Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Christmas Bonus

I didn't really have a weekend to look forward to, working 3 jobs took care of that but it was still Friday and that meant it was payday. Even with this information obvious to everyone in the office, the boss (let's just call him what he really does - checkwriter) still waits until 5:29pm before he starts printing and signing paychecks. I guess he likes to see the dogs line up and slobber at his door. Whatever. I'm generally too exhausted to get outraged these little tricks so I just stand their patiently and wait for my few hundred dollars of insult to be placed in my hand.

This time was different though. It was Christmas time. That would usually mean the elusive holiday bonus was sniffing around nearby. That shadowy ghost only few people catch a glimpse of in their lives. Given that this job was online retail and our profits had sure tripled everyday since Thanksgiving, I was rightfully curious as to whether or not I'd see this delightful beast, The Christmas Bonus.

By the way, I'm not calling it the holiday bonus. It's not because I'm self righteous, I just don't care. Christmas bonus sounds better. Sounds fatter. Like Scrooge himself delivering a turkey to your door.

My boss hands me the usual paycheck envelope of shame...and with it...and additional envelope! The unmistakable boxy Christmas card shape and carefully scribbled "Josh" on the front was a dead giveaway - this was it, the Christmas bonus! I mumbled my thanks yous, clocked out and shuffled down the hallway. I didn't want to open it in front of anyone, that's generally bad form. Especially in a work place. I crashed through the giant glass doors of the faceless industrial complex building I call 'work' and rushed to my car. There, alone in the dark and surely out of the sight of any coworkers, I opened the envelope.

Typical Christmas card, greeting, whatever. I cracked it open to find a little handwritten message. Ever so slightly personalized in that it starts with "Josh..." which I thought was a nice touch. That wasn't the point though. Tucked inside of the card was the real treasure, the real city of El Dorado, the sure deliverance of the past few weeks of shitty holiday hassle that comes with working online retail. My eyes began to widen.

The first thing I noticed was that it wasn't a gift card. A good sign in most cases. It wasn't a check either. It was just money. Grandmother style. Now I was concerned. The bill looking up at me was none other than crazy-eyed Andrew Jackson. A $20 bill. I hesitantly reached for the cash and noticed there another 2 bills under it. $100s, perhaps? I peeled them apart in the dark, quiet of my car - which I still hadn't started. A $20, and then another $20, and then...a $10. That was it. Fifty dollars. "Nice work helping the company make a couple extra hundred thousand dollars this year, Josh, here's 50 bucks, happy holidays!"

I wasn't sure if I should be happy or mad, pissed or grateful. As I mentioned before, I was too tired to really occupy an emotional state. I just tucked the money away in my backpack and stared out through my car window, still waiting to start it. It's those minutes of silence I always have in my car that I really cherish. When you have the unlimited capabilities of 4 wheels, an engine and a tank of gas right under your foot. And you think about your 65 hour work week and the crumpled $50 in your backpack that's sitting next to you in the passenger seat. It all makes sense in that minute. Where it's quite obvious you'll never win and the clank of champagne glasses at a holiday party is something you'll only get to hear in a movie.

I started my car, turned on talk radio and tried to block those thoughts out. At least I'd gotten something for a Christmas bonus, most people get nothing, right? That's what I imagined friends would say if I told them about it. I guess I should just stay tight lipped and be grateful. At the same time though, in the deep, dark scarlet red of my blood, was a different opinion. One that required no voice or argument. It bubbled and popped as I pulled my car out onto the highway to sit in the usual cascade of brake lights on the 101 Freeway.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pop Journalism for Pop Music!

(not trying to promote that site, its content or its content providers)

Do you see that? Another handily constructed list for your avergae web surfer to cruise through in between gulps of cheetos and Snapple. The internet is full of them. For some reason, countdown style writing was selected as the optimum mode of communicating one's point as soon as the Internet was born and everybody with a keyboard inherited a journalism degree. The subject (or victim) in this article is music. Typical fare for every hip, tongue in cheek website out there. Something that will draw a lot of folks in by cramming as many different keywords (ahem, artists) into the article as possible. Keep in mind, referring to this as an 'article' is just something I am doing out of habit. It's big, bubbly bullet points with a bold title.

In keeping with the millenial style of having an undeserved tone of authority, the author(s) chastise the current state of pop music by comparing it to a time 50 (and in some cases, 60) years ago. You see, human beings like to think yesterday was this amazing thing. A grand, missed opportunity. Where everything was different. And better. In the case of Americans, our culture is locked to that idealistic period from the 50s and 60s. Then when it comes to music - everything NOW just fucking sucks. Yawn. We get it. This carousel keeps going. An infinite loop of whiny young adults, jaded adults and kids who just don't give a shit. From my perspective, I'm not sure why it matters so much. People don't listen to the radio. Music television doesn't really exist (outside of countdown shows, yet again with the lists) and the concept of the album and/or rockstar is as outdated as the idea of PAYING for music. Ha!

This Buzzfeed article opens up with Creed selling more albums than Hendrix. Once again, let me remind everyone. Music is art and thus not quantifiable. The only empirical data idiots have to judge it on is album sales - which even then, barely cover the entire spectrum. Then also imagine this...hold on...take a deep breath...MAYBE NOT EVERYONE WHO BUYS MUSIC IS A HARDCORE MUSIC ASSHOLE. MAYBE THEY JUST HEARD A SONG ON THE RADIO AND BOUGHT THE ALBUM AT WAL-MART LATER. MAYBE WHAT EVERYONE DOES WITH THEIR IS MONEY IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.

Seriously, imagine if all these critically acclaimed music heroes were the ones every listened to and paid for. What would change? Nothing. Music press and assorted college kids would still bitch and moan. Yet here we are, filling up more space on the Internet talking about this nonsense. People need to realize that pop music (like The Beatles, another common catch-all for the Jesus Christ of modern music) was still just 'pop' music in the 1960s. Kids bought it. It was on the radio, it was on TV. It was everywhere. Now, thanks to overpopulation, we have more kids. And they buy what's on TV and the Internet. They don't know any better. Oh well. Maybe when they get older, they can turn into pissy 25yr olds with 'refined and obscure' tastes. What the hell makes Springsteen or Nirvana better than Katy Perry anyway? Do you expect a 14yr girl to connect with some kid in the 70s singing folk songs about growing up in a small New Jersey town? Integrity in the music business is an illusion. It's a faded black and white photo in Rolling Stone with the artist looking distant and poor. It's horseshit. Always has been.

Hopefully, all of you will live to see the day when Katy Perry, Shania Twain and Flo Rida are looked back on and heralded as heroes from a lost age. It sounds silly now, sure, but look at what bloated legends Kurt Cobain and Elvis have become? Really just thanks to t-shirt sales and more god damn TV specials doing stupid countdowns. Yes, I understand, websites like this pump out content just everyone at their shitty desk job has stuff to glance over while procrastinating, but it still perpetuates this idiotic ideas that somehow in 2011 we missed the boat and no more good music will ever come out again. And if it does, it won't be popular? What a crying shame. Since when has anything popular ever been fucking good? Eh?

Fucking never. Go enjoy your good old days, Planet Earth. I live in 2011 and [insert band]'s latest album was fucking awesome! Suck it!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

T.F.N. (Too Fucking Nice)

Alright enough with the pondering of existence. We have established that there ain't that much to ponder. Let's a do a little Josh-Life-Update. What I'm working on and why nothing's working out. Let's call it T.F.N. as in Too Fucking Nice as in Josh is Too Fucking Nice.

I quit my job and started another one. I put in my 2 week notice, you know, typical process. It is over 4 weeks later and I'm still here. Slogging at my old job while I balance shifts at my new job. 14 hour days are really amazing things but don't need to be experienced consecutively. I could have just quit and walked out. Had a short, easy going vacation and started my new job. No, instead I offered my services in finishing all my tasks and training a replacement. See? Too Fucking Nice. The funniest part is...I'm still fucking here! Right now! Being Too Fucking Nice. Saying "Yes I will do whatever you need" as I barely keep my brain awake.

Here's another scenario. A friend visits me, one of those "I'm absolutely in love with you but there's nothing I can do about it since we're friends" deals and I spend 4 or 5 days playing host and what not. All fun and games. For anyone who has been in that situation it's like getting punched in the stomach every hour, on the hour. Just absolute powerlessness. Your ego fights back by making you think you can will yourself into someone's romantic favor. But you never can. I've tried 9,834,372,000 times. It never works. You continue to make yourself available, helpful and generally wonderful to this person. Too Fucking Nice. The girl runs off with some piece of shit and I wake up with a bargain bin discount chick I picked up at a bar. Wax on, wax off. Too Fucking Nice.

Then friends of mine hilariously think of me as a 'terrible person' for some of my less reputable actions. Because that's what I show. They never see the long days of work, the dedication to my music, the discipline in my diet and exercise routines, the time I spend talking to people about their personal problems and legitimately helping them out with advice, the genuine love I feel for someone. No one sees that. My brain tells me "Josh, you're Too Fucking Nice" but all anyone else knows is my cartoony disposition. This would be fine if one day I get buried in a cartoon coffin in a cartoon cemetary but I won't. I get buried in a real one. Because I'm a real fucking person.

And I'm Too Fucking Nice.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Accidentally Here for No Reason

The human condition is something we all struggle with. Nothing makes sense, bad things happen to good people, suffering is abundant and it never seems to change. We invent platitudes like "Gotta have the sour to enjoy the sweet" and continue on our merry way. What is even more disheartening is that you can't prepare yourself for the violent ramifications of existence. Nor can you try to help anyone else. You are forced, in your sacred first person perspective, to withstand infinite punishment without the benefit of explanation or compensation. We have named this tedious process 'life' and made ourselves believe that it should be cherished. Oh, silly human condition.

As I stated, you cannot prepare yourself for this experience. Education means nothing - words, history. math and science are glorified hobbies when put up against the universe. No clever wisdom will shine a light on your mundane humanity and no learned lessons will be of any good to your children and their children. Like getting attacked by a shark, it is impossible to imagine the situation accurately without being - you know - attacked by a shark. Thus, you and the rest of reality are thrust into the great unknown, learning the limits ourselves (physically, mentally) little by little with each consecutive deliverance of pain upon our being.

In this sad state of affairs, illusions are absolutely necessary. Religion works as a great pacification tool but things like love and wealth fall into the same category. A human being fulfills its needs for food and shelter. Then it moves onto the next. This is part of that infinite process. One million unanswered prayers doesn't stop that one millionth and one prayer from being made. A dozen broken hearts doesn't stop the romantic. A string of bad business ventures doesn't distract the entrepreneur from his next scheme. It is ingrained in the human condition to carry on despite the very obvious lack of reason. There's no grand goal or finish line. There is only ebb and flow, high tide and low tide. With full understanding of this absurdity in tow, death seems to be the obvious punchline to this cosmic joke.

I guess we'll have to dig up Edgar Allan Poe to see if he's laughing.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Guess who's holding the dynamite?

I quit that fucking job.

So here we go again, Universe. You, me and the infinite.

Your move, fucker.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nice to meet you, Annihilation

I'm sitting at work right now.



I'm fairly convinced that even though things have been shitty for a while now, they are about to get a lot worse. Like burning alive but still flinching because someone is about to stab you. It would be nice if all this punishment would somehow cancel each other out. Then I could return to some sort of normal state. Not the case, however. It's going to continue in this aggressively unremarkable style. The only fashion sense reality seems to know. I wish the knife would push in and we could get this all over with. At least that would be dramatic and somewhat glorious.

Instead all I get is death by average. A long assembly line of death by average. Genocide by average if you will. Mediocrity, obscurity and absurdity. With a splash of unwarranted disappointment. Because you should have never expected anything more in the first place.

I have band practice tonight. That's comforting. It's been too long and I've got a lot to say.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Who needs re-runs when you got the box set?

I live in an infinite loop of insanity where the same behaviors get repeated and beget the same horrible consequences. A never ending loop of two fun-house mirrors facing each other. Each additional dimension more warped than the one before. 5 years ago may as well be 5 years from now. It is terrifying in concept but absolute madness in reality. A cancerous blob that absorbs all my new life experiences and twists them into the same counterproductive mass of spiritual waste. I am driving down a road and I keep passing the same mailbox. I cannot move forward. I cannot pass Go. I cannot collect 200 dollars. It is a living, breathing malevolence that wraps itself around my shoulders like an albatross. I have to make myself laugh to block out its laughter. That of which follows me into my dreams and snickers as I visualize realities of progression and accomplishment. I then wake to its sour breath of morning, where all potential has been exterminated. I repeat this cycle everyday. Like my own personal Flying Dutchman, sailing the high seas of oblivion.

It is a waking fucking nightmare.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Perfect Rendezvous

Another poem - you still are not allowed to laugh.

"Perfect Rendezvous"

She was supposed to meet me at 10:30
She didn't
I knew she wouldn't
but I spent my money
and showed up
and waited
because I knew she wouldn't
and I like being right

She was supposed to meet me
the next night
She didn't
She was supposed to meet me
in New York
She didn't
She was supposed to meet me
at the altar
She didn't

I showed up
I waited
because I like being right

I'm always right
it's easy
when everybody else
isn't me
and their words
could be folded up
like paper airplanes
and sent into the breeze
blowing around
with leaves and spiders
and other things
that carry no weight
except poison

She was supposed to meet me again
I think it was tonight
or tomorrow
or yesterday
I don't remember
It doesn't matter
maybe she can spend some money
and show up
and wait

Then I could do her the favor
of making her feel
like she was right
everybody deserves
to be right
for once
but that isn't her
because she isn't me
and she can't make
a promise
worth keeping
or an explanation
I'd ever believe

so somewhere tonight
a table will stay empty
a waiter won't get annoyed
with my complicated order
and a busboy
won't have to mop up
a spilled glass of wine
and other patrons
won't be annoyed
by an obnoxious
she'll get to stay at home
making up stories
I'll stay at home
waiting to hear them

she won't have
to apologize this time
because somewhere
there is a table
that stayed empty
and quiet
where two people
never appeared
and a perfect
was finally

at a table somewhere
and quiet
like me

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Last Rites for Those Who Died Laughing

If the best art comes from suffering, then as an artist I am sort of an 'ambassador of suffering'. I get to remind you of the worst day of your life - then sing a song about it. This pleases me immensely. I couldn't think of a better occupation. Ambassador of suffering. Here to dispel crooked wisdom through cynical prose and the vibration of rusty metal strings. The best part is that if I do it really well, you'll cheer for me. You'll cheer for your own battered experiences, bitterness and plague of insecurities. I'll hand you a general admission ticket to your own personal hell and you'll try to get as close to the stage as possible.

Because that means I must be making good art.

And good art comes from suffering.

But you wouldn't know that.

If you weren't suffering.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Ok, so I wrote a poem. Don't laugh.

Have you ever had a guitar?
Have you ever had to string a guitar?
Most guitarists hate it
It's the closest thing to labor
a musician is willing to do
Because just when everything sounds right
Something happens
And you have to start all over again
Kinda like a relationship

You have your guitar
She sounds wonderful
She feels and plays just as you'd want her to
But you get a little lazy
Maybe a little rough
And suddenly that low E
Snaps back at you
Like you insulted its mother

Then you find yourself
Sauntering over to the music store
You don't want to be there
The clerk doesn't want to be there
But you suck it up
And pluck your money on the table
They don't have the exact strings
You had before
Instead you have to settle for pack
That looks the most like
Your old strings

You walk back home
unsure if you made the right purchase
and you begin your new struggle
sliding them up the neck
tightening, loosening and tightening
as it refuses to cooperate
Sometimes you just give up after a while
You walk back down the street
Have a cigarette
and stare at your new blisters
because the damn strings
are still brand new
and feel like barbed wire

You compose yourself
and resume the challenge
after a few weeks
and many hours
the strings settle in
and start to behave themselves
you can bang the guitar around
and it stays in tune
you're pleasantly surprised
you almost forget about
the pair you had before this one

everything snaps and pops
as it should
your friends even mention
how nice it plays
and you actually feel some pride
for those damned strings
because you put the time in
and the love
seems to come back to you
as easy as the next chord

so you get a little lazy
and a few months pass
and those brand new strings
are getting that special mix
of grease and rust
that strings like to do
but you don't mind
that they're starting to sound poor
they're comfortable
and familiar
and already there

but the day comes along
in the middle of a jam
just when you thought
everything was fine
when that low E
or high E,
or maybe the A
whips itself back at you
just like your old pair did
and every mistake you ever made
with a pair of guitar strings
you are instantly reminded of

about how you were too lazy
too selfish
too reckless
too proud
too ignorant to know
what those strings needed
until they broke
right in front of you
right in your hands
and how you knew it would happen
the split second
before it happened

now you find yourself
at the music store
with a clerk
who seems more like a bartender
that doesn't want to hear your story
about how you need
a new pair of strings
that will sound like
your old pair of strings
because no matter
what you come home with
nothing will sound like
your old pair of strings