To Drink Or Not To Drink

I tried to be straight edge. Some of my best friends in the world are edge. I just could not do it.

I have a mixed history with alcohol really, my father gave up drinking when I was young because it just was not right for him anymore. Something that I admire his ability to do and control after all these years. I started drinking at about fourteen years old, as I mentioned in an earlier article. I went too hard way too fast if I have to be honest (and I do), and drank in excess for a few years. I used it to deal with emotions and to have fun. If a party was happening, I was going to get drunk/stoned without a doubt. It came to a head during one new years party where I drank more than I ever had before and woke up paying for it in more ways than one. During that night, not only had I put my body through its paces, but had also in the process cut ties with a close friend (that I would not repair the relationship with for many years). I was eighteen at the time and had decided it was time to quit drinking. I was not straight edge but I was definitely anti-drinking, and managed to go about four years without a drink.

I found myself at the age of twenty-four wondering if maybe it was time to give drinking a chance again; maybe I would be able to drink socially and not make it a big deal. It worked for the most part, I did not get drunk or go out partying and drinking until I was sick. The issue here is that I was not really ready to drink, and I did not always feel safe in the environments I was in when drinking. I was not surrounding myself with the people I needed to when I drank (which was completely my fault) and allowing myself to relax. I was merely drinking because everyone around me was drinking and I wanted to be able to take part in the activities with them. The lesson I needed to learn, but was failing to, was that just because everyone around me was drinking and I was currently in a “pro drinking” state of mind, it did not mean I HAD to drink every time.

As for trying to go straight edge, well that happened rather quickly. It was the first time I had ever been into a strip club, and it would also be the last time. After milling around the outer edges looking for enough room for my group to sit, we spotted an empty section front row centre. It was more insane than I could have imagined, a strange mix of dancers that seemed to love it and others that I swear were dead in the eyes. The real story here is the crowd, the drunken frat boys cheering and howling at the dancers. Downing drink after drink until finally I turned to a friend of mine (who happened to be edge himself) and said “This is it, I’m going edge. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.” And to be honest truer words could not have been spoken. This was (and is) not a lifestyle that I wanted to be a part of; I looked around and felt depressed and sick to my stomach. This place was just not somewhere that I belonged.

I should also point out that I love the concept of being straight edge, the commitment to not being a part of something that you deem unsavoury. I still hold a lot of straight edge beliefs close to my heart; I am strongly anti-drug and have not wavered from that for the last ten years. I do not support drinking in excess, and never will. I believe that once in a while, everyone needs to take a hard look at how much they drink, as well as how often. In addition to that, sometimes it is necessary to ask why you are drinking.  Really, I know that the only reason I lasted as long as I did being straight edge (about ten months) was fear of letting down the friends I have that are also edge. I felt like a failure, and a disappointment to them which was worse than anything to me. My friends are my family and I hold their view of me with very high regard.

I sit here now having come to the conclusion over the last few months that I do enjoy drinking and am going to do it. I can not deny that I love dark spiced rum mixed with a bit of coke or pepsi, or a margarita on a really hot day sitting on a terrace. Ultimately it was one of my best friends in the world, Sam, that helped me realize what I needed to know. And that was that just because I do drink, does not mean I ever have to drink. Just because I go to a bar does not mean I must have anything other than water, or when at a party I do not have to accept a beer just because I can. I drink when I feel safe, and am in the right mood for it. That might mean a few drinks a week, or it might mean one drink a year. And I am happy about that. I have never been in a better place mentally and I think I am ready to settle in to the fact that I will never be straight edge. Which is ok by me.

-Michel
Not straight edge, but supportive

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Hello Future, Nice To Meet You

“An old man, he is definitely at least sixty in spirit.” The response you would get from almost anyone when asking “How would you describe Michel?”.

I have been obsessed with reading from a young age. As soon as I was able to read I was always excited to discover new books. It started out with my father reading “The Boxcar Children” books aloud to me before bed, almost every night another chapter (or two as I would most certainly demand just one more). My father was the one that really got me to love reading. He gave me a copy of “The Hobbit” a few years earlier than I was really able to enjoy and understand it. None the less I read that book cover to cover as fast as my young eyes would allow me, and quickly moved on to the “Lord of The Rings” series which did indeed prove to be way too much for me (I gave up and never looked back, 1.5 books into the series). However it gave me an appreciation (and obsession) for books that would continue up to the present. I am always hunting for the next novel or series to keep me turning pages and hoping there are more like it.

Last night I finally made an important decision that I had been fighting for many years, reluctant and down right stubbornly refusing to accept. However the time has come, I, Michel W. Loranger am going to buy an eReader and start purchasing digital copies of books. Please put down your pitchforks, do not storm my castle doors just yet as I would like to explain my decision to you. I love physical copies of books; there is so much to enjoy in the simple act of holding a book. The texture of the cover, whether new and sleek, or old and worn from the pages being turned countless times. The smell of the pages hold so many memories for me, from libraries and book sales. Sometimes I just sit and stare at my collection of books, admiring them all placed sometimes neatly and other times strewn across my floor. I often find make shift bookmarks in the middle of books I have not picked up in months, only to drop whatever I am currently reading and continue on from where I left off in the older choice. It is safe to say that I love books, being able to share stories with people in that way. Lending a book is an incredibly satisfying thing, when a friend or coworker returns to you either loving or hating the choice you said they might enjoy.

An eReader however just seems….more practical. The ability to carry an entire collection of books with me wherever I go, and purchase new books on the fly is an offer I can no longer resist. Do not get me wrong about my hard copies of books, I will still occasionally purchase them when I find something cool in a used book store. I also plan on owning the entire Kurt Vonnegut collection to keep forever on my shelf, so there will always be room in my home for real books. However I have finally come to the realization that it may just be easier for me, especially considering I have lost count of how many times I have moved so far in life. The thought of having to once more pack up an ever-expanding collection of heavy books into several boxes is not exactly something I look forward to anymore. I want to be able to bring my collection wherever I am, and on a whim decide to re-read the entire harry potter collection while on vacation despite not bringing any with me.

The very idea that I could have thousands of books occupying the same space as a small magazine in my apartment becomes more and more appealing by the minute. I think that the time has finally come for me to welcome this future rather than run from it. I already live in a strange paradox of using a laptop and smart phone, yet sometimes insist on writing with a pencil in a notepad. Sometimes I use itunes for music and others I actually buy vinyl records. I think that what I most enjoy is the simple fact that I have choices now, when I am busy and on the move I can grab an eReader and iPod and be on my way with music and books to entertain me for days.

There will always be a special place in my heart for hard copies of books, but I also look forward to this new and scary digital world and all it has to offer. I suppose this is apart of a bigger topic in general, newspapers are becoming a thing of the past, books/music/movies all becoming digital. I am excited to see what the future brings, and I might choose to discuss this vague topic more in-depth in the future.

Part 3: Do Not Call It A Prequel

It will take a long time for the city to notice the good I am doing, it took the criminals about two weeks to notice that I was interfering with their business.

I had been doing this for about two months, going out every other night to areas that I kept hearing about on the scanner. Areas that should have been cleaned up years ago but had been written off as no longer worth spending our tax dollars on. Who cares that hundreds of families can not afford to move out of these slums, the rent is too cheap to pass up when moving would mean quadrupling what they pay for half the amount of space.

The first big name to really take notice that I was fucking up his income was a guy simply referred to as “The Spaniard”, one of his pit bosses happened to be around when I was explaining to his corner workers that St. Louis street was now a drug free zone. My aunt’s old metal baseball bat was (and is) an amazing teacher for lessons like these, to thick-headed crew members that had trouble understanding my point. I need to make a point here, (a line in the sand if you will) that I will always give these people a chance to walk away from it. To move to another corner, to go back to the bosses and tell them what happened, whatever they need to do to not have to become a human baseball. I am not a monster like their bosses are, I forgive them for what they do. A lot of them have no choice in the matter, and are only doing it to stay alive. The first few weeks I did not quite realize this, and I was taking out my anger on pawns rather than the kings/queens of the board. Sure I managed to get one of the really small working crews out of the area, but they were only at it because they knew they could get away with it because of the bigger crews. It served as a message in retrospect, to get the attention of the bigger names, and boy did I get the attention of the bigger names.

Everyone knew about The Spaniard and his crew including the cops, but what could they do when all they knew (assumed) was that he was Spanish? How do you find a guy in a city of millions with no date of birth, no physical description, not even a vague notion of who he is. Nobody was even sure it was a guy for a long time, we simply referred to him as male out of pure guess-work. This guy had at least four full neighbourhoods with dealers on every corner, running round the clock. Not to mention every shop keeper of corner stores was under his thumb to turn a blind eye or lose “protection” status. I had to do a lot of recon work before I really understood just how big this operation was. I spent days in filthy clothes, shoes with holes in them and glass stuck in the soles (a trick I learned from watching way too many cop TV shows) from walking on broken vials.  For the first few days I watched and figured out where the drugs were stored (idiots barely made an effort to keep it hidden) and how many guards there were on watch at any given time. Early in the morning there was only one, later in the day and into the night there was always two or three. Morning was going to be my best shot at getting in there without a big scene, I needed to get in and out clean. The last thing I wanted or needed was a dozen angry dealers with hand guns charging in after me, I had seen their aim and I was just as likely to get a bullet to the brain as I was to catch one in my toe. So it would have to be early morning, take out one guard and deal with the one inside before he can run away with the stash. I was going to take that stash, it was going to be a present to the police department and a message to the Spaniard.

It was around five AM, I can not really be sure because who the hell is fully functional at that time of morning. And there I was huddled under a piece of cardboard and a dirty old blanket covering me, so that nobody would see that I had my mask and weapons with me. The plan seemed simple enough at the time, I would take my time in walking around the building the stash was in. Circle from the side that the guard never seemed to face, hell why would he there was a twelve-foot wall back there and a small ravine on the other side. No one in their right mind would try to come from down there and over the wall, which is probably a good summation of my state of mind, because it was the first place I thought of. As I scaled the wall inch by inch covered in mud from slipping one time too many in the ravine, my heart started to race. This was not just a low-level thug selling a few vials on a corner anymore, I was about to break into a stash house and make off with a few thousand (at least) dollars worth of drugs. I sat at the top of the wall for a moment to try to calm down a bit, I closed my eyes and took one last breath before I went down. I slid down the wall without much trouble, I hunched over and made my way along the wall towards the front entrance. Peeking around the corner, the guard was staring off at nothing as he always did so now was my chance. I double checked that my mask was actually on, gripped my bat so hard that I might have broken a blood vessel and rounded the corner.

You might be surprised at how quickly a two hundred pound guy goes down when a metal baseball bat connects with his head. The noise is also disgusting (I really need a new weapon of choice) and I had to stop for a moment and shake it off. I grabbed his hand gun immediately, thinking it would do a lot better to scare the guy inside as well as leaving him unarmed if he somehow woke up soon. I held the gun high and slowly opened the door, nobody in sight in the main room. My first thought was that maybe they had out smarted me and this was a decoy stash house, in which case I was absolutely fucked because this risk was for nothing and they would tighten security even more. My fears quickly disappeared as a short skinny guy came out of the back room with a can of beer in his hand, his eyes fell to me fairly quickly and the beer dropped out of his hand as he yelled “SHIT don’t shoot! I’m just a fuckin’ baby sitter for this shit! They didn’t even give me a gun!” he hits his knee’s fast with his hands on his head. Poor guy must have been terrified, clearly they had never actually had someone break into the stash before. I spoke quietly and told him to show me where the stash was, he got up slowly and took me to the back room. This is where the trouble came in, christ there must have been three hundred pounds of that stuff on the ground in there. I did not even remember to bring a way to carry it out for fucks sake. God I was stupid those first few weeks.

I had to think fast, there was a garbage bag in the corner and I had the guy empty it out and throw as much as he could into it. Which was not a lot, but it would have to do. Anything was enough at this point, just something to get attention on this. There was a lantern in the corner and a small generator, my eyes scanned quickly for the gas canister they must be using to fuel it. Bingo! Under a table was my ticket, I had the guy cover the room in gas (much to his dismay, he must have thought I was going to burn him alive with it) before telling him he was leaving with me. Luckily I still had a lighter in my pocket, I moved towards the door before setting the room ablaze. I had the guy lay face down next to the unconscious guard before I made my escape, I was three blocks away before turning back to notice a rather large cloud of black smoke in the early morning sky.

The headlines that afternoon had a picture of a burning abandoned apartment unit, followed by a picture of the police chief looking baffled at fifty pounds of cocaine sitting on the departments doorstep with spray paint on the wall that read “More where this came from” with the address of the stash house I had burned. This was big, the city knew I was here, the police knew I was here, and whether I realized it or not the Spaniard knew, and he was pissed.

Working For A Living, Writing For A Career

“Work for the wants, not suffer for the needs”
POS, a Minnesota based rapper

I work two jobs, one in a theatre as an usher at which I get to watch broadway plays every night, and the other I get to help people learn how to take care of their dogs and cats. In short, I have nothing to complain about. I get paid well at both of my jobs, I play with dogs and watch professional actors/actresses perform every night. However neither of these things are what I truly love doing in life, they are fun and pay my bills but my dream always has and always will be writing. The real question that needs to be asked is where does my job end and my career begin.

So far my only obstacle in attaining my dream and with quitting my both of my job is that I do not yet get paid to write, I do this for free because I love it. In a perfect world I would get paid by the word to write a weekly or bi-weekly column, maybe even get to travel a bit and write about my experiences. The truth is that these jobs are hard to obtain these days, there are so many writers out there doing exactly what I am doing (and some of them actually know what they are doing unlike myself) that the relatively small job market is saturated with aspiring writes throwing stories at publishers screaming “Please pay me for these words, I promise they are organized in an exciting fashion!”.

There are three options as far as I understand, the first and least desirable is to forget writing and pick a job that will pay well and full throw myself into that. Commit to the pet industry as a career, or a professional usher (is that a thing?) and stop spending time writing. The benefit of this option is that it might mean a more steady income, and a more reasonable answer when someone asks what I do for a living. The downside is that it takes a shit on my dreams, and I do not know about you, but I do not want shit on my dreams.  I see no reason to give up something I love just because it will not promise me riches, that is just not something I care about in life. I am thankful to have been raised that way, to have a lover and friends that not only support me but feel the same way about how we live our lives.

The second option is to quit both of my jobs, and give writing full-time a go to see if I can make it. This is a situation I am often tempted by, because really I just hate having a job and want to write all the time instead. The downside is that once again, it is no easy feat to find a well-paying deal to write all the time let alone give me the freedom to write about whatever I personally care about and find interesting. As much as I would love to do this, I also love being able to pay my rent and eat dinner every night. Right now this just is not a feasible option, I have not yet established myself or found a proper avenue to turn my writing into income, so the dream of writing full-time is not for me just yet.

The last option is the one that I currently am pursuing and is very simple. I work a job that I enjoy day-to-day, and I write in my spare time as often as I want to. I submit stories to websites (check out thoughtcatalogue.com to see my first “published” work) and other places that may be interested in using them, as well as updating my own website here as often as I can. If one day someone offers to give me currency in exchange for all the words I put together here, that would be wonderful but not needed. This is for the love of the written word.

What I really want to say is a sentiment I have expressed previously here, and it is simple. Do whatever it is that you love, regardless of if you get paid. Find the time, make the time to do it aside from whatever your paid job is.

Do what you love, and fuck the rest.

Thank You Alice

I knew I should have put an extra paddle in this damned boat. When my obituary shows up it will read: “He was never prepared, always forgetful, and probably died just to spite us”

It started on a dreary Sunday morning. I tossed my tackle box and rod into the back of the truck, a case of beer and a few bags of chips on the passenger seat, and my cell phone was sitting on my bed. I was getting a little bit sick of my assistant manager calling me every fifteen minutes to ask if it was ok for someone to eat lunch at their desk. Fuck, can that guy just gimme a break and make a decision on his own for once? I just want one day off, a day of peaceful drunken fishing.  I drove two hours out to the beach. There was a spot only about twenty minutes from my house, but I wanted to feel free and far away from everything today.

To be honest, I do not even like fishing; hell, there is still a price tag on my fishing rod. I will be lucky if I catch a cold out here, let alone an actual real live fish. My brother convinced me this was a good idea. He said it was relaxing to sit out on the water and watch the lure bob around on it. We spent four hours yesterday practicing moving the boat from the trailer, down into the water. It was harder than it looked, I can safely say that much about it. I took a graceful fall backwards into the water as the boat slid off the trailer, nearly throwing out my back while Marv laughed his head off at me. Marv had always been the relaxed one, but then again everything he ever attempted came easy to him, so there was no reason to struggle or complain. Ah! I should not let it get to me though, he has always been good to me. Never made a big deal about it when I needed to borrow money, never complained when I needed to sleep on his couch for a few weeks when my place flooded. Marv was always a good little brother even though I give him a hard time. I hope he knows that, above all else. I hope my brother knows that I love him, that runt.

As I got the boat into the water a young woman approached me with a clipboard, which meant trouble. Clipboards are always trouble. “Howdy sir” she called out in a peppy voice. Who the hell is peppy at 5:30am anyway? ”Ello, can I do anything for you Ms.?” I replied, without doing much to look up from loading my supplies onto the boat. “Well, as I am sure you are aware there is a bit of bad weather headed our way, so we have to restrict all water craft to this inlet only. I also notice you plan to do some fishing. May I see your license sir? Any stamps for the rarer fish?” Oh christ, I thought. I did not realize you needed special permission to fish in the ocean, but I did my best to keep calm. “I happened to forget those at home, is that a big problem? Or am I allowed to head out onto the water anyway?” I tried to keep my tone friendly, but it is hard for me when someone is being so patronizing. Plus, I am old and grumpy these days, I do not have a lot of time for people a third of my age trying to tell me what to do. “Well I am going to have to ask that you either refrain from fishing, or promise to throw anything you catch back into the water unless you want to deal with a mighty hefty fine. Otherwise I can sell you a permit on the spot, but it will cost you about a hundred bucks.”

Two hours later and I am out on the water, my wallet a lot lighter than when I woke up this morning. I may be a bit rough around the edges, but I can not hold too much of a grudge against a woman trying to do her job. I have been working on being nicer to people. Alice (that’s Marv’s wife) has been helping me with that. She is a great wife to Marv, and an even better sister-in-law to me. Hell, she is the closest thing I have to a friend these days. She comes over every Tuesday night for an hour. We have a drink together and chat, sometimes we act out situations to help me practice my social skills and understand both sides of an argument. Alice is a therapist by trade, but really she just loves to help people. I think it is in her bones. Some people just want to help us grumbling jackasses no matter how much we say we do not need it. Sometimes I think that maybe the fact they never had a kid adds onto that. She is a very nurturing person, that energy has to go somewhere I suppose, and I cannot complain when it has helped me so much already. In fact, when my regional manager told me the other day that I would have to lay off five workers, I managed to resist the urge to tell him to go fuck himself. Instead, I convinced him that letting go of hard workers was counter productive, and I promised to find some money in the budget to prune. No reason to fire perfectly good workers; every one of them has a family and I will be damned if I am going to add more people to the unemployment line just to save a few bucks a year.

I have my rod set up on the edge of the boat like Marv taught me to do, fixed into a sort of hook device to keep it fixed in place without me holding it. I pill out my little notebook to try to write some thoughts down, some homework Alice gave me. I have not been keeping up with it like I promised, so I figure I can make up a bunch of stuff and tell her I forgot to show her last time. I do not like letting her down, and this task is supposed to help me keep a clear head, keep me less stressed out all the time. Faster than I can think about is as I dig in my bag to find a pencil, I accidentally knock my oars into the water. I freeze for a moment and just stare at them, thinking the must float because this must happen all the time. Well, it must not. Or there is a graveyard of oars down the bottom of this inlet, because mine sank like a rock. I sit quietly for a moment, watching my two oars float down until I could not see them in the dark murky water anymore. I manged to find my pencil finally, and wrote one simple sentence on the first blank page I opened: “Oars do not float, if I die out here I want that on my tombstone.” Hopefully Alice will find that funny when she gets to read it on Tuesday.

I considered my options carefully over the next hour, while I drank a few beers to ease the tension. The first was to wait around and hope that the coast guard, or whoever, would notice I never came back to my truck and come out looking for me. The second was to try to swim back to shore, but I cannot remember how far out I am for the life of me. It might be a twenty-minute swim or it might be four hours, and I am not in the greatest shape of my life. The first option seems the safest one, so I settle in to wait this out. I crack open another beer and start in on my last bag of potato chips while I watch the fishing line continue to drift around lifelessly. For a moment I forget that I am stuck out here, and actually start to enjoy myself. Of course, this is the precise moment a torrential downpour starts. I suppose that nice woman did warn me about this. It seems she was not just trying to ruin my day, but rather give me some genuine advice. Story of my life so far though, people doing their best to help me out and I shrug it off as if they are out to get me. Marv and Alice both have tried to help me out with that. Learning to trust people more but it is a long road for a sixty year old grump to travel down.

As the rain pours down, and I assume it can not really get any worse than it currently is, it of course does. The wind starts to pick up which means my borrowed little boat becomes a death trap waiting to flip over. We never talked about what to do if that happened, but it seemed so unlikely as we have not had a storm in this area for about two years. The wind gets more intense every moment, and the rain is coming down so fast that my boat actually has a few growing puddles. This could be a real problem if I do not figure out a solution soon, but the boat keeps rocking more violently and I cannot seem to think straight. A large wave hits the boat and knocks me down, and rolling the boat just enough to dump the contents (minus me) into the water. I would like to think it cannot get any worse, but as we both know, that is definitely not true. To prove that, another big gust of wind hits the boat rolling it over completely, sending me sprawling into the freezing water.

As I sit on sit on this upside down boat soaking wet and preparing to meet my maker a little earlier than anticipated, I remember a joke Marv told me the other day and start to laugh so hard I cry. As the tears begin to stream down my face, a light confuses and blinds me from a distance in the rain. “I said are you alright?!” a familiar voice calls out, as the sight of a large boat comes into view. The smiling face of the woman that stole my hundred dollars this morning peered down at me. “Seems to be a bit of bad weather today, Ms., I wonder if you would not mind me hitching a ride back to land with you. As I am late for a dinner with a dear friend and my brother.” “Of course sir, I would be happy to”

Hardcore Music Shaped Me

If skateboarding saved my life, then Hardcore music showed me how great that life could be. One of my favourite bands* asked a simple question “Could we be something more, than we are right now?”

The first time I ever heard my favourite band Shai Hulud, it was through the headphones of a friend in home room and my immediate response was “What the hell is this, I can’t understand what he is screaming” It was a shocking introduction to a band that would become my most listened to bands of all time.

When I was thirteen or so I was listening to bands like Insane Clown Posse, Slipknot, and other loud or shock gimmick driven bands of the day. I liked that these bands did not care how they appeared or sounded, they were singing loud and passionately (with opinions I now strongly disagree with, I’m looking at you ICP) in a way I had not been introduced to before. My introduction to punk and hardcore would follow not long after, I remember it fairly clearly. I was sitting with a few friends sharing songs we liked, when someone put on “Sex & Violence” by The Exploited and it hit me hard and fast. The people in the band could barely sing, or play their instruments for that matter, but it was fast and angry. I was hooked.

It would take me until I was about eighteen or so to really discover hardcore music. It happened slowly, without my really knowing that it was happening. I had been going to local music shows as often as I could, bands ranging from metal, to indie pop. I had started to hang around with people who kept inviting me to hardcore shows, I think it really took off when a good friend of mine joined a hardcore band and got me to come see them perform. It was the beginning of a new obsession. I had discovered something new, a home.

If you were to ask me why I love hardcore, I would be able to answer quicker than any other question including “When is your birthday”. Community, community that is driven to make a difference. These are bands willing to talk about the fact that our society is in a poor state, and angry about it. The bands can range from downright silly parody bands (Superheroes Of Hardcore) to youth crew bands trying to get us to be a bit more positive and involved in our world. They were passionate, screaming words that needed to be screamed for us all to hear. Other times singing silly songs about Yetis, or crossing the strait between Vancouver Island and the mainland. Above all else I had found a home, amongst peers that cared about the same things I did. People that did not care how I dressed or what I looked like, they accepted me as I was. Awkward, shy, nerdy, but the only thing they needed to know was that I loved the music just like they did.

Hardcore music challenged me to look at myself, and the world around me to ask if I was happy with who I was and my surroundings. The reason being if I was not happy, I could change it. Even more so I figured out that people in bands were just regular people, and anyone could be in one. All you needed to do was pick up an instrument, and write about the things you wanted to say. As my idol Joe Strummer put it “We’re not particularly talented, we just try harder”, it was as simple as that. You did not need to be a superstar to play in a hardcore/punk band, you just had to give it your all. You had to fully put yourself into the music, as cheesy as it sounds you needed to be a part of the music you were playing.

It is safe to say that I take hardcore music a little seriously sometimes, the same way that I do with tattooing. It is so close to my heart that I am protective of it, but at the same time I want to be able to share it with everyone. I want everyone to be able to find what I found in this community of misfits and outcasts wearing Madball jerseys and basketball shorts, moshing like gorillas sometimes. It is not so much that the music is unable to be silly or fun, because it very much can be just that. However it gives such a good platform to give a message, whether that message is something like Toronto natives Fucked Up have to say (anti-suicide, pro-body image, dealing with depression) or the hard hitting screams of Bad Brains (one of the bands that effectively started it all).

In all honesty I could talk about this subject for hours, and I likely will revisit it again in future articles. Really what I hope to achieve is to give you all some bands to check out, and maybe you’ll understand a little more why I feel so at home in a crowd of people screaming along to bands in a dog pile of like minded hardcore kids.
It’s because that is our home.

*With Honor

Some bands that are very important to me:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shai_Hulud
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youth_of_Today
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bad_Brains
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fucked_Up

Part 2: Origin Stories Always Suck

Eighteen broken bones, one punctured lung, a fractured skull, and one eye I am not sure I will ever be able to open again. All in all not half bad for falling more than forty stories, ricochetting off of a few awnings on the way down. The doctors do not appreciate my sense of humour in this, evidently this is “inappropriate” because I “could have died” and “am clearly suicidal”. Doctors, am I right?

When I hit the ground I was fading in and out of consciousness. All I remember is seeing my leg snapped in half and the bone getting its first breath of fresh air. The real issue was explaining to my friends and family what I was doing up on that roof, and who had shot me. My mother fainted when she got the call, and my father immediately started yelling at the police “What are my taxes paying you for?” It was actually amusing listening to him lecture the doctors; it dawned on me that he cared a little less about my health, and a little more about his tax dollars being wasted.

I guess I should explain how I got into this, it is not an exciting story. There was no tragic accident, no chemical spill giving me super-human strength. I was not born on whatever planet that flying jerk is from. Nope, just a lower-middle class girl born on the edge of the city. People often use that phrase “wrong side of the tracks”, to make the dividing line of the struggling people and the well off sound more colourful. Well I was born on those tracks, right smack dab on the neighbourhood line between getting mugged and getting asked to donate monthly to charity. I know what you are probably thinking right now: this privileged complainer is trying to make her life seem hard when there is real struggle going on in the world. For the most part, you are right about my life not having any real struggle. But I am under no false illusions about that; I just decided that I might as well try to make a difference because hell, nobody else seemed willing. There is just too much red tape around the police to really help anyone, god help the good ones that try their best. I was also witness to that largely publicized moment when our musclebound hero got into trouble. For the record he said “I don’t have time to help people who won’t help themselves anymore”, not whatever cleaned up garbage the papers ended up feeding us. Which is the real problem, and reason I am doing this: someone has to help those that won’t help themselves anymore.

So what was the catalyst, the epiphany that led me to this hospital bed. I was walking to the subway to get home from work, a younger guy was walking ahead of me about half a block. Out of nowhere two drunks rush him, tackling him to the ground and shouting “give us your money you little fag”. I panicked, I dug for my cellphone to call 911 while he got the his head stepped on. To my surprise a guy with a skateboard rushed up and swung it as hard as he could at one of the two attackers. Blood splattered across the pavement as he reared the board back with eyes fixed on the second thug, the second one looked so shocked he just stood there for a moment before running as fast as he could the other direction. It was then that the police showed up, applauding the efforts of this vigilante hero that had just potentially saved a life. They shook his hand and said he was going to meet the mayor.
Yeah fucking right.
What actually happened was this, the cops rolled up guns drawn on the skateboard brandishing hero. They arrested him on the spot, along with the unconscious thug (the one that ran would get caught a day later) and he was charged with assault. He got two years for doing the job the police were too late to do, the young man who got attacked bled out.  The mistake that guy with the board made? He waited for the police, he trusted that he had done the right thing and that the system would protect him.

That answers why I wear the mask, and do my best to not be seen. I prefer not to be thrown in jail as if I were some lunatic with a hero complex, just because I was bold enough to try to take back our city. My origin is simple, I am just a person that wants to help. I started doing this because it seemed simple (it was not), grab a weapon and take some swings at violent people doing terrible things. Save some lives and be a hero. I was wrong, and all I have to show for it is a bullet wound.

As for who shot me, that is a longer story. One that requires a prequel story if you will, otherwise it just wouldn’t make sense…

*Incoming soon:
Part 3: Do Not Call It A Prequel
Part 4: Getting Shot Hurts (No, Seriously)

Guest Post: Austin Simpson

Welcome to a new feature on Misadventures In Writing, I’m going to start featuring some other writers that I admire on a semi-regular basis! The first up is Austin Simpson, enjoy!

MASSIVE REWRITES NEEDED: An Unasked-for Workshop for Matt Walsh

The article in question can be viewed in its entirety here: http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/06/19/dear-single-men-time-man-figure/

Hey Matt!  Just got your blog post, let’s go through it and see if I can give you any notes!
“Dear single dudes: it’s time to man up”
Okay, first off, that title has GOT to go.  It’s way too audience-specific.  What about single women?  What about single, non-gender specific people?  The name of the writing game is universality.  If you can’t connect to every type and style of reader out there, you’re bound to lose a few who think you’re nothing more than another sad, white dude desperately shilling “traditional values” so that your much vaunted privilege can be enshrined like the dusty bones of some long-dead saint.
You wouldn’t want that, would you?
And then there’s this part, where you make it out like every inter-gender relationship is just man+woman=babies.  For example, you write

“‘Hanging out’ is how we describe what we do with our buddies. Is that what you want? Do you want that beautiful woman to be your buddy? Or would you ideally prefer it if you could distinguish between your relationship with her and your relationship with your friend Steve?”

Well, yes, I think some of us would.  Some people are perfectly capable of having a platonic relationship with the opposite sex…and the same-sex, trans-folk, etc. etc.  Again, and not to belabor the point, but you’re losing on the universality front.  If you post something like that in public, women will not only be left out because they’ve been portrayed as some exotic prize to catch in a cage and display for all the world to admire (and you must hate when people think that), but will also be confused; what do you mean by “beautiful”?  There are a lot of definitions of that term.  Be more concrete, more specific.  Plus, you’re leaving out the genderqueer community as a whole!  How could you forget them; it’s not like you’re some small-minded neo-conservative, hoping that by presenting the hetero, cis-community as the only real one you’ll somehow be snatched up by some hateful, far-right propaganda machine that can pay you oodles of money for wearing a suit…
…moving on:

“Time to end the nonsense, gentlemen. It’s time to be grown ups. It’s time to be men. I know this term really offends a lot of people nowadays, but truly, fellas, let’s man up.”

Really?  You know that a term is going to offend people so you use it anyway?  C’mon, are you really that thick?  I’m starting to think you’re doing this on purpose.

“Trust me, I’m not innocent. I’m married now, but I was once a part of this hazy, undefined dating-but-not-dating scene. I never liked it, because nobody does. I never found any happiness in it, because nobody does. But I was a part of the problem. I was a wimpy man-child, afraid of meaningful commitments, afraid of being alone, afraid of rejection, afraid of the future, afraid of being betrayed, afraid of being loved. Just afraid, really. Afraid of everything…See, I’d been floating like aimless debris through an ocean of cloudy intentions and half-heartedness, until I grew up and realized that romance isn’t a game, and most women aren’t frivolous bimbos. They want men who know what they want and aren’t afraid to verbalize it. And if they don’t want that, then they aren’t worth your energy. Get out now. If she still wants to pretend she’s in tenth grade, let her live that fantasy with someone else.”

Wait…what?  Chill out with the passive-aggressive holier-than-thou shit.  Just because you pretend like who you were in the past somehow makes you the expert on relationships, doesn’t mean you are.  And so far, this article hasn’t convinced me of that anyway.  You haven’t earned these statements; SHOW ME why you have the right to look down on how other people act.  Cuz frankly, I ain’t seein’ it.  Come to think of it, I never have.  (Also, lots of people aren’t very strong.  Being a wimp isn’t a bad thing, stop using that term in the pejorative.)
Now, lets look at one particular line in that mumbo-jumbo.

“…most women aren’t frivolous bimbos…”

DUDE, NO.  No women are frivolous bimbos.  If they act in a way you define as “frivolous” and being a “bimbo”, that’s because YOU DEFINED IT.  Which is completely unfair.  Why would you even think that’s okay to say?  What, do you want people to think you’re some half-baked, hyper-Christian goon with your head shoved up your ass?
Oh holy shit, the end is just a disaster.  You write

“You can’t go out and have sex (I mean, ‘hook up,’ as the middle schoolers at the lunch table might call it) and then claim that you ‘aren’t ready for something serious.’ It’s too late, friend. Sex is something serious.”

To you maybe, but again: universality, universality, universality.  Lots of people enjoy getting laid without wanting anything more than that.  And they do it in a variety of combinations!  Men fucking men, women fucking women, people fucking people, you name it!  Sometimes people don’t even get laid, and don’t want to!  The hetero model is just one amongst numerous sexual flavours.  You seem to have tunnel vision whenever it comes to this sort of thing…
Oh, and what is with this ludicrous analogy (which relies far too heavily on the False Equivalence Fallacy, BTW) in which you equate someone who doesn’t want to be in a relationship with a fiery plane crash.  Getting a little melodramatic, aren’t we?
Look Matt, I understand you poured your heart and soul into this, but frankly that wasn’t enough.  I’m not sure it ever will be.  I don’t normally say this, but maybe you shouldn’t be a writer; you too often present your questionable opinions as fact.  This, more often than not, is a detriment to yourself and to anyone who may not fall within the narrow confines of your worldview.  And the worst thing is, Matt, is that this is not new, nor unique.  This sort of boxing-in of people, whether they’re women or not, continues the systemic, endemic oppression within North America.  This sort of writing allows transphobia and homophobia to be a thing, allows rape-culture to be a thing, allows the brutalizing of young men until they turn into traumatized, hateful robots to be a thing.  You’re not the cause, simply the apologist.
In strictly metaphorical terms; you’re not the one ordering people to the camps, but you’re driving the bus.
Maybe you should stop the bus.
Maybe you should pack up your family, go out, and start a farm.
Raise some sheep.
Get the plague.
Die before you’re 40.
That’s as traditional as it gets, right there.

Austin Simpson is a North American writer currently living and dying in Victoria, BC.  He enjoys building fires, rolling his own cigarettes, hockey, Slavoj Zizek, and bell hooks.  He is currently finishing a BA in Creative Writing and European History at the University of Victoria, and plans on mooning the crowd when he graduates.  Austin can be found at likesomuchink.wordpress.com, in various publications on the internet and real life, and under a bridge (most days).

Never Enough Tattoos

I asked for a bathroom break, but in reality I just could not take the pain anymore. I locked the bathroom door, and splashed some water on my face. I was afraid I might pass out soon, my chest was quivering every time the needle touched me. Why was I doing this, nearly four hours of paying someone to stab me with an automated needle to lay ink into my skin in the shape of an octopus. Insanity, and I loved it.

I have spent about two thousand dollars on my tattoos (I have three so far), and I can only imagine when all is said and done that number will be a lot closer to twenty thousand dollars (or more). I have wanted to get a tattoo from a young age. I have wavered in what the subject would be, varying from band logos, to kitschy phrases that I am very thankful I never had the guts to have done. In many ways I am glad I waited to get one, or I might have ended up with a Slipknot band tattoo (please forgive me music lovers) or the phrase “love conquers all”. Yes, teenage Michel was an interesting person to say the least.

Tattoo culture has always fascinated me though, I have always wanted to be “one of them” when I see people walking around with full sleeve tattoos. I would stare and wonder what brought them to get that giant eagle, or that tribal band around their arm. Was it a drunken whim, or perhaps a tribute to a fallen friend, maybe it was just a way to test your limits and prove you could handle it. I can only tell you this, I did it because I felt incomplete without them. It is a bizarre feeling to describe, like my skin was naked without any art resting permanently on it. I used to toy with sharpie markers, writing phrases or getting friends to draw things on my arms and pretend for just a few hours that I was brave enough to go under the needle.

I will also admit this, I am judgmental of the tattoos that other people choose to get. Typically I cringe when I see something that is ill-taken care of, or that was placed in an awkward spot that stretches and flexes too often to allow the tattoo to really shine. I have seen many tattoos done in shops that were less than recommended, by artists that rushed the work (or merely could not handle the task) resulting in something forever on your body that looks like it was the artists first day. Getting a tattoo that you love, regardless of subject, does however make me happy to see. Tattoos create stories, connections between us all, a permanent story placed onto your skin. Sometimes it is a very private story that you need a silent reminder of, other times it is a story that you want to be able to share with the world.

I have heard a lot of advice when it comes to getting a tattoo, especially the first tattoo. Some people abide by the idea that you have to live with an idea for at least a year before you get it etched onto your forever, I disagree. If an idea of concept is significantly important to you, and you can find an artist that you trust and appreciate their work then you should take the leap and at least discuss it with the artist. It does not hurt to discuss ideas, and potentially get some sketches drawn up by the artist to see what it would look like. Ultimately if you are not happy with what they come up with, simply do not get it done, ask the artist to rework it or worst case, find a new artist. It may seem rude to decide not to get tattooed by that individual, but unfortunately that is the way art goes, and if you are not in love with the design you have no obligation to let the artist put that on to you.

My first tattoo was an incredible experience for me, I was in a rough place emotionally and wanted something for myself. I chose a giant octopus that rests over my heart, for a few reasons. Primarily my favourite book of all time is the Jules Verne adventure novel “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”, in which there is a famous illustration of Captain Nemo looking out a window at a giant octopus. I put it over my heart for one simple reason, it was a large tattoo and I am a small person, so this provided the largest surface to place it. In retrospect I also like to now think that it helps to guard my heart (symbolic and sappy but true) from harm, as when I got it done I was struggling quite a bit with anxiety and my first experience with being cheated on. The artist was an incredible woman originally from Quebec, we talked about dogs and she made the experience amazing for me and was very patient with me as a first time subject.

The first thing I remember after standing up and looking in the mirror at the new piece of artwork on my body was; I need more of these..and fast. My first tattoo had healed by the time summer arrived, and by the time the leaves were falling to the ground another was about to appear.
It was a beautiful Autumn day, and I was out to breakfast with two of my best friends at a little cafe laughing and eating as much food as my stomach could hold. As we were making plans for the day, I explained that I wanted to stop in at the same tattoo shop that had done my chest piece. I wanted to see if the owner was available to do some work for me in the coming months, I was hoping that we could discuss a Vancouver Island themed tattoo. When we walked in (to my surprise) the owner was the only one there, I explained to him what I was looking to get and why I wanted him to do it*. Our conversation went a little like this;
Me – “Hey Gerry, so I was wondering what your wait-list might be like?”
Owner – with a blank stare “….I don’t have a wait-list”
Me – “…”
He would explain to me later that this had made him laugh once I left, and feel a little sad. Apparently I was the first person to ask him that, he kept more limited and sporadic hours so a wait list was not needed. The next surprise was that flipped through his appointment book, and asked when I wanted to do it. “Soon” I replied, and he asked “how’s 3pm today?”. So I was back under the needle again with only about four hours notice, to get a large X with the letters VIHC in each blank spot. This one was much less painful, and much faster to my joy.

Tattoos heal pain by causing pain.

If you have any questions about tattoos, do not hesitate to get a hold of me! I love to discuss and try to help out for tattooing.

*Gerry was the lead singer in one of Victoria’s prominent Hardcore bands when I first entered the scene.

Part 1: The Worst “Super” Hero

If you have ever wondered what it feels like to free fall from the roof of a forty-five story building, I can tell you this much: it is god damn terrifying.

I never thought I would make much of a difference, I figured I’d get to kick a few asses and maybe give an old lady her purse back. I never expected to be plummeting to the ground with a bullet in my shoulder, and one of my eyes swollen shut. To top it off I didn’t even save him, fuck.

I am going to spare you my sob story, because it isn’t a fucking sob story. I did this because I enjoyed it, I do not regret it. I would not change a thing, I am proud of what I accomplished. When I decided that all the big names were slacking off in this city, that nobody was doing what needed to be done anymore, I stepped up. I did it with a mask on, not because I was afraid of anyone knowing who I was, but because it was not important who was, but who they could be.

A guy stands on the corner, capsule in hand, eyes shifting back and forth from the car passing by to the two girls across the street talking on cell phones. I have been watching him for a few minutes. I gave a homeless man a sandwich for the tip-off about this scumbag’s location. Four times in the last month, four attacks on people naive enough to walk down this street at night, four times the police failed to do anything, four times our “city’s defenders” were off fighting fucking aliens or something again. Last week I heard on my scanner two cops joking about “dumb broads want to walk down there, they’re asking for it”. I would report them, but the police chief would probably just give them a paid vacation to placate the papers. Just like the asshole that clubbed a ten-year old boy  (for brandishing a glow in the dark cap gun) so hard that he lost vision in one eye.

Am I a cynic? No, I just pay attention.

The street goes silent, the kind of silence I remember from going camping as a kid and sleeping under the stars. Except this is a deranged silence: there is no safety in this moment, there is fear.

He pockets the capsule and runs his finger under his nose a few dozen times, then he makes his move. He moves quickly across the street, but I am ready. I grab one of the cheap firecrackers (I bought them from some smug teenager) out of my pocket, light it and toss it to the creep’s right side. Then I sprint to the left, and he jumps so high in the air you would think he was a dancer, no, a frightened animal. As he rummages in his pockets I come from his left side. I swing my leg as hard as I can at the back of his kneecap, bringing him to the ground. He screams “what the fuck?!” as I kick him in the side of the head. “Stay down” I mumble, as he accidentally tosses a knife across the road while trying to tear it from his pocket, as if that was going to help him. I pull the baseball bat from the make-shift holster on my back and bring it down swiftly on his wrist. I hear the sickening noise of it breaking (probably in more than one place), and it makes me sick. I vomit a little bit in my mouth, and spit it to the side. On the plus side, maybe that will intimidate him a bit more. I am too high on adrenaline to care frankly. The worst part is, the girls I just potentially saved from a traumatic experience look back once with barely a glance at the violence behind them, and go right back to their cell phones. You might think this would make me question whether it is worth it or not, to that I say fuck you. The entire reason I do this is so they can keep living however they want to live. I am giving them the choice. Choices. That is what matters.

I suppose I should be prepared for an early grave. The one friend I trusted with my aspirations would not let me forget it. When you are falling from the top of a building, it is hard to think of anything other than death. Should I have written a goodbye letter or something? No, my parents would have just assumed it was a suicide note. I am going to hit the ground any second, I can hear the screams below getting louder. My last thought is that I need last words, so I scream at the top of my lungs, “Take back our city”…fuck that sucked didn’t it? Too late, here comes the pavement..