressed by John Darniel’s lyrics’ cultivated and earnestly dramatic sentiments, and it wasn’t long after that I began to inhale more and more Mountain Goats from the internet. What I found was a massive discography and an even larger collections of recordings of live sets by devoted fans.
This track is from a show The Mountain Goats played in Chicago in 2002. I’ve listened to this set countless times, even memorizing the names of tracks the adoring audience members call out, drunk on alcohol and camaraderie. I think this track in particular captures what I think a live performance should be.
Wolf-Alice - Erin Tobey
Another solo singer/guitarist, I am very impressed by Erin Tobey. Her rapid and delicate picking along with her low-voiced half speaking/half singing voice combine into a full and complex signal that suggest wide open spaces. When I found this live set I was very glad to hear that this fullness of sound comes through in her live performances as well. Or maybe I don’t know how to describe sounds. This is from a show recorded at the Bike Barn in 2005, more of which can be found here.
The introduction and lyrics of this song make mention of walking through woods, and when I hear it I’m instantly reminded of riding my bike in the middle of the night through pitch black parks. Either riding with my brother through South Mountain Reservation or with Ryan and Brad through lower Bidwell Park, it’s the same sensation. The asphalt purrs under your tires and the wind whips past your ears. The only light comes from the night sky as it intermittently breaks through the trees overhead. That you can barely see further than fifteen feet ahead of you all but eliminates the sensation of how fast you’re moving. It’s dark and everything just washes past you.
Walking The Cow - Kid Presentable
This is an indulgence, for sure. In case you didn’t know, I used to be in a little punky noisey band called Kid Presentable. This recording was from one of our last shows, and one of the last successful shows in Goldy’s basement-turned-DIY-venue “the G-Spot”. Come to think of it, it’s the only live audio recording of us I have.
Walking The Cow is a cover of TV On The Radio playing a cover of a Daniel Johnston song. I’ve never heard the original, but I’m sure it sounds more than two degrees removed from this. While this live recording is by all standards depressingly poor in quality, I think it reflects what many of the shows in that venerated basement felt like. Way too loud, crowded of course, small pieces of plaster fall from the ceiling to the floor amidst a tangle of extension cords, quarter-inch instrument cables and teenage legs; good old days.
I think seven songs is just enough to qualify as a mix proper, and I seem to have written a lot to go along with it. I like this kind of thing.
Here’s another Muxtape called “It’s Not Hard”. Starts out a little sickly and discordant, but eventually twists into a smile. Enjoy.
- Kissability - Sonic Youth
- Fruit - Modest Mouse
- Vanish Or Vanquish - The Detachment Kit
- Pirates Declare War - The Moldy Peaches
- Tape Deck Ghost - The Microphones
- Daily Dares - Les Savy Fav
- I Bleed - The Pixies
- This Place Is Haunted - DeVotchka
- Our Way To Fall - Yo La Tengo
- Hickory - Iron & Wine
Internet is spotty where I am, uploading these songs was like pulling teeth. I miss my broadband in Chico.
Und So Weiter
I’m writing about reading again, as I’ve been doing plenty of the latter in the past few weeks.
I don’t consider myself particularly well-read or in possession of the kind of monstrous appetite for books that expresses itself elsewhere in my family. When I do read it’s usually in fits. I’ll find something that catches my attention and sit with it for about two days or until I’ve finished it, whichever comes first. As a result I have a stack of really interesting but only half-finished books that’s half as tall as I am. I get new books much faster than I complete old ones, and I have an unjustifiable (but rationalized) preference for buying instead of borrowing. I suspect these problems aren’t so unusual.
I normally look for books on specific topics or ideas that have caught my attention. A lot of what I bring home is non-fiction and popular science. Comix aside, I don’t really invest a lot of time in books with strong narratives and characters.
Recently though, I read The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Recommended by my mom and step-dad after I complained of finishing all the books I brought with me to their house, I expected nothing more from it than to pass a few hours. The story revolves around the relationship of Henry, a man cursed and blessed by involuntary time travel, and Clare, a woman living a perfectly sequential life. Their life together is passionate, painful, and often confusing to them and those around them.
I was lured into the book by the mechanics of Henry’s time traveling. Niffenegger obviously spent a lot of time considering the possible side effects of two broken and wildly intertwined timelines, while precariously avoiding an over-explanation or excuse for Henry’s condition. It wasn’t until I was about two hundred pages in that I realized I cared less about the deterministic implications of Niffenegger’s time travel mechanisms than I did about her engrossing characters.
I stayed up until dawn finishing the story. I laughed, I cried, I made strong connections with fictional characters. Doctor help, I am sensitive to this new medicine.
One book I’ve recently finished reading is Tor Norretranders’s The User Illusion. Beginning with the basic tenets of thermodynamics and moving on to the physical cost of whittling unimportant information down to something meaningful through computation, logical depth, the nature of communication, and the information bandwidth of language, Norretranders arrives at the fact that the conscious mind may not be the most important thing going on in our heads. Of the nearly eleven million of bits of sensory information that comes in to our brains, we are conscious of very little. The capacity of consciousness can be measured and is found to be somewhere below forty bits a second, perhaps even as low as sixteen.
But these few bits of information are hardly enough to explain the wealth of human behavior or the richness of our perception of the world, and Norretranders argues that a great amount of subliminal (below the threshold of sensation or consciousness) perception, interpretation, simulation, decision making, communication, and thought processing goes on that gives our conscious mind the illusion of being in charge of the show.
The division between the conscious and the unconscious is presented as the coexistence of the conscious I, and the unconscious Me. While I is aware of things we can afford to spend time considering like language and social interaction, Me takes care of everything else, such as breathing, body language, the interpretation of light and shapes as recognizable objects and patterns, and anything else we are not conscious of.
By definition the I can only be conscious of what it is conscious of, and cannot be aware of what it is unconscious of. Surely we can shine the I like a flashlight onto different portions of our perception, like the sensation of wearing clothes or our respiratory rhythm, but in doing so we realize that there are many sensations we are not constantly conscious of.
One of thing that can be drawn from the dualism of the I and Me is an understanding of how pleasure can come from practiced activities. When you first learn how to do something, like tying shoelaces or riding a bike, it’s an akward and stilting process as the I is conscious of everything you’re learning to do. Eventually the activity becomes much easier, through practice the I gains confidence in the Me to forge on without supervision. For more complex tasks, Norretranders gives the example of a concert pianist, there can be great respect for the unconscious Me’s ability to go through such motions.
In a job, this can manifest as the satisfaction of your skills are being properly applied, of everything working the way it should and allowing the Me to operate smoothly. I think a lot of the satisfaction I get from working as a bike mechanic comes from the sensation of moving from one task to another without stopping every thirty seconds to think “what am I doing?”, “how do I do this?”, “what should I be doing?”.
When everything is going well, things get done. My hands know how much torque to apply to a bolt. My arms know where on the board to reach for right tools (when I can keep the board organized). My ears know the difference between the sound of a customer opening the door and walking in, and a customer holding it open to bring their bike in.
In Chico you can find stickers stuck everywhere that read “Everyone Is Going Conscious”. Not if I can help it!
Two Fifty Mixty
Another muxtape for your listening pleasure, I call this one “Summer Funder”. So listen, enjoy, and celebrate with me my 250th post.
- Mouseteeth - This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb
- Toy Piano - Matty Pop Chart
- Women Are Born In Love - Oh No! Oh My!
- Bad Town - Operation Ivy
- The Warming Sun - Grandaddy
- Ebb Tide, Azure Sky - The Unicorns
- Race Car Grin You Ain’t No Landmark - Modest Mouse
- The Demise of Madame Butterfly - Madeline Adams
- MX Missles - Andrew Bird
- Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down - Interpol
Another reason to celebrate, same-sex marriages are happening all over California today, awesome!
Right now? I’m staying at my mom’s home in the bay area, entertained by kittens and occupied by a pile of books I’ve been meaning to finish reading for a while (in some cases more than a few years). I’m taking it easy as doctors, friends, and family recommend. I think I might actually be getting the hang of this “relaxation” thing.
Originally, I had planned for this to be a prolific summer of wrenching, riding, and increasingly independent living and unparalleled personal productivity. As of my second knee injury and resulting surgery though, it looks like I’m going to have my leg in a cast until at least the end of July.
I feel pretty lucky that the idea of working full time when most of my peers are taking a vacation excites me. Like most bike shops, Pullins Cyclery gets especially busy when nicer weather arrives, and it looks like rising gas prices have lead to even more people pulling dusty bikes out of garages or starting riding for transportation for the first time. I’ve come to understand that I get the most satisfaction from my job when my hands are busy from opening to closing. If I forget to take lunch until late into the afternoon, it probably means I’ve been flipping tools, hopping from project to project, uselessly wiping grease from my hands, and running about with a frantic grin on my face.
As much as I was looking forward to long hours though, it’s not really safe or productive for me to be in the shop with a stiff leg. If I had been able to work for a few months, I had planned to take a train trip to the East coast to visit friends and family. Unfortunately this too has to be scrapped as the situation demands.
Earlier this year I made a promise to myself to give cyclocross riding a try, and to actually attempt some races. Even after my first knee injury, I figured I’d be able to work some kind of purposeful ‘training’ into my riding in the months before the winter season rolled around. I also intended to keep with a routine of weekend century rides that brought me such exceptional health and strength in the Spring of last year. Being off the bike until the end of Summer cuts into these plans though.
This time around I will return to riding much more slowly. Instead of hopping back in the saddle as soon as I’m flexible enough to do so, I will try to wait until the majority of my flexibility and basic strength returns. When the time comes, I’ll put together something with some low enough gears that I won’t need to stand on while pedaling, and I’ll take it easy.
In allowance of these altered plans, I’m going to take next semester off from school, to give myself not only time to heal but to return to a way of living that satisfies and fortifies me. Hopefully, many of these plans will be translated to the fall.
Back in My Head
I’ve been really out of it this week, or at least it seems I’ve been feeling strange now that I’m becoming a bit more normalized. One of the characteristic difficulties of determining one’s own health, physical or mental, is that we can’t quite seem to find a window to peer out of that will give us a complete view of the building we’re in.
My brother Zack was driving through the valley, up from the Bay Area to Portland, and spent the stayed at my apartment overnight. After graduating from University in Connecticut and completing his second cross-country drive, he’s spending the summer in the Pacific NW with some friends.
As always, my brother proved to be an invaluable sounding board and yardstick for ideas and mental conditions, and spending time with him always leaves me feeling much more grounded, confident, and concrete. I don’t think anybody else can do that for me the way he does. He’s my best brother for sure.
In trying to pin down what’s gotten me so befuddled these past few days, I couldn’t tell whether it was my body’s reaction to the stress of injury and surgery, the effects of narcotic opioid painkillers, too much or too little sleep at irregular intervals, not eating enough or the right things, the onset of mild lethargic depression, or some combination of all of the above.
After getting breakfast with Zack at Cafe Coda though, I think I’ve determined that what I eat (or haven’t been eating) may have the largest effect on my stamina. A big tasty breakfast this morning has already improved my condition considerably, and chances are I might actually accomplish something akin to being productive today.
One of the side effects of the much less active lifestyle that goes along with a broken leg is a reduction of appetite. If I’m not commuting by bicycle, working on my feet for nearly nine hours a day, and then spending my free time riding through the foothills, my body is consuming vastly fewer calories. Yet somehow I’ve lost about twenty pounds in the ten weeks since I originally fractured my knee. That’s a full ninth of my previous weight.
I tried to give my brother a little bit of advice, since he’s becoming more conscientious about what and how much he eats and drinks (a shift I earnestly endorse). To be frank, the majority of the substantive waste that comes out of our bodies (yeah, shit) isn’t just chewed up food, It’s discarded flesh. What this means is that what we eat, for the most part, becomes us in one way or another. Food that we burn for energy is what allows for us to take action and thought, to survive. We are what we eat in a very literal sense.
So it’s no surprise to me that by returning to wholesome and substantial meals I begin to feel both more corporeal and clearheaded.
So I seem to have survived my knee surgery. I’m still feeling a bit drowsy and loopy so this entry may be a bit brief.
The last thing I remember was being rolled into the operating room, moving myself from the gurney to the operating table, and joking with the surgeon about a Monty Python skit. The anesthesiologist fed a cocktail into my arm and I told her that about the taste of copper in my mouth. There was a clear plastic oxygen mask with two flexible hoses leading out of it placed over my mouth and nose.
Then it goes blank. During this time the surgeon drained the effusion of fluid surrounding my knee. They then made an lateral incision across the front of my kneecap. After pulling back the soft tissue, they began to file away the new bone growth that had previously held my fractured kneecap together. This was done to create smooth and clean surfaces for the bones to bond together again. Small holes were drilled into the top and bottom of my kneecap, where the tendons attach, into which small metal pins were inserted. Once these were in place, wire was wrapped around the pins and across the front of my knee.
Then I was back in a bed in the recovery room, and I can start to remember again. Ryan, Brad and Amber were there, we were talking, joking, but I was still very much under the effects of the anesthesia. I would drift off to sleep every other moment, I was mumbling, my eyes were very heavy. I couldn’t stop scratching my nose and forehead, and I later learned that the dilaudid (a painkiller opioid) they dosed me with interacts with histamine receptors, which is why my face was so itchy.
Somehow I made it from the bed into a wheelchair, out of the hospital, and into Amber’s car. Amber took my back to their house, and it wasn’t long before I was back in another bed, surrendering the illusion of mental acuity.
This morning I woke up no longer feeling the mental effects of the general anesthetic, but much more painfully aware of the condition of my knee. I’m still relying pretty heavily on hydrocodone to keep the pain tolerable, and as a result am pretty drowsy throughout the day.
More coherent posts to follow.
Back to Square One
I went for a bike ride this past Sunday, it was my first real ride with the gang since I got my cast off, and it was set to be a great day. We met up at a coffee shop around 9 or so, and headed South-East out of town along the bike paths, riding up into the foothills towards Honey Run Road, the very road I crashed coming down on ten weeks ago.
My leg was feeling pretty good. I’d spent a large portion of my morning preparing, stretching and massaging my knee, and it wasn’t that stiff once I got on the saddle. Though I was trailing a bit behind the pack as we made our way through the gentle foothills, it was still fantastic to be back on the road together.
Feeling perhaps a bit overconfident, I decided to try heading up Centerville Road, a milder climb that begins just as Honey Run Road starts to get steep. It was slow going climbing with such a weakened leg, but it felt good. I felt like what I was doing was within my abilities, and was just another part of increasing the flexibility and strength of my knee.
What I didn’t anticipate was my right cleat suddenly detaching from the pedal in mid-stroke, suddenly placing all of my weight and momentum onto my bent left leg. Not having the strength to hold myself up on the injured leg alone, it bent beneath my much further than I had yet been able to achieve through physical therapy. I remember hearing a noise, something like a snap and a pop, and then the pain began. I don’t think I have ever felt anything so painful before.
It was laying on the road, screaming obscenities into the sky, biting hard into the leather palms of my gloves, wiping tears from my face, and screaming some more, that I realized I had done something enormously regrettable. An X-ray taken this morning confirmed that I had split my kneecap open again, worse than the original fracture I had inflicted little over two months before.
So I’m back to square one, a bit worse off this time around. It would have been nice if just letting the bone stitch itself back together had been enough, but the fact that I could split the bone simply by bending my knee proves that it was insufficient, and that more invasive measures are necessary. I’m going to have knee surgery sometime this week, in which they will either pin my kneecap back together with small metal rods, wrap the bone in thin metal wires to hold the pieces together, or some combination thereof.
This operation will be followed by another eight to ten weeks in a cast, after which I will begin some much more challenging physical therapy. I’ve got a long way to go before I’ll be riding again, let alone walking.
I had planned to spend this summer working, riding, and generally recovering from the mild depression that seven weeks in a cast had brought upon me. It now looks like I may have to push that process a bit further down the calendar.