Archive for the ‘Zen and the Art of Blogging’ Category
Quite a year. Started it with my friends from the Press/Kntrlr/Bicycle Boys: Dave, Alex, Mike and Chuck. We hung out at Chuck’s, where I met their various wives and sweethearts… I got to be the center of attention amongst a group of couples all the while, I never felt like the 9th wheel. I know I can come off a bit boorish at times, certainly a loudmouth, thankfully I lack no amount of story telling. I think Alex, Alex’s girlfriend got the entire history of Rocker Tycoon and the Press (A tale that spans some 4 years now, and 3 then) over the course of the night. At around 1. I went home, relatively dry… I had a few, but aired out quite well. And I woke on Jan 1st hangover free.
Shortly into the year, I convinced Adam Copeland (Black Water/Meltdowns) and Gerry Griffin (Black Water/Meltdowns) to join me in creating a band. For a time Mike Horaz (I Am The Heat) stood in as our drummer. Eventually, Lloyd Naideck (Black Water/Meltdowns) settled in as our fulltime drummer. All the while Black Water was recording its second album Friendly Fire.
I practiced, overcame whatever minutia of stage fear I had lingering from childhood and we played our first show to friends in Jersey City with fellow bands, Holy City Zoo, Cryptkeeper Five and Black Water. Looking back I have to think, what an awesome line-up for my first show with Warface (our working name at the time). New friends I’d found in Holy City Zoo, old friends in Johnny and Jimmy of CK5 and my friends in Black Water 3/4 of which were in my band.
The show wasn’t exactly a packed house, but we had a blast. Played well and plenty of friends I hadn’t seen in a while came out. It was ideal to me.
Around March a new pal of mine and a Barback at my roomate’s bar, Dylan Hiester, convinced me it was time I start untapping again. I took his advice and did my first Tuesday Night Magic Draft of Innistrad Dark Ascension. I was made to feel welcome as I relearned a game I loved so well as a young adult. I remember playing Monique in round 1 or 2. She marveled at how quick I was progressing since my hiatus. “You’ve gotten better since last turn.” When I finally started doing things on her end step.
It was only a few months later I had built a deck, and began to play constructed… Two tournaments in I won the whole thing, to a very land screwed Rob Kofsky. The bug was full on! I was once again a Planeswalker.
Springtime. Warface played a show at Lucky 7 with I Am The Heat, Black Water, and Kntrlr. The Show was a rocket. Everyone had a great time and most of all we surprised some folks. “I had no idea you could sing!” was the exclamation most of my friends had. Hell to be honest neither did I!
Our next show was at the Pianoland Morgan Junction. We killed with They Live and Marvin Berry and the New Sound. I had a time so good I lost my voice the next day… Note to self: you might know the lyrics to the other bands’ songs don’t feel like you have to prove it.
Jersey City Bike Tour: Rained Out. But it’s here that we agreed a name change was in order. Adam and I agonized over a few weeks about whether we should or not then we just decided better now then later. Zac Clark and the Something… Adam argued under a small amount of protest by me that we should use what local celebrity I have in Jersey City and use my name in the band. I conceded that it’s easier to get folks out (especially after a year of promoting other bands) if they know the show is with my band. Zac Clark and the Griswolds was born.
A few weeks later we played a fundraiser for Steven Fulop for Mayor. Few rock bands have played the Zeppelin Hall beer garden in Jersey City. A 9 year old opened for Billy Alpha who opened for us. We ate chicken fingers and drank beer. We helped kick off a political campaign that I believe (no matter it’s result) will change this city for the better.
Right at the end of the summer. We released our first EP. This was momentous for several reasons. It was the first thing I’ve ever had to show for myself as a musician. Following in the footsteps of my forefathers. It was also a mark of success as a band. Now we wern’t just dicking around in the studio playing songs and then one shoting shows. Now we were recording music.
Summer fades. I begin writing Hipsters of the Coast. A blog that at the time detailed my return to Magic: the Gathering an has since become a sort of community forum. Like Rocker Tycoon, I’m now able to reach out to people in my hobby and I’ve since become good friends with my associates that help me on the blog by weighing in with their writings. Matt Jones, Li Xu, Rich Stein, Jess Lina and Giaco Furino have Renewed my thrill for writing and helped me feel like I’m making an impact locally. Even if it’s just a gaming blog.
Gerry Griffin leaves the band for the farmer’s life. We spend a few months looking for a new bassist. Someone who is into our sound, someone who digs Devo. Sam Fit the bill. He more than fit the bill in fact. I had serious concerns about the future of the band post Gerry, Lloyd and Adam assured me they were in this for the long haul. Or however novelty punk rock bands last. We officially welcome Sam in! Griswolds are once more a party of 4!
Fall comes. ZC&theGs played a show at the Lamp Post in Late Sept that really knocked it out of the park! Packed house a ton of friends and strong performances by our friends I Am The Heat, Tijuana Bibles and Secret Country. We’re all very excited and we booked a show with the Everymen for Halloween.
On the Magic front. Grand Prix Philadelphia comes up. I meet up with my buddy Stephano and new friends Brandon and Qu. We and my 20ss friends travel down to The City of Brotherly War (Magic Joke). I go 6-3 on day one narrowly missing day two. But doing super well for my first pro level tourney back. Hurricane Sandy cuts my Sunday short.
I spend the next few days playing cards with my childhood friend Harry. We play a lot of sealed (format of Grand Prix Philly) and then we decide to go to Lisbon at the end of November to play Magic!
Sandy ruins ZCGs for a month. Our studio gets robbed. And the Path makes getting to JC and Home a nightmare.
I finally get to BK. Something like Wednesday. The storm was Sunday/Monday.
November rushed through like bad Chinese food. I was busy with work and sparse Magic happened. Mid month I went on a date, and had a pretty excellent time. Her name is Victoria. We went on a few dates and corresponded during my trip to Lisbon.
Speaking of Lisbon… What a great time. Harry and I flew straight in and took a tour of the city with Taylor (our host and guide at the Oasis Hostel). This being Harry’s first time in another country, we wanted to get in as much of the travel experience as possible. Tours and drinking with locals, meeting new people! Great times, it’s been so long since I’ve been able to hang out with Harry like we did when we were growing up. There’s always some job or I’m traveling or working every weekend while he works the week. We end the trip with a huge Magic Tournament. GRAND PRIX LISBON. There’s a blog post about Lisbon that highlights my addiction to cardboard and energy drinks. So I won’t recant that here. Harry goes 4-5 (pretty good for a guy who plays a couple times a year!) and I go 5-4 not as good as Philly. Still not terrible.
I return from Lisbon, feeling pretty good about life. These trips remind me how good my life is. I’m in a rock band, I get to play games when I’m not working, and my jobs are pretty great! I’m bartending one of the coolest spots in Brooklyn. And I write for a Tattoo magazine as their travel writer. Man, if I could go back and tell that to my 14 year old self he’d … Well let’s be honest he’d probably ask me if I made the pro tour yet. Next Year little buddy, next year.
So I’m back and I’m feeling good. And then I ask Victoria to be my girlfriend. She says yes! Which is a relief, for a few reasons. It’s hard asking someone to be your girlfriend when you’re 32. It seems like something teenagers do. Strange right? Also she’s pretty awesome, and buys me cookies/ laughs at my terrible jokes.
That brings us to the present… Good Job, sweet lady that is content with her nerdy boyfriend and I’m playing some of the best magic I’ve played since 2000. Zac Clark and the Griswolds has a show coming up this New Years Eve with the Everymen at Lamp Post.
Things are looking mighty good, and nix all that crap about the Mayan apocalypse, I think it was most about a paradigm shift. Things are gonna start turning around for the human race perhaps. I hope things do at least. But not all at once, we need strife for the good music. There’s not much good music in the peace and harmony market.
That’s the year for me. Pretty wild when I look back to Jan 1, listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, to going on stage to sign off the New year. Good luck in the next one. Be safe, rock out, and always tap your land correctly.
Zac Clark, Rocker Tycoon
(This year I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries as to what happened to Through Sound and Time. If you’re not hip to this section of the blog, it’s a personal reflection of what I was listening to and reading at the time. I started in 1991 with my first CD purchase and I’m upto 2005, I’ve tried to write this post several times but I always felt nauseous as I started. Anyhow, it’s important I do this so we can move on and eventually get to the good stuff … Enjoy?)
Here I am on the final leg of my retrospective journey of literature and music. It’s been a while since I did a Through Sound and Time post. I guess one of the reasons is because I’m scared. Scared? What could that mean? Scared of what? The truth is 2005 and 2006 were a sort of dark age for me musically socially and frankly I didn’t read much. It’s hard to think about that time. I guess I sort of lost the faith for a bit. I focused on other things. So I figured that I’d tackle the next couple of year the way George Lucas handled Star Wars episodes 4 – 6. or as I like to think of them: The Fall of Anakin Skywalker. Here goes…
2005 new years I remember thinking to myself that this was the same year that the Transformers Movie (1985), the Cartoon not the Michael Bay shit storm, happened. Slightly disappointed that I had neither a sentient car or a gun that became a giant robot, I began to listen to a lot of bad emo music. Bands like Brand New, Funeral, Atreyu y’know that sort of stuff. The kind of music that’s about such clever topics as “my shitty ex” or “those friends of mine that aren’t friends” or (my personal favorite) “my vampire girlfriend”. Yea it wasn’t being being me during this era.
In March I had a girlfriend … Really my first relationship. Her name was Lisa she was a really nice girl. My job at rafferty’s was boring the fuck outta me and I finally moved back in with some friends in New Brunswick. Life at the old man’s was sorta too slow for me. So I spent the next few months trying to figure a way outta this town. Between the constant boozing and the existential stasis, I was pretty sick of NB. Many of my friends had moved and I was hungry for a change.
May 28th 2005 (remember this date) I broke up with my G/f and got the fuck outta Dodge. Moved back to my dad’s to regroup. A month later, bought a White ’88 cadillac for $200, then spent the summer on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
A man alone on the road for the first time, since my grandfather passed away, it was nice to just have some time to myself. I knew I was gonna save some money living with my cousin Angela in the South. It was just trying to figure out what to do with that money once I left.
That was a great Summer. It was a stupid summer but it was good for me. I got a job waiting tables at Out Back Steakhouse, and helping a family friend’s Restaurant as a busboy dish washer for in between. Outback never opened til 4pm so that gave me the daytime to spend alone on the beach. Cousin Angela was pretty busy so I spent a lot of the summer by myself or hanging out with Aunt Pam or Cousin Jon Tyler. I’m the eldest Clark in my generation, Angela and JT were Pam’s kids (my dad’s sister) so they were Longs. Both about ten years older than me, JT got me into Punk Rock when I was younger. He used to send me his old punk clothes. Anyhow I spent my days on the beach reading the Wheel of Time. Talk about epic 10 books long this series makes the lord of the rings look like level 1. Rich fantasy world, incredible character development, and tons of political intrigue.
In June I realized my Magic: The Gathering ban had been lifted. I spent a few bucks playing the online version of the game. By the end of the month I wasn’t really feeling it. In August I had saved enough money for an entire semester of school, so I decided that was gonna be my focus. Back to Camden and finish school in the next year.
Halloween I was Shaun of the Dead… It was a little early though not everyone got it. In late October I started dating a girl. I had a job at Applebee’s then Don Pablo’s and ended the year back at Ritz Camera. Since I was back in South Jersey I reconnected with many of my friends from the comic shop. I spent new years making out with my girlfriend drunk on a friend’s couch. It was a pretty standard New Years.
(Well that wasn’t so bad I guess, though ill say it was certainly a transition year. I stepped down a notch and focused on school the year ended well. I’m glad it’s over though aside from the Summer it was a pretty slow year.)
Zac Clark, Rocker Tycoon
Time for reflection again. I’m 31. That’s no landmark year. Simple, these in-between years. I could fade into the wall if I liked. I suppose that’s really not true. Thanks to social media everyone knows when you’re birthday is. That’s sort of Orwellian… But I digress. 30 was a good year. It started out amongst new friends and old friends. Over the last year a lot has happened, a lot has changed. I believe firmly in the old adage, “Change or Die.” Stagnation is as good as death. As Zac Clark I must be the dynamic character in this book. So a quick recap of my 30th year would look like this. Party, Break-up, Quit job, New Job, dating, dating, dating with potential, Trip to europe (mid life crisis anyone?) Write a book, get published in a magazine, forbidden relationship, run a bar, lose job, new job, Start up Ghost Train PR, Articles for Rocker Tycoon start coming more frequently, Show, Show, Showdown, moved to BK, achieve anonymity unknown since first year in JC, subway a lot, show, get trapped with friends in elevator, buy new pants, take a nap, turn 31.
In these 31 years. I’ve made some pretty lasting friendships. I’ve made some pretty sinister enemies. I’ve learned a thing or two about how to deal with things. And I’ve avoided death just a couple of times. I think one of the best things anyone’s ever told me came yesterday. “Zac, when you’re dancing around and smiling getting into the music, that makes my day.” I think sometimes we find ourselves wallowing so deep around in our own self pity we forget that other folks take joy in our friendship, and fancy dance moves. I’m not saying I’ve been a sad bastard or anything, I’m just saying something like that puts things into perspective.
I guess I say all that to say this: To everyone that’s wished me happy birthday or shared a memory, to every band that’s shouted me out on stage or made me sing a song I thought I knew all the words to, to every girl that wasted her time while I struggled to understand myself and to every old friend that looked at me on a Monday and said, “Buck up, asshole, the weekends only 4 days away.” Thanks!
So if you happen to be around tonight. You’re in BK, and you’re thinking, I’m feeling kinda nostalgic, Pop by Barcade in Brooklyn. I’ll be out around 7 pm with some friends playing some video games and waxing intellectual about robots and clones.
Zachary Clark, Rocker Tycoon
Where do historical figures come from? The answer is simple, the question seems quite stupid once you hear the answer, in truth. If I were to tell you that Ben Franklin is Billy Gray, Sarah Tomek, Eddie Garza and and Adam Copeland, you’d think I was insane. How can one man be four people? More questions! And suddenly the whole mess becomes a deconstruction of not just the man, Ben Franklin, but the concept of him as well. Pretty soon, there you are, questions filling your head. Questions like: Has the Rocker Tycoon lost his mind? Who are those people that the Rocker Tycoon was talking about? And is this not a rock blog?
I’ll answer all those questions and more. Firstly, This is a Rock Blog! Damnit Man! have you been reading? Have you been listening? Have you been to the shows? Fuck there I go, more questions. Let’s assume you have been reading and listening. Then you know that Billy, Eddie and Sarah as well as new comer Adam are a BAND called Ben Franklin. Indeed, then you know that I have not lost my mind. I’m sober as a judge.
Hark! Then if those questions have been answered then you must know this: Ben Franklin will on the first score and fifth day of February (that’s the 25th) have an E.P. release party for their new upcoming album, URGENCY. Knowing this myself (This is what I do after all) I hit up Billy Gray (who knows way more dirt about the women in my life than the women in my life do). I said to Billy, “Billy, man, If you don’t let me check out your new E.P. early I’m gonna write a blog about my first girlfriend, then I’m gonna make you read it… in front of me at the bar during your E.P. release party.” Billy complied forthwith, what else could he do?
I’ve been listening to it everyday since. Listening to it in the shower, on the way to work, when I’m at home writing, and sometimes when I’m sleeping. The songs are embedded into my skull. I can’t get them out. I would if I tried. It’s an E.P. so I’ll break down each song for you. The whole thing start to finish.
Track 1 URGENCY:
Billy’s voice grains in after Eddie’s bass starts it off Sarah sets in with the drums and Adam’s lead melding with Billy’s rhythm, “There’s a sense of Urgency drowning in the frequency, in our headphones.” This song has a few solid and timeless themes. Sibling rivalry, Man vs Future, Struggle against Isolation, and the fight to become what you were meant to be. Basically its a song about getting your shit in order and living your short life with a little purpose… and that your sister is sort of a slut.
Track 2 TEAMWORK
One thing you can’t say about Ben Franklin is that they make tongue and cheek political references. I think I may have said this once. I was wrong. No punches are being pulled here. The message is clear, i think it’s clear at least: Join the military if you want to contribution to the faceless masses of imperialist conniving fat cats that control everything from the food you eat to the information to take in. They’ll sell you a romantic dream or heroism but at the end of the day TEAMWORK will only get THEM ahead. Musically they posit that war is a side effect of over population, and a large game of RISK played at the leisure of the world leaders. I could be totally of base here though. My belief is thus: It’s an anti-propaganda propaganda song.
Track 3 NO PLEASING YOU
Eddie takes the vocal lead on this track. I’d be upset with BF didn’t include one song that centers on relationships. Things slow down a bit this is one of the mellower tunes. The title is the chorus, “No pleasing you, and no reason to.” It’s about giving up on someone. Just finally coming out of the haze and saying, as Eddie puts it, “FUCK IT DUDE! (Let’s go bowling).” That moment of change when you realize this not worth it anymore. There are better thing to concern yourself with and just getting on. The song ends abruptly, which is a nice little touch.
Track 4 SMILE
Smile starts out whimsically enough, Billy is back on lead vocals. This is a great sing-a-long. I can almost feel the how crowd swaying and chanting the chorus. This is definitely a love song. I’m thinking its one of those, I can’t create a song for you, but I can for everything else deals. Why? You ASK! Well cuz you’re too god damn special to sum up in a few chords and some words. I could have totally missed the point here but that’s my guess. I’m sure Ben Franklin will comment on who close or far away I came on a scale of nuclear disasters the scale ranging from K-19 to Chernobyl.
In conclusion, I can’t get some of these songs out of my head. It took a while for Teamwork to grow on me, now I can’t get it out of my head. Oh and the Answer to the first question… HISTORY, dumbass.
Zac Clark, Rocker Tycoon
2010 comes to a close and I suppose it’s time for a bit of
inflection. A lot changed this year. In fact, I’d venture to say
this year’s motto, was Change or Die. I believe in kinetic energy,
socially, scientifically, and mentally. You gotta keep on the move
otherwise you risk stagnation. So this year began sober, for once. I
had to work at Lucky 7s. I can’t say I was overly happy about
having to work on NYE. It’s one of those few nights of the year
where I go out with a bit of swagger and get to draw the attention
of the ladies. Generally I travel to some hot spot for good
times with old friends. Sadly this year, I was stuck working. Miss
Nina Petronico was good company none the less. And we did have a
good time, shaking drinks and talking shit during our shift. So the
year started, with mixed feelings. What a telling omen for the rest
of the year. I’ll get into it more when I get upto 2010 with a
Through Sound and Time. In the meantime (as Space Hog said) here
are my top ten moments of 2010. 10.
Audition At the start of football season, a friend
called me up. She asked how much acting experience I
had. I replied “ZERO, but I’m quite a character in my
own right.” She asked me if I wanted to audition for a play
she was helping produce. I decided that I did. Went to
NYC and I auditioned for a play. It was the first time I
ever did anything like that. I did not get a call back but
it was exhilarating anyhow. I’d prolly do it again. It
never hurts to expand your horizons a bit. 9. Stand
Up This was more recent (last week) as I write
this. Local Celebrity and all around funny gal Sarah Roxanne
Shields hosts a Stand-up event at my bar. Two of the
“professional” comedians bailed and after another brave soul
stepped up for his set, I decided I had the nards to try my
hand at it as well. The response was slightly better than the
audition. I got a few solid laughs out of the crowd.
Again it’s fun to see just what new talent I might be able to
uncover. Stage fright wasn’t an issue, and mostly I talked
about my background in art (which was mainly stiffing markers in
3rd grade) and my illustrious dating career. 8. Book
Club Along with my friend Paul, I started a
book club this year. It’s still going, I’ve since stopped
attending meetings and have begun reading much much more on my own,
but it was a spark that reminded me some of the best therapy a
person can get for writer’s block is to just analyze another’s
attempt at the craft. 7. Awarded Best Dressed in
JC I attended the second annual 4th Street Ball at
City Hall this year. After a bit of lobbying and some early
mornings, I won the contest for best dressed. It’s nice to
have a cool title to brag about. Sure beats high school’s
title “the guy that smells faintly of cat piss”. 6.
Moshpit at the Ghost of Uncle Joe’s This years
Halloween event for the Ghost of Uncle Joe’s raised a bunch of loot
for the Harimus Cemetery. That’s a pretty good thing.
But what was really great on top of that, we all had a total
blast. It’s not often I get to work it out in the moshpit
these days. Let alone with all my friends from Jersey
City. We really got it going. I was a little bummed
about the ladies that day. I remember thinking as I was
pounding my way through the Misfits set. “This is Zac
Clark. That 19 year old kid, smiling and dancing and
singin, out there alone and at the same time amongst
friends, doing his thing.” I can’t tell you how many times
someone grabbed me and was like “DUDE, You are tough as
nails!” or something to that effect. True I’m no
slouch, and when the music plays I feel no pain at
all. I forgot my woes for a while, Knuckled
up Buckled up and had a super great time. 5. Started
working at Bar Majestic Late June I had been
thinking about moving on from Lucky 7 for about 6 months. I
was started to get disgruntled, as a worker, which is not to say I
didn’t like it there or I still don’t think of those cats as
family, I was just becoming stagnant, and I wanted something else,
a change of scenery I gathered. I met Dave (the then owner of
the Bar Majestic) we hit it off and I started working a good old
fashioned bartender’s type of bar. Martini’s, cocktails and
wine, That’s the way I started bartending when I first learned. It comes
naturally, and I like playing the role of the gentlemen’s type
bartender. After a short while, I started doing the bar’s PR
and a few month’s later, here I am with my co-worker Ali Charli
running the place. Movin’ and shakin’ that’s just what I
needed. I dusted off some cobwebs and now I feel like I
couldn’t have made a better choice. It was hard and scary to
leave 7’s (i had been there for 2.5 years) but ultimately it was
the right move. 4. Dating an Actress
I don’t make it much of a secret that I date mostly from girls I
meet online. I’m not one to worry about social stigma, and I
look at it as a way to meet someone I would have never had the
opportunity to meet otherwise. One of the girls I dated for a
bit was this super cool actress. We had a total blast hanging
out. She turned me on to some cool stuff (like Scott
Pilgrim), and though our romance fizzled out, I gotta say I had a
pretty fun time with her. She went to England to pursue her
acting career. During that time I worked hard to try and get
out to see her. When it didn’t pan out I opted to take a trip
to Italy instead. It was a hard year for relationships up til
then, I was starting to get pretty jaded about the opposite sex
(more so than my normal level) she gave me a touch of hope for a
while. And for once, when everything ended, I could at least
shrug my shoulders and say hey that’s life. Look at me I’m
growing up. 3. Trip to Italy So I
took up travel writing. So I decided to actually, y’know do a
little traveling. I set out late September on a trip of a
lifetime, into a world I had very little experience with. I
immersed myself in a country I had no ties to. I represented
my country and it’s citizens as best I could. My best friend
of 17 years, Paul Cox, and I had some crazy adventures. I
wrote an account of each event as quickly as it happened.
When we parted and I was alone, I learned a whole lot about
international travel as well as myself. You can check out my
adventures in travel over at Uncle Traveling
Zac. 2. Honored with a position as Inked
Magazine’s Travel Writer. I’ve been a journalist for
something like 8 years, in mind and spirit if not in
manner. All that persistence finally payed off in march when
my friend Rocky became the Editor and Chief of Inked
Magazine. He was in need of a new travel writer. After
reading some of my short fiction, he asked me to take the
job. I could barely believe my luck! After a little
over a year as Jersey City’s Rock writer, I had achieved a regular
spot in an internationally read and respected magazine! It’s
been five months since my first article came out. Everytime I
see my name in print I want to shriek like a little girl.
1. Writing a Book November is
National Novel Writing month. That said, I tried and failed
to write a book in 2009 for this event. It left me feeling
like a huge failure. This year I planned ahead. A few
solid ideas got tossed around and finally I settled on what would
become The Unreasonable
I tried a few different settings for
writing and found that just being home away from the rest of the
world I was able to write to my heart’s content. 30 days
later I gave manbirth to my first novel. It was a lonely
month, I sat there each day trying my best to construct dialogue
and coming up with a story. Once it was finished I had a
nervous tick for 15 days. It sits on my computer waiting for
me to start the dreaded editing process. But out of all the
things I accomplished this year it stands as the greatest.
It’s perhaps the greatest accomplishment of my life, though I’m
sure I’ll find a way to top in in 2011. I must thank Ali
Charli, who soldiered on with her own book while I wrote
mine, surely had we not written in solidarity I would have given up
after the 4th day. Paul bailed two days in. But that’s
ok the three of us are all even with one book written to our
names. The the experience has taught us all that it’s easier
than previously thought. So that’s the whole deal.
2010, a lot more happened. If you’ve kept up with my antics,
you know that I have several blogs. And a twitter account,
Tycoon. I hope you find good fortune and some solid
tunes come 2011. And we can all take heart in the fact that
there won’t be anyone wearing those stupid double zero new years
glasses at least till 2100!
I have, for much of my life, believed in the soul power of music and how it speaks to a person and how sharing those feelings, and that music, can be one of the best feelings in the world. I have not always been so good at getting other people to understand that listening to my music was a good idea. There was a time when I struggled against the powers of pop to bring people something they could truly enjoy. One such time was New Years 2002.
Paul (my aforementioned best friend and comrade in the pits) had decided that after last year’s debacle we would play it cool with local friends back in south Jersey at Brian Adamonis’ girlfriend’s sisters’ house. This was an era where I was reveling in the fact that a person could be a person without having to have a person. Whereas most if not all of my friends were dating or in one friend’s situation “not dating” people in relationships. My friend’s girlfriends had become the bane of my existence. I had become the dreaded fun friend. The loud-mouthed asshole who said whatever was on his mind. If you think I’m bad these days, you should have seen me in my prime.
Either way, the night was full of other people drinking and hooking up with their girlfriends while I was left to control the music situation. Kazaa was used heavily to procure something worth dealing with in my misery. And as eventful as the last new years had been this one was a flop. I definitely wish I went upto New Brunswick, instead I was switching turns playing music with Christine Choplin, who had a thing for Toad the Wet Sprocket, a band I still fervently disbelieve anyone can call their all-time favourite band. And yet there was Christine, defying the laws of space, time, rock and roll and Natural Selection in one devastating blow. HA! I still have a little bit of that asshole left after all.
Right, so county college swept on and I stepped up to the plate with 4 classes. Three Photo and another English lit class. I learned Photoshop and built a dark room inside my house. Come spring time I had decided I was moving to Rutgers and I was going to transfer to Mason Gross for Photography. It was a big step in the right direction.
This was the year I would drive around listening to Green Day’s Dookie album. I know that I was about ten years off on this one but I had picked it up and I couldn’t put it down. New Found Glory‘s self titled Album got a lot of playtime. The Ataris were a huge staple of my driving music. Iron Maiden had found it’s way into my music collection. My friend Dave DeJesus and I were taking trips up to NB a bunch so we had time to bounce music off each other. He showed me bands like Zao and Catch 22.
When I moved in June, Paul and I started working in the Freehold mall at a Ritz camera. We would spend our days on the beach and our weekends peddling cameras. After a few weeks I got my current roommate, Kevin, and another friend of ours, Gerry, a job losing people’s film. One of the great things about most of the jobs I’ve had is that there has always been room for friends. Kev, Gerry, Paul and I would turn up the charm and sell things to people that they didn’t need or want, half the time Paul was drunk while he was printing film. We spent a lot of time goofing off and taking pictures of the store. Gerry had a penchant for Dashboard Confessional so that became a thing for us.
I spent a lot of time reading because we didn’t have any cable television that summer. H.P. Lovercraft, Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors, Legend of the Five Rings.
That summer we played a lot of beer pong, well I played with Mountain Dew. Now don’t judge us we all did this in college. We thumped our chests and butted heads and gasp listened to Good Charlotte. I wish I could say I did it ironically or that I didn’t enjoy it a little bit. But they were good times and this happened to be the soundtrack to this summer. I’m sure you have some music that you wish you didn’t own. I’m talking to you, the guy who bought the Dog’s Eye View album. So hold your stones lest I pull out some holier than thou Jesus stuff, healing the meek and inheriting the earth turning water into fish and bread into wine.
The year wore on and we start hosting shows in our basement. Too many bands to mention them all but off the top of my head we had, Puck on Six, Tokyo Rose, My Chemical Romance, Armour for Sleep, Paulson… so many acts that went on to some amount of fame. This is when I started laying the ground work for Rocker Tycoon. Paul and I started writing a Zine called the Alternative. I covered the bands and Paul worked on the events. Zines were the thing to do back in 2002 you weren’t anyone if you didn’t have a Geocities page and fax /copy/ printer. This also started my journey into the realm of local music. I did shoots with bands like Shade and even shot a few bands from other countries that were staying in town. Music journalism was undergoing a huge upheavel with Digital SLRs taking over the photo market and I was still shooting with my Nikon F100 film camera and transferring the stills to CD via film scanner. It was archaic and an unsound method of creating a news source. There was so much over-head and waste we weren’t even selling these things, just handing them out at shows and interviewing bands.
December came and I remember that Paul and I had run out of oil to heat the house and without the $400 needed to fill the tank we just had to figure out ways of staying warm. I worked in the mall as often as I could. Then the unthinkable happened. It was December 14th I was driving to work and someone hit me dead in the side in their car. After the smoke cleared and everything legal was settled I lost my car to damage and my License for a year. I was driving without insurance. Freehold court threw the book at me. Things began to take a harsh spiral and my dad even asked me if I was gonna have to move back. I couldn’t do it. Not after all the hard work I’d put in and come spring semester I was applying for Mason Gross. I had to muscle it out and figure out a new way to live. I paid my rent with my next paycheck and started looking for a job in town. During this soul crushing blow my friends most of these people I’d only recently met really kicked my ass into gear. I was sinking into a depression and they were determined not to let me drown.
New years this year was a big turn around for me. I was still alive after two weeks of not working and I hadn’t burrowed any money from anyone. Rent was paid and About 9 days prior I had started drinking. This was a big deal to a lot of my friends. Many people were worried that this was going to become a serious problem because of the time I started. I was 22 and just didn’t have any reason not to drink anymore. I didn’t drive, so I couldn’t protect my friends by staying sober and getting them home. It was high time I took a break from being the responsible sober kid at the party. I remember little from that New Years aside from just running around hanging out with friends and singing along to A LOT of Alkaline Trio. 2002 you were a bum of a year, I miss the hell out of you.
After what later became known as the “Fight of The Century”. Paul went back to school and I went back to the comic shoppe life. My dad gave me a life changing ultimatum early in the year. I had a choice out of three. I could A) Move out B) Pay rent or C) I could go to school. Seeing that my best bet financially would be to pay for a couple of classes at the local county college, I opted for that. I took two classes: English 101 and Photo 101. I wasn’t exactly excited about continuing my education, especially after my high school experience. Frankly. I was just starting to understand that it was ok to be different and I wasn’t actually looking forward to having a bunch of classmates give me shit about not listening to their music, or dressing like them.
Boy, did I have college pegged all wrong! So I excelled in my English class partly because I’d made a point to ace both of these classes so my pop wouldn’t kick me out and partly I think that Camden County has a bit of a lowered expectation for what is considered proper English. I struggled with the Photo Class for the first half of the semester. Then I hit stride and began to understand light and printing. I can’t lie though I had some help. My dad had taken the class as well, so I was extra motivated to do the work. There was no option to sleep in and miss class either.
So I had found a new calling. Something that I actually liked to do aside from write that could actually become a career. If only I’d have known the amount of work involved in becoming a photographer. I wonder would I actually be one now. Thankfully it seemed an easy way to make money and I started on my path toward the visual arts.
As the year moved forward I began to make friends around the college, Mostly liberal arts majors and photo students in the photo lab. And there were girls of course. It was easily the first time in my life where girls were actually treating me like a human being and I think a lot of that had to do with my decision to just sit back not be annoying as all hell and observe. I made an effort to be myself but to not be overtly weird.
It was late March when I finally started hanging out with people that I went to school with. I was at a Dropkick Murphys show hitting the pit with a confidence I had picked up in the last few shows due to an entourage of friends and reoccurring acquaintances who had dubbed me “Crazy Legs” because of my erratic mosh pit dancing style. I was a local celebrity for the first time in my life, and I was loving it. On a trip to the men’s room at Philadelphia’s illustrious Electric Factory I ran full on into Dena Merlino, the lab monitor at my college. I mean I actually ran into her. She recovered and I told her I’d be right back. I was thirsty and in those days I wasn’t drinking beer at shows and I wasn’t going to pay $3 for bottled water when Philly tab would do just fine. I got back and we both laughed about the accident and we exchanged phone numbers to hang out later. I couldn’t talk for long as my crowd was in action and dancing in the pit.
Dena Merlino was a raven haired goddess to me. She had that Betty Page haircut and she was into the same kind of music I dug, well read and she took an interest in me so that was a plus too. She was a little older (a year) and I was still way too shy to deal with girls on anything more than meet-ups and hangouts. She asked me what I was going to do for my birthday this year (because I was turning 21) the next week in class. I wasn’t sure I was doing anything. I’d spent the last to years just sitting around the house doing pretty much nothing, Birthdays hadn’t been a big deal for me then. They were more of a time to reflect where I’d wonder about the future and if I’d do anything with myself, depressing stuff really. I told her I had no idea what to do. I didn’t drink so going to a bar was out. She told me she’d see what bands were playing.
The next week she told me she’d gotten tickets to see bands at the Trocadero. I was way too excited to even care who I saw. The weeks past and I’d come to the lab to hang out . Dena would check out my stuff and give me hints on how to create different effects and we bullshit about music. We even found out we had a mutual friend, Pete Hagan, who had just started working with me in the comic shop. Pete instantly grew on my like a foot fungus. I’d hang out at his place til the late hours of the morning, we’d watch movies like the Warriors and he’d lend me music from his collection. The Smiths, Morrissey and he even got me into Metallica a bit. The Old Metallica like Ride the Lightning and such, But I digress.
So the day of May 16, 2001 came to pass. Dena met me at my (dad’s) place we drove to Philly to see the Kottonmouth Kings. Never heard of them, nor had she, we just figured we’d see what they were about. Brian McManus came along as well. We listened to a Tribute to the Misfits comp on the way there. I wasn’t intimately familiar with the misfits just then, but I do remember that much. So we got in early and muscled through the first band that was like some kind of rap/rock clown metal band whose message was that it’s not fair that the government takes away your money from your minimum wage paychecks. Mindless droning and selfish spoiled suburban kids bitching about how different they were and how much more money they should be making. We laughed at them. And I hoped that this next band wouldn’t be so bad. Needless to say that if you know about the sort of music I’m into, these were horrible bands in anyone’s opinion. I still mark this down as one of the worst concerts I’ve ever been to. The company was great though. We ended the night at Runnemede’s Philly Diner. Nothing ever blossomed with Dena though from time to time we catch up and still laugh about that show.
Summer of 2001 hit and I had deeply gotten involved with the skating scene in my home town. I was using the tennis court behind the Shoprite as my skate ramp. My friends and I would meet there and try to do tricks. We’d listen to Guttermouth and Suicide Machines and Goldfinger. It’s funny that we thought this made us punk. Sure we were punk, but I think it had absolutely nothing to do with the amount of music and skating we did.
Pete Hagan had recently procured a job at Mister Softee for the summer. He got me a job there too. For the first time in my life I was really making enough money to have fun with. It was a grueling job, though. I’d spend all day riding around and serving ice cream in Trenton. It was just me to my thoughts all day. There was no one to talk to and all I had was my music. Lucky for me my boss was a big music lover and had installed a sound system into the truck. Each day I’d drive up Rt1 and go to CD World to find my CD of the day. This habit thoroughly extended my music collection. I bought all the Clash albums, Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True, The Deviates, Death By Stereo, Ten Foot Pole, Alkaline Trio Albums. In short I was all over the place musically and I was rocking out. One of the Albums I’ll never forget Lou Reed’s Growing Up in Public is indelibly scraped into my mind during that time because My boss played it during my training period. Softee was how I learned not to fear highways, how I learned to drive in a city and learned not to worry about being afraid of the projects. I must have listened to Rancid’s Black Album everyday up 295. Sadly, My time with Softee ended on a down note as I got robbed and then the next day I broke my arm. That was the end of June… I had a ticket to see Green Day and the Living End that day. In the Hospital I started reading a lot of trade paperback. Kurt Busiek’s Astro City was a feature of the 3 day stay in the hospital. I healed in a few months and even made it to Warped Tour 2001 at the end of July.
August was a shitty month for me. The girl I was dating just stopped answering my calls and I got fired from the Comic Shoppe. It was a huge blow for me. I wasn’t really sure I’d be able to make it doing anything but selling comics to people and playing CCG’s. Thankfully, it was likely the best thing my friends did for me. There was still a large amount of strife going on because I had been caught cheating by the DCI a year prior and I needed to move on and start making some kind of life for myself. At the end of the month when school had started I was already working at a photo lab in the Echelon Mall and life got back to being stable.
Photo 2 and English 201 were a snap and I had started to develop a dark style to my photography, and a mantra that I still hold to today. Well, perhaps not a mantra but a dark humour to who I am. A Sick Cry For Help, one of the “alternative” students in my class had said that about my work. Most of my photos for photo 2 were self portraits, in a b movie still fashion. Taking the cue from greats like Hitchcock and Lovecraft I went for a more morbid look to my art. I used chocolate syrup as fake blood and came up with these scenes where it looked like I was either the killer or the victim. I wasn’t hurting on the inside or feeling dark thoughts I was just exploring what kind of reactions I could get from my classmates. One woman remarked that it was a Sick Cry for Help. I laughed, that sounded like a great idea for a book.
I started going upto Rutgers a lot more to hang out that year. Almost every single weekend in fact. Paul was living in the quads on Bush campus, and I was using the time away from work and home to practice my photography. I started hanging out at parties. This was the first time I really went out of my way to be overtly social. I’d drive my friends across campus and we’d hang out and scam on girls then I’d drive everyone back and we’d repeat the process the very next night. I remember Halloween in particular being an overwhelmingly good time, but damned if I can remember what I was that year. I was meeting people of all different cultures and beginning to understand what I was missing for not going away to college. I decided that I needed to get out and make it happen. The rest of the year was a blur but I was reading Camus and started on Finnegan’s Wake (which to this day I haven’t finished). I do remember that I was drinking a lot of Jolt Cola then. I had met my current roommate and had started writing these 100 word stories and haikus into a book. It was a formative year and a lot happened that changed how I looked at the world I made connections that to this day still affect me 9 years later. Things were rapidly getting interesting.