Archive for April, 2009

Presidents of the United States of America concert/ Centralia

Posted in Concert/ Events with tags , , , , , , on April 26, 2009 by sethdellinger

Oh geez.  I’ve had a long but very nice two days!  I’m exhausted so I’ll just be able to give the bare details:

Yesterday I had to work dayshift, so I had to do the usual 3am wake-up.  Worked until 3:30, managed to get to Mary’s (way out in the middle of Perry County) and then to Lancaster (if you’re from PA and you take into account I work in York and live in Carlisle, you’ll know what kind of odyssey I’m talking about).  We were in Lancaster for a show by the band Presidents of the United States of America (90s band famous for the songs “Lump” and “Peaches”).  We arrived what I thought was an hour before doors opened–but ti turned out doors didn’t open until 8 o’clock, whereas I was under the impression it was 7.  Oh well.  It was a very nice night out and we had a fine time just hanging out on the sidewalk there in Lancaster outside the Chameleon Club.  When we finally got in, we managed to grab front row spots, which at this point in my concert-going career, I all-but demand.

Long story short:  there were two opening bands.  The first, a local band called Slimfit, are telented musicians who wrote songs I don’t particularly care for and have a lot of work to do on their stage presence.  Nonetheless, the last 2 songs they played had very satisfying instrumental cresendoes that rocked me the fuck out, despite their obviously rehearsed and silly on-stage antics.

The second opener, Oppenheimer, was nothing short of amazing.  They’re a two-peice from Ireland who somehow manage to actually play the drums, two keyboards, and a guitar.  Their songs are intense, creative, and quirky without being worthless.  Also they gave a shout-out to Twin Peaks and used an air horn.  Check them out:

Then the Presidents came out.  Now, I like this band, but I am not passionate about them.  I really, really liked their first album back in the day when I was first getting into rock music, and I think that (self-titled) album is still pretty dang good.  But the subsequent albums have been very hit-or-miss for me.  So I’d be lying if I said I was overly-enthused for the entire show; at times it wavered toward boredom for me (but damn if that crowd wasn’t banana sandwich for that band!  There’s a lot more hardcore Presidents fans than I’d have imagined!); that being said, there were parts of the show that made me damn-near giddy.  The setlist:

Main Set:

Lunatic to Love
Dune Buggy
Boll Weevil
Back Porch
Bad Times
Tiki God
Flame Is Fire
Nuthin’ But Love
Mixed Up Sonofabitch
Shreds of Boa
Ghosts Are Everywhere
Mach 5
Kick Out the Jams


Video Killed the Radio Star
We’re Not Gonna Make It

“Kitty” as the second song waskiller.  Lots of improv, audience participation, very energetic.  Also, one of my fave PUSA tunes (PUSA being the preferred acronym for the band, despite it’s vague sexual undertone).

“Boll Weevil” is a song I’ve always been indifferent about but it owns in the live setting.

“Back Porch” was astonishing.  The arrangement was very different from the studio version, very extended.  About 8 minutes long (I checked my cell phone’s clock).  It was at this point that Chris Ballew (lead singer) first stepped onto the metal barrier right in front of me.  I have never seen this happen before.  Frankly, it was very dangerous, but very cool. The dude was not standing on the stage, he was standing on top of the metal barrier.  Directly in front of me, as I was stage center-right, which is Chris’ side. He leaned out over the audience and was actually hovering over me.  He repeated this feat a few more times throughout the show.

“Lump” ruled as much as you would think it would.

Apparently the songs between “Bad Times” and “Mixed Up Sonofabitch” were extreme rarities that we were all very fortunate to see, but I had never heard them in my life, and I thought they were “OK”.

“Ghosts are Everywhere” is the only song off the new album that I’m really into, and I was very pleased to see it live.

“Peaches” was spectacular.  Heavier than studio, and once again a very extended version.  Chris on the metal rail again (I have a picture of him over top of me during ‘Peaches’ on both my MySpace and Facebook accounts.)  Loved it.

“Kick Out the Jams”=perfect main set closer.  Actually, it should have been the show ender.

“Video Killed the Radio Star” is an unnecessary cover.  Sounded just like the original and didn’t have that “PUSA” sound.  A curiosity, at best.

“We’re Not Gonna Make It” is a rockin’ tune live, but should have been switched in position with “Kick Out the Jams”.

On the way out, I got a great Presidents show poster signed by all members of the band, for ten dollars.

Since Mary and I parked a few blocks away from the Chameleon Club, we drove away without hitting any traffic.  Stopped at a Sheetz for delicious food.  I had her home around 1am, and I got home around 1:30.  After shower and unwinding, I got to be around 3am–24 hours after waking up (an event that happens much too often to this 31-year-old).

My alarm went off 4 hours later at 7am.  My friend Amanda and I were going to Centralia today and needed an early start to make the most of this beautiful Sunday.  If you don’t know what Centralia is, may I suggest this informative primer before you continue with this blog entry:,_Pennsylvania

I’ve been meaning to go to Centralia for a long time, but it just hadn’t been working out.  Finally, I was able to go.  Long story short:  what none of the literature tells you is that on hot, dry days, there is almost no smoke or steam visible from the ground (although apparently the stench of sulphur never leaves the air).  The most surprising thing about the town is your ability to drive right past it without noticing.  After all the hoopla built up around it, you almost expect a hazy spectre to hang over the place, or some palpable pall of mystery.  The fact is,  it’s very much a normal-looking place until you realize all the open spaceyou’re seeing are vacant lots where houses once stood.  Again, this experience may have been different if the usual smoke had been coming out of the ground.  However, once Amanda and I were able to find the closed section of highway, things got much more interesting. Vacant highway+dying woods+lots of graffiti+smoking chasm in the highway+strange trash strewn about=cool and freaky.  Very eerie.  See my MySpace or Facebook pics.  Also, we explored many side roads and dirt roads and back paths that actually contained the true eerieness of Centralia.  Trash strewn everywhere, sulfur stench, utter silence, dirt roads leading nowhere, the occasional fellow wandering curiosity-seeker who also had no idea what the hell was going on, and just plain odd things (see my pic of the wig in a tree) and one could finally start to see how this place inspired the video game and (surpringly half-good film) Silent Hill.

I am really fucking exhausted and very sunburned.

West North Street, Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 21, 2009 by sethdellinger

It’s half—or maybe more accurately, a quarter—of a house.  It’s a nice place, probably a hundred years old.  The floors are hardwood, the walls a standard white drywall, flat paint combo.  It’s in a near-constant state of furniture re-arrangement; like the lives of the two men who live here, the apartment is fluid, grasping, ever on the verge of something.


The day I moved in with Duane was the day I moved back to Pennsylvania from New Jersey.  In my previous life in Pennsylvania, I hadn’t spent much time in this area of Carlisle.  I had visited Duane here a few times, and had always had trouble finding it.  This time, I found it easily, pulling up in my ’83 Ford Escort, with my life jammed into the tiny backseat.  At first, the house actually seems a bit towering and hulking, it’s front porch extending far into the world beyond the front door, and the porch roof arching upwards like the peak of a great barn.  The brown, white, and earth-toned exterior of the house makes it something you can and do easily drive past without noticing, but once you’re familiar with it, it’s comforting, like oatmeal, or sand.


The day I moved in was the most relaxed “move-in” in the history of the world.  Duane acted like I had already been living there forever.  After discussing where our individual “spaces” were, we settled in to just co-existing rather quickly.  I set my coffee maker up immediately.  That night, some old friends came over.  I felt ecstatically at home in these four rooms, with their hardwoods, their flux, their smell of socks.


After a few months, life here had become life, and it moved with an interesting rhythm.  I worked a lot, coming home late at night through the side entrance into our disgusting kitchen, and hibernating with well-deserved sleeps in the sizeable back bedroom I had taken over.  I went to a lot of AA meetings, and voraciously read the AA literature while laying on my twin bed, with my window open during this hot summer of 2003.  Life swam.


I furiously and studiously worked the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and saw from them true change in my life.  It was magical and uplifting. 


The first four steps are easy.  Then you get to Step 5:  “Admitted to a higher power, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.”  This is where we take the “inventory” we made in step four—where we write down every shitty thing we did toour loved ones before and during our addiction—and admit them to whatever Higher Power we’ve chosen to take over our will (this can be, essentially, whatever you want it to be), fully admit it to ourselves, and (the tricky part) somebody else.


Ideally this should be someone else in recovery, but for some reason, I chose my friend Burke.  And I called him immediately after having finished writing down the fourth step—once again, laying on my twin bed, with my window open and a nice breeze blowing, during the hot summer of 2003.  I told him I needed him over there immediately.  Burke, being the great friend he is, was confused, but obliged.


Burke sat in the rickety wooden chair, at the over-varnished decades-old computer desk that Duane had given me, after he found it in the basement.  Instead of a computer, a typewriter sat on it.  I sat on my bed, cross-legged, and read to Burke from my notebook.


I told them I was going to work, but really…


Then I just left her standing there…


I never called back…they had no idea where…


…I just opened his wallet, really…


…screamed, yelled, I have no idea why…


It was hard, but it was also easy.  I’m glad I chose Burke.  He’s guileless, and despite his cynical exterior, there’s not a judgmental bone in his body.  I knew this could be between him and I (and of course, all my loved ones, when I went and admitted to wrongdoings from this list to all of them in the ninth step) and, of course, that room.  That home.  Although I’d never lived there before, it was a homecoming.  The end of something, and the beginning.  Those hardwoods, that drywall, that smell of socks, and great friends like Duane and Burke and everyone else who was around at West North: it was the time of my life.

Woodfern Road, Neshanic Station, New Jersey

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 21, 2009 by sethdellinger

I woke up groggy.  Or at least, I certainly must have.

            Leaning up on my elbow, I felt my lower extremities ache and scream at me, and my neck shot pain down my spine; and yet, I felt good: rested, revived, serene.  Now—where was I?

            A few seconds of adjustment brought recollection.  I was in a Motel 6 in Carlisle.  The story of how I got here with almost no money and no car, all by myself, was already fading fast from my memory as I focused on the task at hand.  Swinging my legs off the bed I had chosen (I had two to choose from!) I shuffled through my wallet and located my Long Distance calling card, picked up the hotel phone, and called my father.  He’d be on his way to pick me up shortly.

            As I sat the phone down, I noticed for the first time the can of Busch beer sitting beside it.  Lifting the can, I was aghast that it was still half-full.  Without a moment’s hesitation, I walked to the bathroom and listened to the brew gurgle down the sink.

            I got dressed (barely noticing the two Busch’s on the floor, still hooked into their plastic ring), gathered my scant belongings into that old blue suitcase, and headed for the door.  I would wait for Dad outside.

            He showed up right on time, as is his style, in his new Sebring convertible.  He was cheery, if a bit subdued, but it was nice to see him and we chatted amiably.  After all, it’s not like I had killed someone.  I’d disappeared for awhile.  Now I was back.

            If only it were that simple.  But that bright April morning, it almost did seem that simple.

            The drive from Carlisle to Newville is painfully short when you simultaneously feel like it is the first time you are making the trip, as well as the final time.  Everything looks so new, so hauntingly familiar, as if it had risen from a dream soaked in gruel, or was a projection playing on your living room wall: the familiar mixed with the alien, the known with the forgotten, the quantifiable with the quantum.  I never wanted that ride to end, and it also couldn’t have been over soon enough.

            We pulled into the driveway of the house I grew up in, on Oak Flat Road.  I had been here only a week before, but a man in a white van waited for me in the driveway while I went in, and he told me I only had five minutes.  That’s when I stole the old blue suitcase and a pair of Dad’s shoes. 

            This time it was different.  It was better.  I was with Dad.  I was in the Sebring.  I could almost feel at home in this moment.  I could almost see my tiny, hairless legs playing basketball on this driveway, my squeaky boy voice recording fake movies on this lawn, my hungry adolescent body getting laid by the big fur tree under the summer stars.  Almost.

            Of course Dad told me I could take my time, there was no need to hurry.  Of course, he offered me food and something to drink, because he is a good dad.  But he was wrong—there was no time, much as we all might have wanted there to be.  This journey finally had an end, and I really had to get there before something—gin, Busch, cooking wine—reached out it’s hand to stop me yet again.

            I gathered up as much of my old stuff as I could think would be relevant in my new life (and as much as I could get before feeling like I was—somehow—running out of time) and Dad gave me the Mapquest directions he had printed out for me, along with—and I still cry sometimes when I think about how much this helped me, and how caring it was—each direction that I had to take written out in black magic marker on it’s own sheet of computer paper.  For instance, Turn Left Onto Rt. 15 was written in my father’s unmistakable handwriting in large letters on the paper.  Once I made that turn, I could simply throw that paper away and look at the next one.

            I loaded everything into Earl Grey, my 1983 Ford Escort, and—not without some excruciating pain—pulled out of the driveway onto Oak Flat Road, waving goodbye to my dad the way we always had when I was a kid, when I was a teenager.  Before I fucked everything up.

            Although my years as a ne’er-do-well seemed to take me all over the eastern half of the country, the prospect of driving all by myself to a state even as close as New Jersey seemed terrifying.  When you’re a drunk, you move around either with a pack of other drunks, orsober people who are putting up with you, or various forms of drug addicts who will drive you anywhere because they have to go there anyway, because the drugs dried up in Harrisburg.  When you wake up in Providence and you don’t know how you got there, the fact is that someone else took you there.

            Once I was on the highway, the fear relaxed a bit.  Just point the car and give it gas.  And there’s no bars on highways.  And the mind can roam a bit, ponder the concept of starting a new life, where nobody knows you, nobody thinks it’s great that you don’t stink today, or it’s a miracle that I’m clean-shaven.  Someplace I could start to be someone worth loving again.

            The sun lowered behind the horizon just as I crossed the border into New Jersey, and then things got trickier.  The directions took me off the highway.  Now I’m making all kinds of rapid turns and I’m having difficulty reading the directions in the dark—and if you think I own a cell phone at this point in time, you are just stupid.

            And then it started to rain, and then I got seriously into New Jersey, where traffic patterns are different than they are anywhere else in the world (things called ‘jug handles’ and ‘roundabouts’ are interspersed with standard intersections, and the yellow lights last forever) and, as I was wont to do just about all the time, I got really scared.

            I pulled into the first gas station I could find, and climbed out of Earl Grey into sheeting rain, brandishing my phone card and my 8 ½ X 11 piece of paper on which I had written the few phone numbers I could gather in the amount of time I had.  Trembling from the cold, the wet, and the fear, I picked up the stark black handset and dialed the two-thousand digits one has to dial when dealing with a phone card.  Finally I hear her voice.


            She’s there.  She’s worried.  She wasn’t sure I was still coming.  She didn’t know how long it would take me.

            “I’m lost.”

            She asks where I am.  I describe what I see.  And lo and behold, I am just a few minutes from her.  But she’d rather I don’t try to find her place on my own.  Stay put, she says.  I’ll drive there, and you can follow me.

            And she does meet me, pulling up in that trusty old Dodge Stratus.  It’s strange how in moments like these, your fear can subside as your shame billows.

            I follow her, and within moments I am pulling into a large stone driveway that is almost a parking lot.  I pull the old blue suitcase out of Earl Grey and follow her, with one huge sigh of relief, into the house.

            The entry room, which is unfinished, with plywood walls and a cement floor, smells like the basements I adored in my youth.  There are stacks of plastic storage containers here, and I immediately know they are full of Beanie Babies. 

            Through the first door we came to the laundry room, which didn’t just smell like a laundry room, but like Mom’s laundry room.  I almost wept with the knowledge that Mom herself did laundry here, and that soon, she would probably be doing mine, as well.  There’s nothing quite like regression to make you feel comfortable.

            And then up the stairs into the apartment proper.  The light brown stairs, with their swirly-wood-patterns, felt like home right away.  I wanted to walk up and down those stairs every day of my life (and I still want to).  As we emerged into the living room, there seemed to be a hearth-like glow emitting from somewhere; the lighting was soft, yet not dim, and coming from everywhere, like the first hour after a snow has fallen.  And the smell of cigarette smoke hung round the room like a welcoming committee—everyone in the world hates that smell but smokers; to us it is a nirvana of acceptance. 

            Turning, I see John, Mom’s husband, in his chair, smiling really wide at me and immediately saying something very hospitable and kind—the specifics of which I now forget, but my appreciation of that moment has not abated.

            And then the lovely clutter!  There is just stuff everywhere (just like their apartment in Dillsburg), but it is lovely stuff.  Books, movies, knick-knacks and gew-gaws to be fawned over, played with, turned around in your hand.  A roll-top desk is full of Blues CDs, a plastic TV tray overflows with Grisham novels and backscratchers, piled in a corner is the complete Ken Burns’ Civil War on VHS and a multi-volume set of reference books on fighter jets.  It’s like I had made a bunch of wishes to an only mildly confused genie.

            And then the cats greet me.  They remember me from the Dillsburg days, which is nice.  It’s always nice when animals remember you, and like you.  Li’l Bit, Baby Doll, and Angel—my saving graces.  I knew immediately, as they rubbed their soft fur against my legs and chased the red dot I made on the floor with a pen laser, that these darling creatures were going to save my life.

            I am lead to the kitchen and told to have whatever I want, to make myself at home—because I was home now.  The kitchen smells like Mom’s kitchen, with a little bit of whatever John’s kitchen smelled like thrown in for good measure, and the smell of cats and cat food.  The white Formica countertop, loaded with just-dried dishes and various snacks in various stages of consumption, draws me in like a psychiatrist’s couch.  I open the pantry door and am greeted by canned chili, three kinds of cereal, granola bars, Campbell’s soups, corn chips, ravioli.  I realize, for the first time in many years, I am hungry.  I started eating and, quite frankly, haven’t stopped since.

            Not much in life can compare to the first few hours you spend at an obvious end to a long and painful journey.  Even though the future is uncertain, it’s never as uncertain as the journey was.  It’s like being in a huge womb, waiting to be birthed again.

            I have no idea what we talked about, Mom, John and I, as we sat in the living room, probably with CNN on mute, smoking our cigarettes, stroking the cats.  But it was pleasant.  I miss those blue walls.  That Oriental shower curtain.  All those Grisham novels (though I’ve never read one).  We didn’t stay up long.  I think we were all eager to go to sleep, start the next day anew, see what life would be like now.

           I lay in bed for some time after Mom and John went to sleep, watching cable television (I found that night that I was fond of American Chopper), stretching out and feeling my body, reflecting on nothing and everything.  Suddenly I rose from the bed and found the phone in the kitchen.  I got my phone card and my sheet of paper out of my wallet and called her.  She didn’t answer, and in fact, she’s never answered since.  And I can’t blame her, after everything we put her through, everything she saw.  And she was so young.  Some things, you never get a chance to fix.

            I lay back down, secure in the notion she’d answer the next day.  I put the DVD of the movie In the Bedroom in and lay down in the dark.  Li’l Bit appeared on the bed and cuddled up next to me.  Her purring was an elixir of love, and I petted her slowly, lovingly, knowing I needed her so much more than she needed me.  I am sick, and you’re gonna help me get better, I whispered to her.  I repeated it.  I am sick, and you’re gonna help me get better.  We fell asleep together.

Vine Street, Newville, Pennsylvania

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 21, 2009 by sethdellinger

Act I


The stage is sparsely decorated: we see only an old, tattered couch and a matching loveseat, a used, varnished coffee table (which is very low to the ground) and an entertainment center which seems to have been bought in the early Nineties.  The entertainment center houses a 19-inch television, a VCR, a stereo, and some books.  It is not important what type of stereo it is, except that it is big.  The rest of the stage is black.  Lights should be concentrated mainly on the set dressing.  Director and Lighting Designer use discretion when lighting the wings of the stage.  A feeling of barrenness should be achieved.  Also, we should be made to feel that the entertainment center is, in fact, the “center” of this tableaux.  An armchair can be added to the set, but it will not be used.


Enter Cassie and Willie, a young married couple.  Willie is in his early thirties, thin, Bohemian.  Cassie is in her mid-twenties, short, artsy.  The couple stand and look at the couch for three beats, in silence.


Willie:  I really don’t know.  He could have peed on it.


Cassie:  I really don’t know.  I didn’t think he was that absurd.


Willie:  Absurd?  He’s just a drunk.  That’s not absurd, it’s terrifyingly standard.


Cassie:  Smell it.


Willie:  Why should I smell it?  I took care of that teenager he got drunk last week.  She wouldn’t stop crying.  I had to hold her down to keep her from running into the street!  You smell it.


Cassie:  Oh, what a way to begin our New Year’s Eve!  Why don’t we just pretend it’s not there?  Everything goes away eventually.


Willie:  What a way to see the world.


Cassie:  It’s no different than the way you see it.  I just word it more simply.


Willie (sitting on the loveseat): Neither of us sees the world that way at all, and you know it.  Nothing goes away.


Cassie:  Not even farts?


Willie: Not even farts.  Every fart that’s ever been farted is still hanging in a major pocket of collective fart consciousness, above Greenland somewhere.  Where’s my tea?


Cassie:  You’re going to turn into tea.


Willie:  Yes, Mother.


Cassie:  Maybe that’s tea on the couch.  It leaked out of you because your body was fully saturated.


Willie:  You become more ridiculous with each passing sentence.


Cassie (sitting on Willie’s lap):  Isn’t that why you love me?


Willie:  No.


Cassie:  Then why do you?


Willie:  Because you’ve always been willing to smell the couch when we suspect our roommate has peed on it.  Oh, and those canned hams you keep in the back of your pants.


Cassie:  I can never decide if that’s cute or annoying.


Willie:  Things are usually both.


Enter Seth.  He is short—about the same height as Cassie–, squat, and slovenly, yet possessing of a tremendously handsome face.  He is unshaven, with a two or three day growth of hair on his face. (Under no circumstances should Seth be portrayed with an actual beard.)  He enters and sits immediately on the couch, precisely in the spot Cassie and Willy had been looking at.


Seth:  So we ready for this New Year’s Eve or what, folks?!  I am ready to rock this house!


Willie:  I’ve never cared much about New Year’s Eve.


Seth:  Nobody does!  That’s why it’s such a popular holiday.


Cassie:  I have no idea what to do tonight.  It always seems like everyone in the whole world has something amazing planned and I—we—end up having an essentially normal evening.  Just once I would like to feel as though I—we—brought the New Year in with some kind of grand style, some form of eloquence or transcendence, something larger than life, or—hell, something smaller than life, so long as it was different from life.


Seth:  Now you’re talking, Cassie!  Bring on the world, I say!  Just make sure the world has gin, menthol cigarettes and a Paul Thomas Anderson movie.


Willie:  I really don’t know.  Our friend Jen is coming over.  I just hope she’s not as crazy as she used to be.


Seth: What?  Who is this vixen?


Cassie:  A friend of Willie’s from college.  We hadn’t seen her in a few years, then we ran into her at the guitar store last week and invited her over.  You’ll probably really like her, Seth.


Seth:  Oh yeah?


Cassie:  Yeah.  She’s—


Enter Jen.  She is chubby and short, yet wholesomely attractive.  She is dressed ridiculously—a tall, multi-colored, plush hat, bright green pants, a Confederate Army uniform shirt, and a pink, feathery scarf which she never removes, and shin-length brown Doc Martin boots.  Costume Designer should add little or nothing to this outfit.  Jen is loud and animated.  Her body movements are fluid yet exaggerated.  Jen acts as though she knows she is in a play.


Jen:  I am so totally here!  Bring on 2002!  Who wants to get drunk?  Who wants to get high?  Who wants to run screaming outside just to show the world we’re here, just to show them they can’t stop us, just to take that proverbial road not taken, to shake up the Misters and Ma’ams and goody-two-shoes and the Elvis lovers and the floor boards of that great stoic brainiac in the sky?  Who wants to fuck my boots and shit in my hair?


Willy:  I really don’t know.






Act II



Two hours later.


The stage is now set to resemble a front porch.  We see a white front door (with screen door), a white overhanging awning, two white plastic chairs and an ashtray on a milk crate.  Lighting should be even lower now, as we are out-of-doors at night.  We should feel intimate with a small set centered on the stage.  All four characters are present.  Willie and Cassie occupy the chairs, Seth and Jen are standing, although they are both frequently moving; their movements are short of pacing but more than fidgeting.  Everyone has a drink in their hands.  All four are smokers and occasionally light up. (Good luck finding a playhouse that allows this nowadays.  However, it is necessary.  ‘Miming’ the smoking will not do.)


Cassie:  But then where can feminism go from there?  I mean, is that it’s logical conclusion?


Jen:  Who knows?  Dworkin wouldn’t have it any other way, but of course, she’s dead now.


Cassie:  All the best ones die.


Seth:  Yes, and the worst ones, too.


Jen:  I just can’t get over the fact that your walls are white.  Off-white, no less!  I mean, c’mon, everyone’s walls are off-white!  I really pegged you two (addressing Cassie and Willie) as less conformist than that.  I thought I’d come over and find pink and camouflage and Sistine Chapel type stuff painted on your walls.


Willie:  They’re just walls.


Jen:  Nothing is just a wall!  A wall is a barrier or an enclosure, a comfort or a menace, a home or a prison.  You can’t just go through your life looking at what the last person who lived here thought was acceptable, was easy-on-the-eyes, was relaxing or comforting or homogenous or sane!  That’s like living someone else’s life—or someone else’s version of life, or what passed for life for some forty-year-old single mother with two kids who liked to watch Regis and Kathy Lee after she got the little squirts onto the school bus.  Did you keep her couch, too?  How about her shower curtain?  Willy, do you picture her face when you’re balls-deep in Cassie?  Of course not!  You’re not living her life, you’re living yours, so why do you want her walls?


Seth (to Jen): I’m in love with you.  (Nobody seems to hear him say this.)


Willie (to Jen): So what should we do about our carpet?  Rip that out, spend thousands of dollars just on principle?  Besides, we rent this place, we can’t do whatever we like.


Cassie:  And I quite like our carpet, anyway.


Jen:  Oh of course there are practical concerns here.  You have to live out loud, as far as you’re able.  I understand that.  But you’ve got to do what you can.  You’ve got to try to be heard.


Willie (to Jen):  Did you just use the phrase ‘live out loud’?  Because you can’t be Thoreau one minute, and Oprah the next.  If you’re going to be so on-message, you’ve got to choose your words carefully or you’ll dilute yourself.


Jen:  Thoreau?  I’ve never been Thoreau.  Seth, was I being Thoreau?


Seth:  I’m in love with you.


Jen:  See?  Seth thinks it’s more of a Kafka thing.


The lights all go down except for a spotlight on Seth.  The other three characters are now ‘miming’ having a conversation.  We see them, in the dark, talking and gesturing, but we cannot hear them.  Seth watches them for a full ten seconds, with visible beaming affection.  Then he turns from them and walks to the lip of the stage.  He now addresses the audience.


Seth:  Well, hello there.  I suppose this wasn’t much of a play, was it?  There’s not much of a plot.  It’s just some people talking for a few minutes.  We didn’t really follow those pesky “guidelines” (here Seth does ‘air quotes’) that people have set up for plays to follow.  Well—Act One is a rather nice, tidy Act One, but then it’s just like we got sick of pretense and just talked about our theme, like the playwright just wanted to get it over with so he or she could go take a long shower.  And I hope that they did.  But, what was our theme?  Was it about walls, or houses?  Or was it love?  Or roommates?  Or the change that comes with a new year, a new house, or a new love interest?  Well, I know, for me, I’ve gotta ask how much difference there is between Love, and a House, and Change, because maybe we’re dealing with just one theme, no?  I’m not suggesting there is no difference between a house and love—I’m just saying maybe it’s something we could think about.  Maybe it’s something we could put in our meat grinder and see if sausage comes out the other end.  Ah, I have no idea what I’m talking about anymore.  And I haven’t the energy to summon up a compelling and dramatic end to all this.  Thanks for being here and watching a caricature of a memory.  Now go home and paint your walls.  Or don’t.  That’s a choice that should always be up to you.









New Bloomfield, Perry County, Pennsylvania

Posted in Memoir, Uncategorized with tags , on April 21, 2009 by sethdellinger

It’s a half a house, on the ‘main drag’ of this small country town.  New Bloomfield is a town a bit smaller than the small town I grew up in, with one main street and a few tiny offshoot streets, one diner, and a Uni-Mart.

The house itself is old; it’s red brick, and the wooden parts of it’s structure are a dirt-brown, but have been painted over so many times, they are thick with hidden layers.

The rooms inside are terribly narrow; this house was not designed to be split into two halves.  And since I’m essentially squatting here (with a married couple and an unmarried couple), the actual room for me to maneuver is minimal.  I have a couch (usually) and that is all; my room is the living room, which is also everyone else’s living room.

It’s a two-story house, with a tiny kitchen that I barely even remember, and a winding, death-defying staircase which I ascended as rarely as possible (but frequently, anyway, as the only bathroom was upstairs.)

My life in this house is partying.  I love to party here, and everyone else usually comes along for the ride.  Sure, I’m doing some depressed drinking alone late at night here, like everywhere else, but since this house has somehow become a gathering place for our ‘crew’ (which is odd, since we are at an outpost of civilization, half an hour from the closest supermarket and even further from where most of our friends live. Somehow, they make the trek out here often) I have found a renaissance of partying.  And we have all discovered “King Dickhead”.

King Dickhead is a drinking game that utilizes playing cards, but you don’t really play cards.  Certain cards and suits do things like give players ‘powers’, force other players to do things, or kick off other ‘mini-games’ within the game, such as “Never Have I Ever”, in which  the player who drew the card says something like “Never have I ever blown a dude,” after which everyone who has blown a dude has to drink.

These games could reach epic heights of ridiculousness in those days.  We were a group of people undergoing a stretching of our moral compasses, and the debauchery and elegant silliness that took place in that small living room was practically Roman.  During one particular game, I was made to sing “I’m a Little Teapot”, complete with all the body motions, completely nude in front of everyone, another friend was forced to disrobe, sit Indian Style, lean back, and place a lit cigarette in his asshole, for everyone to see.  That was gross. But hilarious.  And don’t get me started on the now-famous ‘parade of penises’.

It was after one of these particularly raunchy games of King Dickhead that a bunch of us were sitting around the living room, relaxing, in various forms of drunkenness, that someone pulled out an acoustic guitar and began strumming it.  Almost immediately, one of the females turned to my close friend P—, and said, “Ooooh, can you sing that Seven Mary Three song? What’s it called?  I love it when you sing that song!”

See, I had just recently introduced P— to the band Seven Mary Three, by way of the song that was being referenced, which is called “Lucky”.  For years I had been the only Seven Mary Three fan I knew, and I tried to convert just about everyone I knew, to no avail.  Everyone in that room had been subjected to my Just listen to this one! pleas and they had all summarily shot the band down.  Now, less than a month after P—‘s conversion, he is being enthusiastically asked to sing one of the band’s songs at a party! You can probably all see why this would be minorly annoying, but I was incensed beyond all belief.

I stood up from my seat on the floor and ranted immediately.  Everyone was justifiably shocked by the level of my anger (later they would become accustomed to this sort of behavior).  When it became apparent that my wrath was not going to cause anyone to say “Why, Seth, I had forgotten you liked this band first! Why don’t you sing us the song instead?” I stormed out of the room, up the narrow, winding staircase and stopped in the hallway at the top of the stairs.  I was incredibly drunk and could barely see straight, and my anger was absolutely boiling.  I punched a wood-paneled wall as hard as I could, but would not feel it until the next day.  I paced.  I said terrible things under my breath.  But I didn’t fall apart until I heard the first few chords of “Lucky” float up the stairs to me, and shortly after, P—‘s soft, understated voice charming the first few lyrics out of his throat…Mean Mister Mustard says he’s bored…of life in the District…he can’t afford…the French Quarter high…


I began to cry, to bawl, to sob, as I slid down the wall and sat with my back against it, my body heaving and snot running down my face.  I was as twisted as the staircase in those days, and as immovable.

Elliotsburg, Perry County, Pennsylvania

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 20, 2009 by sethdellinger

OK here’s where we’re going to start:


High above the ground, you see mostly green.  Textbook examples of rolling hills, spotty groves of trees, country-style roads that meander in ways which make no surface sense. The blue Appalachians rise, meekly, like the rolled blanket of a sleeping giant, in the periphery.  Amidst all the green, houses are almost invisible; they are rare, at any rate, in this farm country. Most of the land is divided into grand swaths meant for corn, cows, or waiting for corn or cows.  Outcroppings of non-farm dwellings are grouped into ‘towns’ of 6 or 7 houses, skirting pastureland.  As we descend from our perch in the sky, one such tiny outcroppings of houses comes clearer into view: Elliotsburg.  The town exists on one street, for about half a mile. The handful of dwellings are mostly white, about a hundred years old, and absolutely quaint.  From a hundred yards above the town, you can see that all the inhabitants are blessed with large back yards, usable front lawns, ample loose-stone driveways.  Everyone’s lawn is as green and lush as a newly opened golf course.  Sheds as big as barns, in shoddy, Termited disrepair, dot every-other back yard like fire hydrants in a drought city.

            Descend even further with me now, narrowing our view to this one particular house, whose address I forget, if ever I knew it.  We are looking at, from 50 yards above it, a one-story ranch house—white—with a large, almost one acre backyard.  At the rear of the yard sits a dilapidated barn, brown with age and water-logged.  An exuberant blue spruce dominates the smallish front lawn, and the slow rise of Appalachian foot hills can be seen just beyond the wooden fence which marks the back end of the house’s property.

            Now if we drop even further, you can see some details, which may or may not matter to you.  The red front door (never used; this is one of those ‘side door only’ houses), the wrought-iron hand-rails leading up the four side steps; the peeling paint everywhere, the lush lawn ravaged by dandelions upon close inspection.  Hover by the aluminum white side door as I open it for you.

            Inside, we see a house that is the picture of domestic normalcy.  The side door opens into a medium-sized kitchen, with a double sink, an eggshell dishwasher, bread on the counter.  The fridge is marked by homey magnets and drawings done by a very young child.  The patterned linoleum of the floor is straight out of Good Housekeeping.

            If we float on through the kitchen, we come tothe living room, with it’s blue carpet, it’s entertainment center housing a modest-sized television, VCR, and one of the world’s best stereos.  Two not-cheap couches hug the walls, and a never-used recliner perches in an inconvenient corner—another American case of having more stuff than space.  The glass coffee table is unclassy and out-of-place, yet in it’s barbarism, it’s statement within the room is succinct.

            Turning at a right angle, almost going back into the kitchen, we run into two bedrooms.  The master bedroom sports a large, almost luxury bed, a quality, almost-antique highboy (which I would later personally burn on a pile of trash), a small television, a bureau with an oversized mirrors. The only thing interesting to ever happen in this room, methinks, are things I was never privy to.

            The other bedroom—considerably smaller—seems unoccupied.  Blankets lay heaped in a corner, an open package of disposable diapers sits in the center of the room.  It is unfurnished and smells like baby wipes and tobacco.

            One thing that has been very noticeable and out-of-place to you since we entered the building is that a rock band is distinctly playing in the basement of the house.  Not a CD of a rock band, but a real, live one.  On the upper floor here, it is difficult to discern what exactly they are playing, or if they are any good, but the true concussive feeling of actual drums being pounded and a real man singing into a microphone is unmistakable.  We turn from the bedrooms and float back through the kitchen, almost back out the side door, but we stop just before leaving, making a left turn, and we are facing a brown, varnished wooden door.  I will open it for you.

            The rock music now blares into our faces, the fullness of it’s sound raising our blood pressure.  Float with me, will you, down these rickety, wooden basement stairs?

            The basement is dark.  It runs the length of the house but is lit by only one small, practically useless lamp in a faraway corner as well as Christmas lights which are strung up the whole way around the room, all year round.  Tapestries line the walls, as well as occasional egg-crate mattresses, for sound-proofing.  Music equipment takes up the entire center of the room: multiple amps, guitars and guitar stands, a keyboard, a drum kit as well as piecemeal percussion instruments, mic stands, a small mixing board, pedals galore, and stuff I never understood.  Mixed in with these musical items are small ‘artsy’ artifacts, like a lava lamp, a Buddha bust, incense holders.  The basement, now like always, smellsdistinctly of damp must and incense.

            Four men are playing rock music—not typical rock music, but a dim, almost evil rock music, that meanders frequently from the pre-written songs into extended, intense jams which often sound like a slow ride into Hell.  They are talented men but destined for day jobs.

            Let us briefly turn away from the band, back toward the stairs we just came down.  You will see that, to the left of the stairs in a darkened corner sits an old ratty couch with an all-but-destroyed coffee table in front of it. Let us hover in closer to it.  Ah, yes, there I am.  I am sitting on the couch, smoking a cigarette and drinking gin-and-coke, watching the band with much interest.  My unshaved face looks like gold divots have been pasted haphazardly to it.  I have on that patterned gray flannel; it feels like I wore that for years.  I’m wearing my gray derby hat, too.  Backwards, like I usually did.  This basement is my bedroom, and this couch is my bed.   

            I’ve been living in this band’s practice quarters for quite some time now, as well as accompanying them to local bars, helping carry the equipment, sitting through bands I didn’t give a shit about to watch ‘my’ band play.  And even though watching them practice is, to me, what watching television is like to other people (there is no television or even radio in my basement bedroom), I still eagerly watch them as though a very special private performance were being put on for me.  Sleeping isn’t a problem; I can drink myself to sleep even if a band is playing in my bedroom.

            Oh my.  I remember this moment!  Look, the singer is taking a break to go call his girlfriend, but the band continues jamming.  They’re just in a nice, quiet little groove, the bass throbbing in slow-time, the guitar in a sort of fuzz repeat, the drummer noodling along with the bass line. 

            I had been waiting for months for an opportunity like this.  I wanted to show the band that I was a creative fellow.  See, during their jams, I often made up impromptu lyrics to them in my head which I felt were a bit better than anything the lead singer came up with. It wasn’t that I thought I could be the band’s singer, by any means, but simply a desire to be accepted as a fellow artist.

            Watch me get up from the couchand walk to the lead singer’s microphone.  I stand there for a few brief moments, taking in the music, trying to feel what it is ‘about’.  The three band members don’t notice that I’m standing there yet; the bass and guitar player have their eyes closed, and the drummer is hidden behind his drums.  Then I open my mouth, and in my regular speaking voice I say:

            “You see that tree over there?”  I pause for four measures of the music, then: “I’m gonna chop it down.”

            A quick glance around will reveal that the bass player’s eyes are still closed, but the guitar player is looking at me with a sincere look of disgust.  I walk away from the mic stand slowly, nonchalantly, as though it had just been a minor lark.  But I don’t return to the couch, I walk up the stairs, outside, to walk around the countryside a bit.  I had never been so embarrassed in all my life.

Orange Street, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 20, 2009 by sethdellinger

It is the narrowest house ever built.  It is comically narrow, as if it were built for a surreal Hollywood production—perhaps the latest David Lynch film.  From the street, it is less than half the width of it’s neighbors on either side; it’s a free-standing townhouse.  It’s white aluminum siding is only white in the clinical sense; years ago it must have become eggshell, and then the ceaseless machinations of weather and time pushed it over the brink all the way into a yellow, sponge-like hue.


The interior is very dark, everywhere.  Dark– almost menacing–wood-paneled walls soak up almost all of the light in the downstairs rooms, and a deep gray carpet takes any light that’s left over.  The kitchen linoleum is the color of shit, a bold, sickened shit, perhaps let out by a man with rectal cancer; it is shit that’s almost blood.  The cabinets are of the darkest oak the builder (re-modeler?)  could find, their swirly grains almost undetectable in the near-midnight of their varnish.  It is dark down here, and not welcoming.


Up the stairs—the narrowest stairs ever—it becomes lighter.  The walls in the stairwell are wood-paneled, but they’ve been painted over in an off-white.  The stairs are steep.  They are too steep.


On the second floor, the walls are a white Formica.  There are three bedrooms and a bathroom, all done in white Formica with brown hardwood floors (again, the color of death shit).  The bedrooms are small, and mine is the smallest.  I have one tiny window that looks directly at a neighbor’s blank wall.  The window had a fan in it the whole time I lived there, anyway.  I don’t have a closet.  This is the most unadorned room I’ll ever live in.  My posters and artwork didn’t make the move from the dorm.  My clothes are all in a basket on the floor, and on piles beside that, as well.  My bed sits in one corner, my television in another.  This room is remarkable mainly because I had a mini-fridge all to myself in my bedroom, an odd childhood dream of mine that would only be realized in this abode.  It turned out to be not as exciting as a 5-year-old had imagined, but handy, at least, for an active alcoholic.


I didn’t know the guys I lived with, and even now, I could not tell you their names, and barely what they looked like.  The previous school year had been ending and I was out of a place to live (a lot of college students are scrambling for places to live at the end of the year) and some guy I vaguely knew through someone else was scrambling to find a roommate.  I did what I had to do.  When I moved in to the house on Orange Street, I was beginning the heaviest drinking phase of my life, my parents had just gotten divorced, I was still reeling from the loss of Her, and I was secretly not going to classes.  I was beginning the only actual ‘depression’ of my life.  Hence, I did not like the house on Orange Street.


I remember very little.  I didn’t live there long, and most of my time was spent in my room, laying on my bed, trying not to kill myself.  I remember, probably, the smell more than anything.  The whole house was musty, pleasingly moldy, like a drawer with slightly old bananas in a brown paper bag.  I remember the sound of steps on the hardwood floors, sqeezey-echoes, monotonous soft-taps, everywhere the same; there were no floor spots that sounded different, no squeaky stairs or thudding corners.  I remember the pot my mother gave me, in some high hopes that I was becoming an adult (this was the first place I lived with a kitchen) sitting unused, forever, in the high cabinet over the sink.  I wonder who has it, now?


I remember, once, walking downstairs in the middle of the night.  Why? I can’t remember.  I stood in the darkened kitchen, listening to the sounds of the house, the sound of my heart beating, the sound of my brain churning.  Unexpectedly, I opened the door to the basement and went down.


I had only been down there once before, when I first moved in.  I had had to put my dresser down there because it wouldn’t fit up the stairs.  This basement is beyond an ‘unfinished’ basement.  It is a glorified crawl-space, with mud floors, stone walls, cob-webs, the works.  The furnace and water heater are down there, and that’s all it existed for.  That, and to store my dresser.


I stood there, halfdrunk, on the mud floor, with the tiny light of the bare swaying bulb casting moving shadows everywhere.  I didn’t have much time to soak it in, however, because moments after I flicked the light on, a bat flew out from behind the furnace, right past my head.


Of course, it scared the shit out of me, but I didn’t run out of there.  I turned to see where it had gone, but it had disappeared.  I distinctly remember smiling and feeling somehow content.  At the time I didn’t analyze why this should be, why I should feel this way.  Looking back, I suspect it was a comfort to know that something, at least, was alive in this house.

%d bloggers like this: