"Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes, look after our children. As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers. Some, of course, like to claim that Mexicans are “stealing American jobs”... Mexicans do much of the work in this country that Americans, provably, simply won’t do.
We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we”, as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them—and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films.
So, why don’t we love Mexico?
We throw up our hands and shrug at what happens and what is happening just across the border. Maybe we are embarrassed. Mexico, after all, has always been there for us, to service our darkest needs and desires. Whether it’s dress up like fools and get pass-out drunk and sun burned on Spring break in Cancun, throw pesos at strippers in Tijuana, or get toasted on Mexican drugs, we are seldom on our best behavior in Mexico. They have seen many of us at our worst. They know our darkest desires.
In the service of our appetites, we spend billions and billions of dollars each year on Mexican drugs—while at the same time spending billions and billions more trying to prevent those drugs from reaching us. The effect on our society is everywhere to be seen. Whether it’s kids nodding off and overdosing in small town Vermont, gang violence in LA, burned out neighborhoods in Detroit— it’s there to see. What we don’t see, however, haven’t really noticed, and don’t seem to much care about, is the 80,000 dead—mostly innocent victims in Mexico, just in the past few years. 80,000 dead. 80,000 families who’ve been touched directly by the so-called “War On Drugs”...
Thinkin about MCA as I drift into music-land for the millionth time. Glad I wrote this down when he died (3 years ago today). Glad I'm still here to read it.
I’ll start with what I wrote moments after hearing about it:
“Really shaken up hearing about MCA dying. There’s something about this particular person-I-didn’t-know-but-knew-through-what-they-made death that gets to me even more than most. Not exactly sure what it is. Regardless, it’s one more horrid reminder to stop fuckin around and really live this life. Love. Now.”
That post led to some nice exchanges with folks who were feeling the same sort of shook up. It also led to an invitation to write this. I’m still overwhelmed and frozen. Singing helped a lot, as it usually does. Tonight in Münster felt full and mournful and celebratory and silly and all the things that music should feel. I’m on tour right now. Strangely enough, I started this tour singing at the memorial of another young guy, younger than MCA even. He died of cancer too. Fuckin cancer. No, it doesn’t matter why he’s dead or what killed him. That’s not it.
I hate being away from home when feeling like this. I just want to hug my daughter. Adam had a daughter, too. She’s a teenager now. He’s not here to see her graduate high school, as I will get to see my daughter graduate in a couple weeks, G-d willing. I’m sure that’s part of why this cuts so deep. He was 5 years older than I am; I know that matters too.
One thing I did love about MCA in particular is how passionately he kept pushing as an artist and even moreso as a person. He seemed to really not give a fuck, in such a sweet and humble way. He spoke up and showed up so well, with seemingly so little ego attached. He did his thing, used his good fortune and gifts to walk it and talk it as well as he could, but never at the expense of his personal or artistic integrity. That’s really rare and great.
None of that is all of it either, though.
It’s not that I was so in love with the Beastie Boys. I mean, that first drop in ‘Shake Your Rump’ is one of my all-time favorite music moments, sure. There are plenty of other great tunes and bits that come to mind too, bringing with them all sorts of memories from adolescence on up. Thinking about that, it could be that the Beastie Boys made music that maybe made me and more people from more different walks of life than any other artist ever feel nerdy and cool simultaneously, feel silly and tough simultaneously; just feel alive and immortal in the way only a great beat with clever, sometimes deceptively deep rhymes rolling over it really can. They made music that was so youthful and infinite, which bashes right up against this sudden (to us), final, brutal proof of age, impermanence, fragility. We go away. Fast. For no reason.
Adam Yauch (he’ll always be MCA to me) was, as far as I can tell, a really good man. He’s gone now. I don’t know why that fucks me up so much. This thought just hit hard, though; it gives me a little light, maybe it will give you some too:
Whatever it is that I miss about him so much, I’m gonna give it all I’ve got to be that.
(Thx to Good Men project for posting this back then)
Perhaps the only thing more depressing than shopping-days-til-christmas creep is national politics pageantry starting centuries before the actual elections. All the apathy-as-idealism ("they're all the same!!!") ranting is just as soul-sucking, counterproductive, and vain. Bernie Sanders is (very) cool and all, but the real action hasn't been happening at Prez for a long time, and as we've seen with President Obama, if there's not a consistent groundswell that shows up for less-obsessed-over elections/issues (midterm elections, I'm lookin at you), who's at the top matters less and less -- though we seem to blame them more and more, which is tragicomic ironic.
Anyway, I'm aspiring to use my frustrations about these distractions as energy to educate myself properly on local/regional elections and issues for 2016. I'd love to build a little coalition of folks in every little nook and cranny of our overwhelmingly large country/world, all autonomously doing that local-elections research busywork and trying to give our family, friends and networks as much support/info as possible to participate in our democracy in simple, effective ways on election days. Oh, if anyone knows of great (inter)national sources for simple centralized info about this stuff, please post. There are plenty of other ways to get involved too, but the GOPTP figured out a while back that the less folks make it to the polls, the tighter their racist, misogynist, homophobic, corporatist grip gets on our communities. Let's stay connected, vote smart and change that.
And now, back to my regularly-unscheduled program. Music-making and communicating will commence. Onward into the abyss (of Monday)!!!
Want to end all the craziness in our country (like Baltimore burning right now)? Dismantling our system of white supremacy -- and its ugly uncle wealth disparity -- would be a good start. And if you somehow think the system of white supremacy that our nation was literally built on isn't a thing anymore, and doesn't still affect every facet of our culture in one way or another, then ending that illusion would be a good start. Until white people -- and all of the ruling class, which is essentially all white, which kinda says it all -- start really speaking up (legislation, education, etc) about the system we have in place, its bloody roots, the ways they've (we've) benefited from said system, and how it all makes for all sorts of pain for just about all of us (let's say 99%), this isn't gonna just go away. So let's please stop with the sanctimonious pleas for peace and #AllLivesMatter and 'respecting property' blah blah (along with the more overtly racist rhetoric), and just recognize the inevitability of more and more upset in our broken, dying, careening-towards-third-world cities. Let's talk about that. Let's post about that. It's actually not that complex, it's just really uncomfortable. Not as uncomfortable, though, as being brutally paralyzed and essentially murdered like Freddie Gray was. May he rest in peace. May we work towards real, sustainable justice in honor of his short, sad life.
Anyone out there that needs a little support today (or if you just wanna hear a gorgeous tune), this gracious and graceful performance (one of so many in Tracy Chapman's subtle, singular career) will do just fine. Music, when done well, somehow creates space for so much. Silence, suffused.
One of my favorite things about having hung out this long in RockLand™ is looking around and seeing who's still here with me. Not just here as in making music for a modest living; here as in still having actual fun with it, pushing it, questioning it, and just never taking it (or life in general) for granted. Safe to say Kevin Seconds embodies all of that as well as anyone I've ever heard about, much less hung out with. After decades of writing, singing, touring, painting, running the coolest little coffee shop there ever was, and too much more, now he's over 100 songs into making 400 tunes this year. I attempted something similar last year, and it was so much fun and so much work, and his tunes are way more fully realized (and just better haha) than mine were, dammit. Inspiring as ever.
All that is to say that gettin invited over to his place and sing with him & Al, on the scrappysweet badass little wonder that is song 101, is as much validation as I'll ever need that this life has worked out impossibly well, and that for whatever mistakes I've made on any number of levels, I've done some decent stuff too. Thanks to them, Hank, Lu... and really, the whole Sacto crew that keeps this place fresh, friendly and rocking. Excited for our show in June and whatever shows show up after that. Turn up!
This is clever. The poster on the left apparently indicates the only artists that have any members that aren't dudes. Similar posters could be made using many other rock festival demographic rarities too, of course. Over the last coupla decades, I've noticed, commented on and tried in various ways to avoid/change the overwhelming #whitestraightdudeness of rock/indie/punk/hxc shows/scenes, and/or to at least help my little rocklife be less homogenous. Ideology aside, I've just learned that I have more fun and feel happier when I'm spending time with a more diverse group of people, whether that's at shows or parties or picnics or anything. I think we all do, even (and perhaps especially) when it brings a measure of initial/occasional discomfort. Anyway, here's to rockworld gettin a little more worldly.
ps - If it needs saying, as a vet of many dudebands, I give myself as hard a time about this kinda thing as I do anyone else. In a weird way, that's one of many reasons I think I've ended up a solo artist, cos then I can play music with more folks more freely, which has happened lots (and continues to more and more) in various situations and permutations.
#BlackLivesMatter is being used as a rallying cry to point out that, in our current cultural systems (here in the US, and just about everywhere else too), black lives are clearly less valued and otherwise treated differently in endless, ugly ways, from cradle to grave.
Serious question: does anyone deny that?
Yes, it is depressing. No, it should not be minimized. If all lives mattered equally in the context of our cultural systems, then there would be no need for #BlackLivesMatter. But they don't, so there is, and here we are.