Archive for March, 2014

Eleventh Sobriety Anniversary

Posted in Memoir with tags , , , on March 30, 2014 by sethdellinger

Thursday, April 3rd is my 11th sobriety anniversary.  Those of you who’ve read much of my blog or really anything of mine at all, know that I have written at length on my alcoholism, sobriety and recovery.  Probably more than any other personal subject I’ve written about.  Hey, can you blame me? It’s interesting. 

Anyway, I usually have some fancy blog written up for the occasion, but I may finally be out of good “anniversary” blogs—maybe until another major milestone year (although I’m sure I’ll still randomly write about the topic, despite the fact that I’ve now been sober more than twice as long as I drank…it’s still a damn interesting topic).  But I did want to take this opportunity to link those who may have missed them to last year’s anniversary entries; it was a two-parter in which I recounted, for the first time, the days surrounding April 3rd, 2003—the day I got and stayed sober.  Part one can be read by clicking here, and part two can be read by clicking here.

If you find these entries to be just captivating reading, I encourage you to click on some of the links in my “tag cloud” to the right of your screen—these will take you to all entries that I have “tagged” with that topic.  You can see there are tags for “addiction”, “alcoholism”, and “recovery”, but in addition, lots of other topics!  If, in the unlikely event you love the band Seven Mary Three, well, clicking on that tag for 7m3 is a no-brainer!  Also you can use the search bar right below that delightful picture of me to search every single entry—there are A LOT of them—for anything; for instance, if you’re wondering if I’ve ever mentioned you, search your name!

Anyway, I like being sober, it’s tons of fun :)

Protected: Philly Journal, 3/27/14

Posted in Philly Journal with tags , , , , on March 27, 2014 by sethdellinger

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First Spring Morning

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , on March 22, 2014 by sethdellinger

This morning a stink bug
dead in my foyer.
Even dead its three ugly centimeters
twitch my skin.

I rub the back of my neck
where I imagine its
mandibles
entering.

Then I notice how,
in this early sun,
its outer shell shines.
How gray and shiny

and beautiful
its death is.

We Forgot All The Names, the Names We Used to Know

Posted in Concert/ Events with tags , , , on March 19, 2014 by sethdellinger

I had big plans to write my first big concert blog in a long time after last night’s Arcade Fire show.  I long ago ceased writing lengthy concert reviews when I realized nobody really cared (not your fault!).  But last night’s show was SO different than any rock concert I’ve been to, I had big plans.  But the need to go to work in between the concert and the blog has taken the wind out of my sails, so allow me to make a long story somewhat short.

So the music media has made a big fuss over this tour.  Arcade Fire has, in the past year or two, become an immensely popular band, but not in the usual way.  They don’t have any radio songs.  Their music doesn’t necessarily appeal to the average music consumer.  And yet millions and millions of people like them.  They are a band with “indie” or “hipster” appeal, and when a band such as that decided to play arenas, a lot of people cry foul.  I understand this argument.  To make music from a distinctly artful, non-populist place and then play immense buildings whose construction was underwritten by public tax dollars and then named after banks and beer companies, well, it’s weird, but also: that’s life.  What ya gonna do?  They’d have to play ten times as many club dates to allow this many of their fans to see them.  And I have no problem with talented artists getting rich.  So anyway.  There was also the thing I mentioned earlier in my blog about them requesting formal wear and costume.  So yeah.  A lot has been said and written about this tour (known as the Reflektor tour).

The band obviously has done all it can to silence these critics.  From the moment I entered the building I never once thought about the fact that I was at an arena rock concert.  Not once.  Not everyone was in costume or formal wear, but well over 50% (my guess would be 70%) were in one or the other.  Enough so that I never once felt self-conscious about my mask.  There were many and various interesting things set up and taking place throughout the concourses that added to the effect of being somewhere other than a rock show–I don’t have time or space to detail them. The house lights were kept off for the entire duration of the audience being in the building.  This is actually unheard-of.  What this means is, once we left the concourse area where you buy your beer and t-shirts and went into find our actual seats, the lights were off.  Like, even before the opening act.  The lights stayed down during the opening act.  Of course there were the lights from the stage, etc, but the big lights, the “house lights”, stayed off.  This added a major effect of otherworldliness (although admittedly also was in many ways a pain in the ass).  The lights stayed off when the opener was done playing, in the wait period before Arcade Fire came out (the house lights always come up between acts!).  but most surprisingly, the lights still stayed off even after Arcade Fire was done.  This almost seems like a safety concern!  But it was worth it.  It was the first thing, aside from our own costumes, that immediately changed our expectations of this event.

The modern-day rock concert is very predictable.  It moves with a certain pace and certain things always happen on cue.  Nothing was to be like that at this show.  I swear I’m trying to hurry this story up.

The opening act: Dan Deacon.  This man is an electronic musician (he makes music by himself using, well…electronics).  Again, right off the bat, just not what this audience is expecting.  But I must say, his music does compliment Arcade Fire’s rather well.  The big deal here is that Dan didn’t play from the stage Arcade Fire was going to.  He was on a stage at the other end of the arena.  This was genius.  See, the folks in the first 20 or 30 rows against the stage (they are not in assigned seats like me but are General Admission) are not going to do any dancing or moving, because they are concerned with their placement by the stage.  But Dan’s position at the other end brings the General Admission folks who were too late to get a good spot at the main stage over to HIS stage, and he proceeds to do amazingly interactive things with them; dance contests, “high five walls”, all kinds of neat stuff that probably is pretty run-of-the-mill at electronica shows but is all-but unheard of at a rock show.  The audience was interacting.  On a large scale!  AND, on top of all this, this unique and terrific activity made those of us in the stands rapt with what was happening.  Let me break that down: a bunch of hipster rock fans were rapt with attention at an electronic musician opening act.

So that was kind of neat.

So Dan Deacon got done and we waited for the main act. The lights stayed down which was creepy and awesome and annoying.  The wait wasn’t as long as normal.  After about 20 minutes, with very close to no warning, the main stage throbs with sound and light, the curtain gets yanked up, and suddenly Arcade Fire is playing “Reflektor”, the title track from their new album.  I was really far away but this is what it looked like from closer.  It happened with so little warning, I can’t find a video on YouTube that actually caught the beginning:

So then they rocked our faces off for awhile, which I won’t bore you about.  There were tremendous things throughout to really set the show apart: confetti and lots of it from the rafters, lots of glow in the dark things, incredible stage presence with jumping and dancing and twirling of strings and people wearing many different masks and just all kinds of oddities.  But mostly just really incredible, intelligent, emotionally-charge artistic rock music that can’t be beat.

I regret there is not yet quality video of their performance of “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”, a song that is constructed like a swelling rock anthem, but is a story about two children whose town gets completely buried in snow, but they climb out their chimneys and survive, eventually reverting to more bestial ways and forgetting much of their past civilized lives, while also falling in love with one another. It exists as a wholly unique song in the pantheon of rock.  It has always moved me with its sideways and unexpected approach to deep human themes such as fear of loss, longing for love, and desire for the unexpected.  And yet, as unconventional as it is, as the song began to play, 20,000 people sang, quite loudly, along with me, lines such as

“Then we tried to name our babies,
but we forgot all the names that,
the names we used to know.
But sometimes, we remember our bedrooms,
and our parent’s bedrooms,
and the bedrooms of our friends.”

We were singing these unconventional lines like it meant something to us, like it was important.  Like they were secrets.

On their most recent album, they have a song called “We Exist”, which is about the pain of teenage gays “coming out” (so far as I know, everyone in the band is straight).  A great moment for me was Win’s introduction of this song, which can be seen in the video below, and then the absolutely terrifyingly gnarly version of the song they proceed to play.  What isn’t visible in this video is that during this song, the “reflektor man” came out and stood on Dan Deacon’s stage, as spotlights

"Reflektor Man" on the opener's stage during "We Exist"

“Reflektor Man” on the opener’s stage during “We Exist”

bounced beams onto all of us, as Win sang, from the vantage point of teen gays, We exist! It added yet another layer to the complicated, thrilling, and admittedly academic theme of reflection, twinning, and identity that is explored on the new album.

So the band ended it’s “main set”.  Here is one of those conventions of the modern concert industry I was speaking about.  The main act plays for about an hour and a half and walks off the stage, pretending the show is over.  We all know the show is not going to be over, that there will be an “encore”, regardless of whether it is asked for.  It is expected (one way we usually know this?  The house lights stay off, which of course means nothing to us now).  Well, literally the SECOND Arcade Fire walks off the stage, the openers stage again (which is closest to me) rises up in the air, and there are “The Reflektors”…this is an “alter ego” band that Arcade Fire has used throughout promotion leading up to this album.  This alter ego band looks like this:

the-reflektors-announce-the-end-of-collaboration-with-arcade-fire

The Reflektors are normally Arcade Fire wearing exaggerated masks of their own heads (get the exploration of identity and reflection????) but clearly this group that just popped up on the second stage was not them.  After claiming to be the true “great band here tonight” and trying to get us to chant “Arcade Fire Sucks”, a recording of Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” started playing and The Reflektors pretended to be playing it.  About halfway through the song, Arcade Fire came back out on the main stage (never a moment of us having to cheer really loud for under some guise we were “trying to get them back out”, no long moments of interminable waiting…just straight-through unexpected oddity).

So.  The encore.  They played a four song encore.  The second was a cover of BoyzIIMen’s “Motown Philly”.  They’ve been playing geographic-specific covers at every show so far, but I honestly was not prepared for this! Watch this amazement by clicking here.

The next-to-last song was the Haitian-music inspired “Here Comes the Night Time”, which featured by far the largest blast of confetti I’ve ever seen.  Click here to see it.  Start watching around 3:30 to be in good shape for the confetti blast.

They closed, of course, with their raucous heartwrencher “Wake Up”.  If you watch only one video on this page, you should make it this one.  Look at and listen to the crowd in the great video this person took.  This rivals the best crowd moments I ever had at a Pearl Jam concert.  Here are 20,000 grown people have an absolute, without-a-doubt, joyful cathartic moment together.  I should have expected that moment when they let us do the singing but it took me by surprise and shook me up. Watch how, after the drastic tempo change about 3/4 of the way through the song, the entire arena turns into a huge dance party.  And seeing the big frat-boy-esque lugs beside me just belting out lines like “I guess we’ll just have to adjust!” was a perfect illustration of what makes this band so great, and also so unconventional.

Setlist:

1. Reflektor
2. Flashbulb Eyes
3. Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
4. Rebellion (Lies)
5. Joan of Arc
6. Rococo (with snippet of Lady Gaga’s “Do What U Want”)
7. The Suburbs
8. The Suburbs (continued)
9. Ready to Start
10. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
11. We Exist
12. No Cars Go
13. Haiti
14. Afterlife
15. It’s Never Over (O Orpheus)
16. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

Encore:

1. Normal Person
2. Motownphilly (Boyz II men)
3. Here Comes the Night Time
4. Wake Up

Everything All At Once

Posted in Memoir with tags , , , , on March 14, 2014 by sethdellinger

Where you look for meaning, you will find it.  Where you look for symbols, you will find them.  If you dig deeper, more will come.  Look.  Look.

 

 

Every college has it’s “famous” apartment complexes which reside just off of campus, where Freshmen and Sophomores who are stuck in the dorms go to party.  At Shippensburg University, there are the Big Three: Bard, Chateau (I know, right?), and College Park apartments.  College Park is (or at least was) the most famous of these, as it sits right on the edge of campus, separated from University property by a mere 15 or so feet and an 8-foot-high chain-link fence.  It was into this famous apartment complex (with which I already had a rich history as a visitor) that I moved, following the house on Orange Street, with two of my buddies I had befriended while living in the dorms at Naugle Hall.

These weren’t bad apartments, nor were they great.  Fairly standard, three-room, one bath apartments with full kitchens.  Standard, flat-paint white walls, a blue-green loop carpet, ten-foot high ceilings.  The designers had taken great care to make each room have a bit of “shape” beyond a mere four-cornered room.  For instance, our living room was slightly “L-Shaped”, while my bedroom (which I shared with the other single roommate; the roommate with the girlfriend got his own room, which we all found to be fair) was not really a shape as much as it was a 6-cornered room.

I smoked in this apartment, though I was the only smoker who lived there.  We all drank there (we were all 21, and off-campus), although certainly I drank much more than them.  We listened to loud music all the time, watched great movies over and over (it was here that I discovered Magnolia; thank you Rob!), we played golf with Wiffle golf balls. We watched on CNN Headline News with apprehension and beers in our hands as George W. Bush got elected for the first time. I listened to live Pearl Jam bootlegs while playing air guitar on golf clubs for hours on end, while one roommate was playing computer games (or the Hollywood Stock Exchange online…feel like a real geek? Check out http://www.HSX.com) while the other did homework on one of our two horrible, horrible couches.  I have no idea whose couches they were.

The kitchen was, of course, a wretched disaster, as all male (and most female) college kitchens tend to be.  Dishes would pile up and just sit there, until the stench and the visual evidence of vile mold would drive somebody to wash them.  The refrigerator had everything we had decided to use on a regular basis pushed up front, while unwanted foodstuff got pushed to the back, gestating for months until, once again, the tell-tale signs of mold forced someone to do something about it.  And I have never seen anyone use a toaster oven as much as one of my roommates did; frankly, until I lived there, I had suspected toaster ovens were a myth.

These were most certainly my “wacky college days”, the kind of time I had always hoped to have in college which hadn’t materialized until now.  Nevermind that most of the time at this apartment I was more depressed than ever, and more debauched than ever (Henry Miller would blush…really), but at the same time, there was more lighthearted goofiness and exploration of our adulthood/childhood bridge than I had experienced yet.  I often slept on the couch in the living room, and this gave me great opportunities to fuck with the other guys as they slept in the bedrooms.  I was a big fan of finding new and inventive ways to make it impossible for them to open their doors in the morning.  Once I even upended both couched and put them both (standing on end) in front of Rob’s bedroom door (he was the one with his own bedroom), and then I went and slept on my bed.

It was also the only place I ever lived where we had our own beer pong table, which made me finally feel ‘college’.

One day, about halfway through our living adventure there, we got a call from the front office.  Some students who were interested in renting an apartment there next year would like to walk through one to see what they are like on the inside.  Could they walk through ours the next morning?  Sure, we said, and that was that.

Now, our apartment was not disgusting on the whole.  If it had been just me living there, it would have been, but my two roomies were not filthy. They were not clean, neat-freaks either, just standard guys who didn’t want to live in squalor.  We balanced each other out in a fairly democratic way; there were never fights about cleanliness, because there was not a huge gulf between our sensibilities, but there was a large enough difference to keep the apartment in a sort of “cluttered but not gross” stasis.  So it didn’t occur to us (as it most certainly would occur to me now) to clean the apartment for such a visit.

Late that night, the three of us were spending some leisurely hours watching television, sprawled out between our two couches and one obscenely large chair.  At some point, I said something like this:

We should do something that’ll really fuck with those people tomorrow morning.

 

The roommates agreed, but wondered what I had in mind.

We should, like, build a tower of stuff from the floor to the ceiling, right in the middle of the living room.

 

This intrigued them, and in fact, in my memory of the event, one of them was off his chair looking for stuff the moment the words were out of my mouth.

At first, we pulled the coffee table into the center of the room, with the intention of building from that as a sort of head start.  But after some deliberation we decided that building off the table would take away some of the effect.  We wanted the people (hopefully prissy Sorority chicks) to walk into this apartment and be greeted by a complete, narrow, impossible-looking tower of everyday items reaching from the floor to the ceiling…and we wanted it touching the ceiling.

So we started building on the floor.  First, a wall calendar to level out the carpet.  Then, on top of that, our largest text books.  The text books alone got us quite a bit of height, and a sturdy base, as well.

It’s difficult to remember what all we made the tower out of.  I know there were some empty two-liters in there, as well as empty half-gallons of White Tavern gin (what I almost exclusively drank) which gave the tower quite a sad but rebellious look.  There were smaller books in the middle, some cups and drinking glasses, some boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and probably canisters of shaving cream and sticks of deodorant.  The main thing you need to know is that this tower should have been impossible.  When you looked at it, you really could not believe it was standing, or that is wasn’t glued together or didn’t have some wire running through the hollowed-out materials. And it really hadn’t been that difficult.  Things just seemed to keep fitting into one another and holding perfectly.  We only had one or two setbacks, and a few other moments where the tower teetered on the edge of collapse and then righted itself.  It couldn’t have taken more than an hour to get within 2 or 3 inches of the ceiling.  Then, however, we had a problem.

We wanted to tower to touch the ceiling, but to just touch it. We weren’t interested in fashioning a drinking straw to the top that would touch the ceiling and then bend and have an extra 3 inches dangling there.  We wanted it to be perfect, for the tower to be the exact height of the room from floor-to-ceiling.  And we tore our apartment apart looking for just the right thing.  We even measured the gap and then started measuring things, trying to find something that was exactly 2 and ¾ inches (or whatever it was).  We finally found what we needed in the form of a disposable Morton’s Pepper shaker, which had been hiding in the back of a cupboard.  It slid neatly into place (I was not able to participate in the final leg of construction, as, even standing on the chair, I was not tall enough, so I had to participate from the ground) and our tower was finished.

It was an absolute marvel, and we were rightly impressed.  We watched TV a bit longer, with what seemed to now be a fourth person in the room, this presence that was watching over everything.  We went to bed that night giddy in the knowledge that our tower would not be a secret for long; in fact, strangers would soon see it, which is probably the most satisfying knowledge anyone can have about a work of art they have created.

I awoke briefly to the sounds of people in the apartment the next morning.  I couldn’t tell what they were saying, but they were in fact girls.  We’ll never know if they were fully astonished, but I know they saw it.

If you dig deeper and look harder you can see everything all at once.

The Soundtrack of My Skinny Jeans

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , on March 12, 2014 by sethdellinger

There is a lot of trash around my neighborhood.  Like, ALOT.  I suspect it is a result of there being snow cover essentially all winter long (preventing any random trash from being cleaned up or blowing away, etc) and then having all of the snow melt in one day, in addition to there being so many cancelled trash pickups due to aforementioned snow.  But seriously, my hood looks like ass.  I hope the city has a plan to clean this all up, because we’re not going to do it ourselves, and as things are, Pennsport and really all of South Philly kind of looks like something from Judgment Night.

Speaking of Judgment Night, anyone near my age remember that soundtrack?  Remember how that was kind of a big deal, with rock bands playing with rap stars?  Remember the Crow soundtrack?  Is this still happening, soundtracks that are big deals?  I don’t really hear about it, and I’d be tempted to think it’s because I’m too old, but really, let’s be honest, I’m still really fucking hip.  I heard a few rumbling about some of the Twilight and Hunger Games soundtracks (a few of “my” bands had songs on them) but they didn’t seem to be cultural milestones.

Speaking of me being “hip”, let’s get something straight: I am not a hipster.  Not even close.  For all those reading, let’s define what “hipster” has come to mean over the past few years. It means this guy:

hipster

First of all, in this guy’s defense, Swans is a badass band.

But clearly, I am not this guy.

I like a lot of what hipsters like.  I like the same bands.  I like the same authors (because hipsters read!).  I like the same movies.  We have the same worldview, typically.

Hipsters and I even share the trait that we kind of think we’re pretty great, and the stuff we like is probably better than the stuff you like.

But…hipsters want constant credit for it.  They want to dress and grow facial hair and present themselves to the world in a way that demands your attention and that you acknowledge they are hipsters.  Despite outward appearances, I do actually have a very well-formed fashion philosophy that involves minimalism and austerity.  I don’t wear any jewelry.  I don’t accessorize.  It’s not as though I want to “blend in”, but more a nod to the notion that the content of my work, words, and deeds is what defines me.  I define myself through the way I walk, the way I glare at you as I pass you, the way I laugh with my head turned down while patting you on the back.  My simplistic and earth-toned style of dress is not meant to make me blend into the pack, but instead to put me, myself, and the content of my personality front and center, and not have the focus be on the quirkiness of my outward presentation.  The way I see it, any boring, fluffy fraud can pick out bullshit clothes at a thrift shop and grow a Rollie Fingers ‘stache.  It takes balls to be compelling with a t-shirt on.

There are many other substantive ways in which I differ from hipsters: they’re mostly vegan, I’m mostly beef and cheese.  They’re all about tattoos and piercing and I’m indifferent (I have one tattoo almost by accident).  And on and on.  But mostly it’s about people: they want to be defined as part of this group, and I want to be defined as only me.  I am not a part of any movement.  For the love of science, folks, how could anyone who knows me and also is familiar with hipsters think that I am a hipster??  Please think for yourselves.  You can like My Morning Jacket and not be a hipster.

SPEAKING OF BANDS I LIKE (I am doing great with transitions in this entry!) this coming Monday I am seeing Arcade Fire.  So pumped!  Anyway, before this tour started, they announced they would like the folks attending their shows to wear either formal attire or costume (here is an article about it and here is another one…and that second article is not at all happy about it).  Believe it or not, there was actual backlash about this!  I mean, this is Arcade Fire, not freakin’ Foo Fighters.  What kind of person would be a fan of this band and not like this, or at least be unsurprised by it?  This sort of thing is exactly why we like Arcade Fire!  They make badass quirk rock that you can hang in the Louvre…I don’t want to see their show in jeans and a t-shirt.  If I owned jeans (hipsters wear jeans, I don’t own a pair, so fuck you).

Anyway, I stopped by a costume store today to find something to wear.  I bought this awesome mask.  I’m not sure about the jacket…should I wear what I have on in this picture, or something goofy, or something “normal”?009

010

011

JEEPERS

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 11, 2014 by sethdellinger

Without a doubt, one of the more interesting postcards I’ve come across so far.  Not nearly as old as the ones I usually gravitate toward, but, have a look.  It appears to have been sent to Philadelphia from Dubrovnik, a Croatian city, a tourist destination on the Atlantic about the size of Harrisburg.  I assume the image on the front of the postcard is a view of Dubrovnik:

jeepers

On the back: the postmark says  Dubrovnik and then a word in a language I am not sure of.  It is most likely Dubrovnik again, or Croatia.  The date stamped is March 6th, 1962.  You’ll notice the stamp is very interesting and appears to say Yugoslavia, and features a badass picture of what appears to be an Egyptian pharaoh, although that’s just my impression.  It is addressed to a Mrs. Allan Halpern of 2405 Spruce Street in Philadelphia—about 3 miles from my house, but only about one mile from where I work.  An easy walk.  The text of the postcard reads exactly thus:

(No. 3

Dear Mrs. Halpern

Jeepers Finish

The Book

XXX

(Signed)

No. 4.

jeepers1

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