Category Archives: bullying

And he shall be Trayvon.

A 2007 special report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, reveals that approximately 8,000 — and, in certain years, as many as 9,000 African Americans are murdered annually in the United States. This chilling figure is accompanied by another equally sobering fact, that 93% of these murders are in fact perpetrated by other blacks. The analysis, supported by FBI records, finds that in 2005 alone, for example, African Americans accounted for 49% of all homicide victims in the US — again, almost exclusively at the hands of other African Americans.

I’m not one to quote my own lyrics but one of my lines from “what fresh hell is this?” (Our Deepest Apathy – available on cd baby) goes “jutting bloody fingers searching out the ones to blame” which is the take-away from this maddening sideshow. When black-on-black crime keeps a ready supply of thousands of young souls drifting up to the ether every year, we choose to focus on this utter silliness.

If anything proves that we as a society regard the lives of black people as less valuable, it’s the fact that no one flinches until people who are not black take part in the downward spiral. Let them fuck each other up all they want. But when someone else takes part we become self-righteous moral crusaders. It’s almost a reflex at this point.

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Watch out, K-Harb.

I spoke of bullying when it was an “epidemic”. But it’s never gone away. Heck, even Mitt Romney was a bully. He seems to have escaped unscathed from being forced to act the part of an upper-class twit. But much like bath salts, bullying is here to stay and as the information age becomes more and more sophisticated, creeps like this one have access to information about Whatever Happened To That Guy Who  Pantsed Me In Front Of Mary Jane and their anger rises in unexpected ways, as ever. Only now they can act on their pent-up rage. Kind of like what I’m doing now. With the typing and the writing and give me a bouncy “C”…”There was a man…who had a ham…and with whatever…yada yaddayaddaa….(applause)…….”

Jason Carroll Moss, 38, is accused of harassing his high school peers and threatening them through a 20-year reunion Facebook page after he claims to have been bullied in high school. Photo: Courtesy Photo / SA

Just…watch out. 

Now watch out some more…..

Life: Carl Ericsson, 73, was sentenced to life in prison today after fatally shooting a long-ago high school classmate who he said once put a jock strap over his head

To no one.

I saw this on Current TV, specifically This American Life. The episode was called “Reality Check”.  A group called Improv Everywhere decides that an unknown band, Ghosts of Pasha, playing their first ever tour in New York, ought to think they’re a smash hit. So they study the band’s music and then crowd the performance, pretending to be hard-core fans. Improv Everywhere just wants to make the band happy—to give them the best day of their lives. But it turns out differently because the band realizes in short order that the reception was entirely fake, and they have to go on, knowing somehow that there’s not likely going to be any kind of repeat. It’s sort of a cheat. I watched it and clenched my fist involuntarily, thinking how strange the whole thing was…the unintended consequences of doing something that on the face of it seems purely altruistic. Was it a gift or a prank?

I have ideas. I have music and I have a script for a thing I’ve been working on. I have my whole CD written, concept, arrangements, everything. I’ve run my idea for a stage musical by some close friends and they all either think it’s funny or are being polite, and I’m not someone who makes friends with people who are polite.

Every Monday I say that this is the week that I try to get things done. There are people upon whom I rely to take the next step. And I am having severe existentialist ennui today.

Tell people I never meant to be creepy. I just was. I really didn’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable. I just did.

Tell people that I settled grudgingly into being a mediocre songwriter with a mediocre voice. It never occurred to me that I would not be successful or that people would not love everything I did. It never occurred to me that people in the future or in the near future wouldn’t delve into my discography and try to decipher my lyrics with like-minded fans. I wasn’t conceited. I was willfully blind.

I always wanted to tour. I never got to tour. It might not be as fun as I imagined it might be but it would have been nice to have done it. In my prime. When I had the energy and nothing to lose.

I always wanted to play, just once, to a really enthusiastic room chock full of strangers who came to hear good original music and thought that mine was unmistakeably that. Did you ever see the “This

I always wanted people to come after me if I walked away, either in love or in friendship, but it seems to me to be pretty much always me doing the hunting, me doing the apologizing, and that might have something to do with the fact that I am broken beyond repair.

You’re the only one reading this.

Farmer’s Market brings back memories of the Winch.

We went to the Farmer’s Market this morning. It was cold and rainy. Bought a Spicy Sausage Quiche (Also my stripper name back in the day. Ironic.)

Brought it home. Dove in. It was delicious.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps the Quiche contained sour cream. The mere thought made me not want any more. I left some for the cats. There’s a good 60% of a Quiche that others may have for lunch.

I can’t eat sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, blue cheese, whipped cream, Ranch dressing, Russian dressing, French dressing or cheesecake. It’s odd, and I don’t know where it comes from. I was thinking that maybe it came from our Winchester initiation ritual. I’ll explain.

When kids graduated 9th grade, they were now going to move on to the senior high school. And everyone knew that this was going to happen. And all summer, at any time, on any day, a small group of provocateurs would organize the other kids in the neighborhood to execute the dreaded initiation. How did it start? Who was responsible? How long had this been happening? Did it happen in other ‘hoods? I didn’t know and I still don’t.I think it might have been just the boys.

When the day came, however, you knew in short order. You were tricked into either a tent or an alley or a garage. One of the ring-leaders would concoct an amalgam of unnatural liquid and solid combinations. Say, mayonnaise, gravy, raw eggs, pickle brine, etc.etc. ahead of time. It would be dumped on your person in a most forceful, unpleasant manner. And that was…it. You would slink off to the nearest hose and wash yourself off and then live another day. I know it happened to me in the tent on the Pulaski property. It was Ron Storrs, his brother Bob, a Koeppel or two. Honestly I think this might have been the deepest they had ever gone into civic planning in their lives. Had they used that initiative to cure cancer or stop country music’s popularity in the early 90’s, this world might whisper their names in a different tone.

But that’s the only reason I can fathom as to why the sight of a mayonnaise jar or a sour cream container makes me wretch.

I wish I could afford therapy.

Gigs to remember. Gigs to forget. Pt.1.

Slow computer. Whirring fan. Got good news about the music – MTV might (read: is contractually allowed to) use my music for their myriad of youth-related programming. So I heard about that, and not 5 minutes later I see a friend of mine on the FB and ask him about some collaboration in the future. His words were “I dunno. You’re kind of a dick.”  It’s been 13 years and not a phone call? I’d love to know what I did, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about people leaving my life (and lots of people have), it’s that there’s nothing I can do but hand them their hat as they walk out the door. It sucks. I’ll miss the guy.

The worst thing about getting bullied was the fact that I thought I was the only one. But my friends from the high school I attended (even my personal “Fonz”, Rick Angle) have assured me this is not so, and for that, I feel comfort. So thank you everyone.

I have played music in one form or another all my life. So I was thinking about all the various line-ups and styles of music I’ve done (which is not to say I won’t be doing it more in the future) and thought I would list, for you good people, some of my more memorable gigs, good and bad.

1. “Mist” – Northwood Elementary Talent Show – May, 1977

Paul Miller, Jerome Lis, Paul Rinedoller

We had been practicing for 6 months, various songs I knew by ear, but they knew by sheet music. We had messed around with 50’s music, various hits of the days gone by like “Joy To The World” and “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”, a severely truncated version of Edgar Winters’ “Frankenstein” which I had never actually heard before. We just played the one riff over and over, amid shouts of “Frankenstein!!”. All the rides and weekly rehearsals, and we finally had ourselves a “gig”.  The Northwood Elementary Talent Show/Concert.  Trial and error had left us with the informed decision to go with the crowd-pleasers:  “Takin’ Care of Business”, “Tonight’s The Night”, and, I think, “Rock’n Me”.

I was scared shitless. My first performance in front of real people, and the memories are sort of fuzzy. I do remember buying a snare drum ON THE WAY to the gig because we didn’t have one. Also, a nice stand for it. Why would I have done that? Was I playing drums? I know I used to play drums for the band.   There was a program, I remember, but I do recall that we were forced to drop “Tonight’s The Night” because some people were offended by it’s lyrical content. We substituted it with…something else. What’s that? You want to hear my very first band’s version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”? This was The Space Riders (1976), the same people as Mist. You want to hear me on drums and obnoxious backing vocals? Ok, you sadistic mo-fo.

The Space Riders – Bohemian Rhapsody

2.  “Second Age” – West Seneca West Junior High – May 1978

Randy Ball, Joe Chemin

The SECOND performance in front of live people, equally as terrifying, with a new cast of characters and again, an auditorium full of people. I spend the whole performance looking at the drummer, who’s admonishments of “Stop looking at me!” were misheard by me as “Look at me some more!!” Instead of the AM radio hits of the day, we played lots of Nugent. Lots and lots. Randy was the only kid I knew with a real Les Paul. He was 13! And amazingly adept at lead guitar. This was my time with the cool kids. Definitely a step up from the people I had played with before, social prestige-wise. I played my old Hait guitar as a bass, with the treble knob turned down. Maybe Randy can chime in with some memories of this show.

3. “The City Victims” – Mercy Fair Lawn Fete (correction needed) – September 1979

Paul Rinedoller, Dan Lewis

This was a great little band with a fairly poor live music history, mostly because we were just happy creating things with each other. When the time came to play live, for the first time in front of a big audience, it was in front of children and nuns.  Without real guidance of any kind from anyone, we blindly “booked” this gig in the hopes that we could rock the South Buffalo unwashed with our uncompromising rhythms and hard-nosed lyrics. There were two things that sort of ruined this illusion as soon as we took the stage.  The first was that our guitar player had become entangled in a life and death struggle with a derelict gang of satanic bees, perhaps attracted to his cheap cologne. Or maybe it was expensive. Whatever the price, there was lots of it.  There’s no need for cologne when you’re 15 and playing for nuns and children. More egregious was the second thing: My new equipment. I had worked all summer trying to earn enough money to pay some of our family’s delinquent utility bills and get the car repaired along with the….eh, I saved for a new guitar and an amplifier (a Fender Twin) with way too much power for me to handle or even understand. That, combined with my freshly oiled (!) Morley Power Wah Fuzz (if someone were to invent a time machine, and let me in it, I would go back and tell the younger me that the difference between “fuzz” and “distortion” is important, and never oil the foot pedal of a Morley Power Wah Fuzz) made the first song so loud and shrill that almost the very first note sent everyone running for the tent.

So in a few short moments we had alienated our audience, and nature.  Our confidence shaken, we went back to the rehearsal space (my bedroom) not to be seen for another 3 years.

 

I’m jackin’ beats.

If I were a gangster, I would make sure my name was ‘Fingers’ McCracken. “There goes ‘Fingers’ McCracken!”, they’d all say.Or “Shh! It’s ‘Fingers’. You know. ‘Fingers’ McCracken.”

I have been thinking about the suddenly pervasive bullying discussion.

In 12th grade I spent almost all my time in the music room, as that was where I felt most empowered. In fact, I don’t, um, know if I told you this, but I was elected “Musician of the Year” by my peers. Did I tell you that? I didn’t know. So there it is. I was. My name on a plaque in the music room foyer and everything. I thrived in Miss Giambrone’s classes and I also enjoyed talking to Mr Landers, the band teacher. In our music theory class, he used to play us things like Don Ellis. I loved how the audience clapped along in 7/4 to “Pussy Wiggle Stomp”.

However, high school being what it was, I also had to take other, less protective classes in less protective environments. Classes like Phys. Ed. Or “gym”. I had whatever the opposite of “athletic prowess” is. I sucked at everything up to and including square-dancing. Moreover, and even more daunting, we were supposed to shower in the presence of other boys. Now dear reader, I was not then, nor am I now, the most fastidious person in the world in regards to my own hygiene. Since we have kids I give it the old college try, that’s for sure. I’m better. But back then, with virtually no parental guidance, I more or less winged it. But I wasn’t “comfortable with my body”. Moreover, I was also wanting for pristine underwear.

See, we didn’t own a working clothes-washing machine. Ours broke when I was maybe 12 or 13. Maybe before that. So since, I guess, we were too poor to get that thing fixed, ever, we had to wash our clothes in the bathtub, and dry them by placing them in carefully arranged rows along the back of the stove. This is what I alluded to in my song “Calico” on my last CD, “Vultures and Diamonds”  (available on CDBabay and iTunes) when I sang “in a cloistered cove, there, behind the stove, where our clothes will dry…”, referring of course to where our cats used to hide from me. Why would they need to hide? Another tale.

Many a small but fucking scary fire would start in this fashion, so after a while I didn’t even bother doing that. Swish swish swirly swirly hands and bubbles in the detergent and hot water. Then I would wring them out as best as I could and place them on the stove. When we couldn’t pay the gas bill anymore, even that was useless. So I’d either wear them wet (in warmer weather) or wear the same clothes for days on end, underwear included. I suppose you could say I got sort of a reputation. Sometimes, I would fish my cleanest dirty shirt out of the bathroom hamper and go with that for the day. This hamper was vile as a litter box, and was never empty. Always the empty bottles, the plaid pants, the striped shirts, the underpants.

So getting dressed and undressed in front of my peers was something I didn’t feel very good about, but the incident I am recalling was the one day I actually took a shower after another strenuous session of dodge-ball. The shower was more or less pointless, as I had never thought to bring a change of clothes. I pretty much wore the same already spent wardrobe in gym class as I did in every other class. It must have been some scent. That was my reputation. It had been since I started puberty. Someone who was unclean. Easily dismissed.

But no one dismissed me when I sang.

On this day I was trying to hide my dirty clothes from one Kevin Harbison, a muscular football player. We had known each other in passing since the 9th grade, with not so much as a word between us. Alone in our locker pod, as I stood naked and trying to be as small as I could be,  he began, wordlessly, emotionless, and looking nowhere, punching my arm. Over and over, harder and harder.  it came out of nowhere. And all I could do was ask him to stop. Which I did. But he wasn’t communicating or seemingly accepting communication. I replay it in my mind over and over, still, today, if the mood strikes me. And with all this talk lately about bullying, it came around again.

Soon, I sensed a gathering crowd of boys, silent. No cheering, no words at all. Silent. Was it 30 seconds? 5 minutes? I couldn’t say. I didn’t fight back. I had no clothes on, and I would have rather taken a fist to my arm repeatedly than show my more-yellow-than-white underpants in an attempt to dress myself at least. Why was he doing this? Where were the coaches? Was I being taught a lesson to toughen me up? The utter solitude hurt more than any beating could. And when he was done, as my face flushed with embarrassment and disgrace, I stumbled off to music class. And I don’t think I ever saw Kevin Harbison again.

Sometimes, when the caffeine buzz dissipates, when the din of office machinery wanes and the kids have gone to bed, I think about Kevin Harbison. What would I do differently? What would I say to him if I saw him? How much better would it have been if I felt that first punch and lurched into a violent rage, causing prison-style violence on his person so that he would never EVER do this to someone else?

And in that moment, as I relive that shame, the secret anger and bitterness that defines me, and as I remember how his eyes glassed over, as the repeated sound of fist slamming into arm became less a challenge of superior strength and more a comical dance of sadness, I look down and realize that, quite unconsciously, my fist has balled up.

Again.

That’s why, when I took my kids to an anti-bullying seminar at a local business last week, it might have seemed to the parents around me that I was a little more intense than anyone else. I take it personally, because I do fucking know how it feels. And I know that if I were to see Kevin, his explanation would be, correctly, “Come on, we were just kids”.  Usually the bully doesn’t carry this stuff around with them for any length of time, blithely explaining away their boorish behavior with some reference to their under-developed intellect. It’s too bad that the victims are the ones who remember all too well what the price is. And I’ll be fucked before my kids are going to have to live through that.

And now my hand curls up again.

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