Tinder Casualty: A Short Story

Originally written on 9/27/16

Note: This is a true story. Names have been changed.

So, I met Ana online; we swiped right for each other on a dating app. I didn't think much of it, a few months passed, and while we stayed matched the whole time, I didn't do anything. Then, I saw that her location had changed to nine thousand miles away. So, I wrote to her: "Nine thousand miles away . . . coffee?" Clever, right?

Then, she wrote back: "Yes please. With a grindhouse horror movie."

I was actually pretty floored with her response, and we kept in touch, casually, on and off for five or six months, mostly talking about our favorite horror films. She was living in Thailand at the time. She actually influenced me to watch a few horror films that I had never seen; they were pretty good. Or bad. You know what I mean. Then, one day, she asked if I wanted to talk on the phone. I said sure, and we talked for a half hour, and her voice and laugh sounded really pretty. I liked the way her voice sounded: deep, relaxed, intelligent, sophisticated, a little sarcastic, a little sensual. I felt good about the phone call, and I slept well that night, too.

She came back to the states, to Portland, and we skyped. She was part asian, very beautiful; the room in her house looked nice as we spoke to each other in real time, visually connecting at last. She invited me to come and see her in Portland -- just like that, she said I could come to Portland, and stay with her for a few nights. I thought it over. Normally, I wouldn't be interested in traveling across states to meet someone off of an internet dating app. But Ana seemed really cool.

My best friend Doc lives in Washington, about an hour outside of Portland, so I figured I could see him too, and if it didn't work out with Ana, I could always crash at his place. Besides, I hadn't seen Doc in close to five years, so we were due for a get together. I figured, what did I have to lose? I could see my best friend, get laid, and get out of California for a few days, up in the northwest. So, I called Ana, confirmed that she wanted to do it, and I bought the plane tickets and arranged a rental car at the airport. The whole trip was around $300 total, which was perfect. 

I left the next month and met Ana at the Portland airport. She was stunning, her skin was dark brown, she had just gotten into town the night before after spending a week in Mexico. She traveled a lot, impulsively, constantly, all around the world. We were both a little jet lagged, her more than me, but I amped up on some coffee, we got the rental, a Nissan, I plugged my ipod into the stereo, turned up the music, and we were off. 

We went to her place first. It was an earthy, natural and older house in a cool part of town. Books were all over the place, the smell was nice and warm and comforting. I liked the vibe. Ana hadn't even unpacked from her Mexico trip yet, so we hung out for a bit and then I drove us to see Doc in Washington. The driving was amazing. With my ipod, I could drive forever. The car was a really smooth ride, and I drove us along the backdrop of lush greenery and foliage, rivers and mountains.

Ana was on her cell phone, like a lot. It didn't really matter to me, but I did notice it. She spent a lot of time on her phone. Also, she didn't seem to like being touched; she seemed to show an aversion to holding hands, which we didn't do in the car, and she didn't respond when I touched her thigh, which was warm in the sun and dark tan and beautiful as I drove us towards Washington state. It seemed a little strange, but I tried not to think too much of it. Maybe she was nervous. I wasn't, but maybe she was. Maybe she didn't want to rush into anything. 

Background info: prior to my trip, I had asked Ana if she was planning on us sleeping together. I asked if she was open to having sex. It sounds a little forward, perhaps, but that's my specialty. Transparency, I told her, was always a big thing of mine. I told her that of course, in the event that we didn't get along, I certainly wouldn't hold any grudges -- no pressure, regardless of outcome -- I just wanted us to be on the same page. She had said that she was expecting to have sex with me, that she thought it was implied. So, when I met her at the airport for the first time, I gave her a hug, and I didn't feel a response. Odd, I thought, though I didn't press it. But now we were driving, and she still wasn't responding to any of my attempts at some kind of physical connection. I wasn't trying anything even remotely sexual -- I wasn't trying to finger her as I drove us down the freeway into the picturesque landscape; I didn't try to probe her ear with my tongue. I had my hand on her warm thigh (she was wearing short jean shorts), to no response whatsoever. Holding hands hadn't worked either. Strange, but I forced myself not to read too deeply into it. 

I saw Doc, brought my guitar in and played some new songs with him. Ana met him, but then had to make a phone call outside which lasted over forty minutes. It was alright, because I could catch up with Doc and his sister, one on one for a while. It would have been nice to have played some songs for Ana, but I dismissed her phone etiquette (or lack thereof, perhaps) as well.

She came back inside, apologized, and I took us all out to lunch. It was enjoyable. Doc was funny, I was funny, Ana was pretty, and the food was alright. I drove us back to Doc's, where we hung out for a little longer, and then Ana and I set out again on our own adventure. She had some ideas on what we could do. 

I drove us out to an island, a stunning reserve of farms and fields that went on for miles and miles, ending with an array of boathouses and dirt roads, very bucolic, very peaceful. Ana got out to take some pictures (photography was a hobby of hers), and I watched her lithesome figure run down the dirt road, thinking how attractive she was. She came back, while I stayed in the car, my arms placed outside the rolled down window, just taking it all in. Ana gave me a closed kiss on the mouth when she came back, a soft dry peck. Still, it was nice. We drove on.

Ana shared with me a pretty intense and lengthy anecdotal monologue, about how she had gotten an abortion in Cambodia just a few months prior to her return to the states. She said that an old boyfriend in Thailand had tricked her into getting pregnant. I didn't really understand that -- normally, it happens the other way around: the girl gets pregnant and traps the guy. But I didn't pry. The story was very detailed, and though it didn't really weird me out too much, the mental imagery was pretty vivid -- I could've done without it. 

We went to downtown Portland; driving down and over the mazes of bridges, looking down onto the boats and the rivers and the water and the city. It was a cool feeling. There was a carnival downtown, so we went there and walked around. It seemed like the perfect time to hold hands, or for me to put my arm around her shoulder, but Ana still wasn't really responsive to any of that. I started to wonder to myself, jokingly, if this was the same girl I had spoken with online -- perhaps I had met someone else on accident at the airport, someone who only looked like Ana. Maybe the real Ana was still waiting for me at the airport baggage claim, wondering where I was, and hoping that I'd hold her hand and touch her thigh when I finally arrived. The carnival was festive and condensed with a huge amount of people, so we walked around, not really connecting, and then we walked a mile or two to Powell's Bookstore, where I got an Ed Abbey book for Doc, and a Bukowski collection of poetry for Ana, to give to her as a surprise gift when I left. I like doing that, buying books for girls. 

That night, I meditated, and lay in her bed, utterly exhausted, while Ana sat on the wooden floor in her room on her phone for over an hour. I fell in and out of consciousness, in between frantic travel-induced dreams and semi awake spasms of mild confusion. I woke up and it was very dark, and I was alone in the bed. I didn't know what time it was, or where Ana was. In my semiconscious stupor, I was briefly infuriated that this girl had invited me to visit her, only to completely abandon me upon my arrival. I tried to calm myself and pass out again, but I was very confused. Had Ana left? Was she sleeping in another room while I slept in her own bed? What the fuck was happening? Then she came into the room, draped in a towel, after taking a shower. I was relieved; we were going to at least be sleeping in the same bed. But once more, she sat on the floor and became utterly immersed in her phone again, her small phone screen the only source of light in the room, as the cool Portland summer wind blew in through her open balcony door. "Whatever," I thought, and I went back to sleep.

I had a dream that I was a cafeteria cook at an elementary school, and I poisoned the food as a long line of children came up and took their trays. I had crunched up a mountain of pills and mixed them into the school lunches. The kids all sat down and starting eating. Then, the children began screaming and melting, like slices of american cheese in the microwave; their bodies all liquified in a horrifying melee of chaos and science fiction-like horror. In the dream, I became terrified myself, suddenly realizing that I would be charged with the murder of all these poor schoolchildren. Why had I done that, killed them all? I would have to go to prison. I was a serial killer, I had massacred all these little kids . . .

I woke up in a cold sweat, with Ana on the very edge of the bed. I cuddled up next to her with my arm draped over her waist and pulled her close to me. Nothing. You know how when you cuddle with a girl, spooning, she'll kind of nudge herself back in towards you? Didn't happen. I let go of her.

"I had the most horrible dream," I told her. "I gave all these little kids some kind of drug in their school lunches and they all started melting."

"That doesn't sound too scary." Ana said.

"Well, you didn't see how they melted," I told her.

That morning, I woke up slow, Ana made us some coffee, and I drove us to the farmer's market in downtown Portland. By now, I was confused, and slightly irritated even, at how this was going. It wasn't that I felt angry at how Ana was acting, it was just confusing, because she had given me an entirely different idea of who she was. We held hands for a very brief moment at the farmer's market, before she ran away towards some food stand. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was hot, but not overwhelming, and the farmer's market was a cool scene. Earthy, health conscious, clean, organic. I had an awkward exchange with a friend of Ana's, who was running one of the stands: Ana tried to introduce me to him, but I was standing too far away, and I just shot him a smile and waited for them to finish their conversation, before moving on. I felt awkward -- really, really awkward at this point.

I drove us back to her place, both of us not really saying much. Bringing my ipod with me was the best thing I could've done. The constant soundtrack that played while I drove us all over the place was a very grounding, comforting thing. It felt soothing to have my entire music library on hand, listening as I drove us onward into this entirely awkward and confusing experience.

I parked a few blocks down from Ana's house, so we could get some food for dinner. Ana asked me what I wanted to eat for dinner, and I told her that it really didn't matter to me. I stopped the car outside of the organic grocery store and paused. I turned to face Ana in the passenger seat.

"I can't tell if you're attracted to me or not." I told her bluntly. Straightforward, with no hint of anger, just strong unabashed honesty. She was quiet.

I went on. "It seems like if I touch your leg, or try to hold your hand, or if I were to stick a finger in your ear, you don't react at all. I've been having a great time; the island was great, I love driving around and listening to music, everything's so pretty; the farmer's market and the bookstore were wonderful -- but I could really be doing all this with anybody. I could be doing this alone, really. Is there something that's wrong? Because I can leave, no hard feelings. That's why I rented the car, that's why I made sure that Doc was going to be around. I just don't know if there's something that I missed. It seems like you're not into this at all." My blood pressure was remarkably low; I just wanted to get to the point. No use self-questioning anymore. "I mean you're on your phone constantly --"

"I know," Ana said. "I'm sorry about that. It's something I do all the time, it's nothing against you. It's a habit that I'm trying to break." 

I shrugged. "You can break it around someone else," I said. "It's just another thing that shows you're not really into what's happening here."

"I just don't like being touched." Ana told me suddenly. "I don't like public displays of affection. I haven't been in a relationship in really a long time --"

"Whoa," I said. "This is not a relationship."

"I know," Ana said quickly. "But holding hands and kissing and all that are things that happen in a relationship, and I've never liked doing those things. It's nothing personal -- you're very handsome, and funny, and smart." 

("Yeah, I know all that," I thought.)

She went on: "It's just that, when I tried to introduce you to my friend at the farmer's market, you acted like you didn't care, and I really wanted you to meet him. That hurt my feelings. And when I asked you what you wanted to eat for dinner, you said that it didn't matter to you. And I meant that, I mean, I really MEANT it when I asked you that. And you said that it didn't matter to you."

The level of disconnect between us was palpable at this point, both of us still seated in the car. Still, I kept my composure and tried to sift through the insanity. 

"Um . . ." I said, putting my thoughts in order, points lining up in my head. "Were you ever going to relay any of this information to me?" I asked her.

"I'm sorry," she said to me. "I just haven't been in a relationship in a long time --"

"This is not a relationship," I repeated.

"I know that," she said again; we were beginning to go in circles as she told me once more how me saying that dinner didn't matter really hurt her feelings.

"Well," I said, carefully. "I've always gone off of actions, more than words. So you asking me about dinner, when I think that you want nothing to do with me, made me divert my answer towards whatever you wanted to do. Clearly, there's some disconnect between us. I'm glad I said something, because this was starting to get a little weird."

"I'm glad you said something too," Ana agreed. "Let's get out of the car and walk around for a little while." We got out, I locked the car, and we strolled around the green neighborhood with its small old houses and nice fenced in yards. The air was clean and fresh, the wind felt good.

I spoke again: "So, I'm not sure where to go from here. Nothing personal, but this has all been a little strange for me."

"I'm sorry," Ana told me as we strolled along. "I should've told you. I've never liked public displays of affection. I've never been comfortable holding hands and kissing. And I haven't been in a relationship in --"

I stopped walking, and waited for her to stop a little bit ahead of me, and turn around. I closed my eyes and whispered for affect.

"This . . ." I said quietly, with my eyes softly closed, "is not . . . a relationship." She wasn't getting that.

We got back to the car. 

"Well, look," Ana told me. "We got everything out in the open now, so let's go and buy dinner, we can watch a movie tonight and have sex." 

"I DON'T EVEN WANT TO FUCK YOU NOW!!!" I screamed inside my skull. 

"I think I'm okay, actually." I said to her in real life.

"What do you want to do?" She asked me.

"Well," I told her, and my pulse quickened just slightly as I laid out my plan to her. "I'll drive you home, and I'll pack up my shit, and then I'll drive to Doc's house to spend the rest of the weekend."

"Really?" Ana asked me, incredulously.

"Yeah, totally," I told her.

"Are you sure that's what you want?" She asked me.

"Yeah," I said. "Nothing personal, Ana. This just didn't work out, and that's fine. That's why I rented this car, that's why I made sure that Doc was in town. I'll just go to his place for the rest of the weekend."

Ana looked away and shook her head. "Wow," she finally said, bewildered. "Okay . . . if that's what you really want."

"Nothing personal." I said again. ("I would just rather watch movies with my friend than have sex with you," I thought. Nothing personal, though.)

Ana clearly had not been accustomed to being turned down. Here she had actually offered me sex, and I told her no thanks. Honestly, I figured what was the point? It's not like I've never had meaningless sex -- on the contrary, I've had far too much of it, and I'm not bragging -- but I could've stayed home for that shit. 

I packed up my things in her room. I took out the Bukowski book from my bag. 

"I got this for you at the bookstore last night," I said, handing it to her. "I was going to write something in it, like, 'I had fun,' or something. But there's nothing written in there, and the receipt's still in there, so you can return it if you want."

"I won't return it," Ana said. "Thanks."

"Sure," I told her. "Well, thanks for letting me stay here. I'll, um . . . " What, see you later? See you around? "Later," I told her, and turned to leave.

"Bye," Ana said softly. "Wait," she said, and came up to me, turned me around, and kissed me in a tight, dry closed mouth peck, similar to the single smooch she given me the evening before on that island. It was without passion, without meaning, without anything. "Bye," she said again.

I wondered, as I turned around and I left down the stairs, if that had been some attempt at making me stay; like I would drop everything at that kiss and completely change my mind. But I didn't think about it any further as I got into the car, called Doc, turned up some Misfits, and hightailed it to Washington to rock out with my friend. The drive was great: steady, eighty miles per hour, blasting music along the breathtaking Oregon and Washington landscape.

Doc enjoyed my story, and we spent the rest of the weekend watching Grindhouse films from the seventies and sixties, laughing our asses off and playing music, catching up. It all worked out, really.

Ana and I never spoke again. I deleted all my online dating accounts. 

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Orange Grove: A New Video

Orange Grove


I have been alone before but never this alone before
sometimes when the sun is shining, all I feel is rain
it’s impossible to know just how far I’ll let this go
letting well known chemicals seep into my brain.

and I said

I love my family, but not enough to stop this bleeding.
I know it’s only me – give me peace, and give me freedom.


I have a little handheld voice recorder that I carry around with me, I use it to record songs, ideas, lyrics, etc. When I was living in LA, I was working at the Grove in Hollywood, and I would park my car on Orange Grove drive and walk to work. One day, I was parking, and I checked my recorder. A song started playing, one that I had no recollection of ever recording. I had never heard the melody before, and I loved it; I listened to it as I walked down Orange Grove drive. Clearly, I had recorded it, because no one used my little recorder except me. It was the melody that would turn into the song Orange Grove.

Later that same evening, I worked out the hammer-ons and pull-offs section, making the song more complex and intricate. I love that hammer-on and pull-off shit.

The lyrics are true enough: I was very addicted to pain killers; I was drinking and doing a lot of drugs, frequently thinking of killing myself, and trying to hold it together because I didn’t want to hurt my family. The song recognizes that change can only come from within, and with a conscious decision to better yourself — there is no other way, and resisting negative conditions in order to save someone else from hurt can only sustain you for so long. There is an underlying glimmer of hope in the song, though, one that would eventually come to fruition years later.

The song was recorded live at Timewarp Records in Los Angeles for my 2013 album “Desperate Times.” If you listen closely to the very end of the song, you can hear a siren in the distance, and Brian, the engineer and my good friend, can be heard saying “Not bad.”

Years later, close to three years later, I would back living in Northern California, finally sober and healthy for once in my life. I had been working on two separate writing projects, I had put together a recording studio in my house, and I was making music videos using professional film editing software on my laptop. The year before, I had heard about NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest from my friend Meg in Sunnyvale. She encouraged me to do it, and the year before, I sent in some bullshit video that kind of had a desk in it or something. It was more so I could just say that I had submitted, with lack of time and effort. This year was different: I had met Ali Adhami, the cinematographer from my music video “Pasadena.” Ali was the one who showed me how to use final cut pro, and with his help I was able to do my projects like The Lorax and Surf Zombies!

I sent Ali the song Orange Grove, because I knew it was short and I knew what I wanted the video to look like in my head, and I knew that Ali had a real knack for angles and shots. We got together and discussed the project, and on a Weds afternoon he came over to my house with his girlfriend Asal and we shot the song for about an hour. Then Ali put the shots onto my laptop and left, and I was left with about an hour worth of footage that I would need to cut and condense into a two and a half minute song. This project only took me about five hours, which is not very long, considering that the Lorax took around thirty. I studied each shot that Ali had taken, and then cut the ones that I wanted to use and went from there, placing the shots in order. The finished video is simple and beautiful; there’s recurring shots of writing, playing music, and a picture. The picture is my youngest sister and I on the beach. It was taken nearly six years ago in Sand City, California.

Regardless of the outcome of the NPR contest, this was an excellent experience that allowed me to maintain complete control of the project, from start to finish. I’d like to thank Ali Adhami and Asal Poursorkh for their outstanding work and professionalism, and thank you to my friends who watch and share this video.

Thank you.

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The Story Of The Shoes! and Dr. Seuss's The Lorax

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss was a story that was read to me as a young child nearly every night when I lived in California with my mother and my stepfather. By the time I was three years old, I had most of the book memorized, just from hearing my parents read it to me so many times. It got to be that I could just look at the page and know exactly what it said. When I was four, my parents moved me to Colorado, where I would spend the next eighteen years.

In seventh grade speech class, our biggest assignment was to memorize a story and present it to the class, acting out the parts and everything. I immediately remembered The Lorax from my childhood, and with a little refreshing, and slightly abridging the classic book, it all came back to me. I got the highest grade in the class, and the book stayed in the back of my mind through most of high school; that is, I never forgot all those words.

When I was eighteen, a senior at Durango High, I began to jam with Dustin Krupa: he was on acoustic bass, and I was on guitar, vocals, and occasionally the harmonica. I had already written a lot of songs by my senior year, songs that would eventually come to full fruition after I was done with school, and playing in a band with Dustin. Some of these songs were:

1. Secret
2. Killing the Ego
3. The Beautiful Angel
4. Trazodone
5. After The Love Is . . .

All of these songs I wrote before or at the age of eighteen. At the time, Dustin was seventeen years old. This was in 2005.

Dustin and I spent a lot of time together combining my lyrics with his amazingly fluid and foundational bass lines, and I was showing him songs that I had worked out already, and he’d come up with bass parts. Dustin, who I called D, was kind of a musical genius on the bass. We would ditch class and get stoned and work out all these songs, and one time we ditched English class and drove to Silverton, Colorado, which is a tiny mountain town with hardly anyone there. We smoked some weed, and I got way too high and paranoid for a while, and then D and I started playing on the street as it was getting dark. Suddenly, a guy came out of a brewery and asked if we wanted to come in and jam. D and I agreed, and this older guy, probably in his mid thirties, took out his djembe and really started grooving with one of Dustin’s bass lines. The man’s name was Austin, he was a stoic dude who had a really solid percussion technique unlike anything I’d ever seen. I really got into the jam too, and just like that, we were playing a song that would later be called “Turn Me On.” Austin gave D and I some tequila, and we played music all night with him, drinking and smoking bud. It was very organic, beautiful, natural. That night, we formed The Shoes!

The Shoes! was a band name that I had toyed around with in high school. I added the exclamation point so it could be a little more definitive, and excited like. After school, I ran away from home so I could drink and do drugs and write and play music and get famous. I was a punk at the time: I had a mohawk, my clothes were tattered and torn and filthy, and I was living in this trashy little trailer with a bunch of people, sleeping on the floor. It was cool at the time, because I was free and it was wild, but I really didn’t have any direction other than the music and the poetry that I was writing. I knew that it would all work out somehow, but things never really go according to plan.

D and I were putting together a lot of songs, and Austin would jam out with us, and we’d show him songs like “Little Girl,” “The New One,” “Secret,” etc. The song that meant the most to me was called “Pac Man Blues.” The music came to me when we were playing a house party in New Mexico, just two chords that we jammed on indefinitely, and it really moved me. The lyrics were put together with the song later on, taking parts from poems that I had written, one called Pac Man Blues, and the other called The Surgeon. And then in the middle, I just made up some Jim Morrison sounding shit about drowning the sea and a girl taking my hand and etc.

Now back to The Lorax: I started messing around with the three chords that would eventually make up the entire song of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, just C9, G, and D. At first, I wanted to put the music to a Shel Silverstein poem that was all about doing a lot of drugs, and this guy goes on a journey to a cave, and I really don’t remember much more about it. So while I was trying to figure out this poem to put with the song, I remembered The Lorax, and it was perfect. It came together so nicely, and like I said I had never forgotten all those words. The song was easy for me, but it was impressive and unique to recite an entire Dr. Seuss book to original music by heart.

The Shoes! would play at coffee shops and at bars, playing songs like Pac Man Blues and Turn Me On, and Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, with Austin on his djembe. It sounded good. Later, we jammed with Austin in Silverton again, and he had his drum set, so we amped up and I showed the guys some electric songs I had written like “Set Me Free,” “Trazodone,” and “Killing The Ego,” which was a hip hop experiment. Also, we could play some of the acoustic songs electrically and give them a whole different sound.

Austin knew a guy named Greg who owned a theatre in Farmington, New Mexico, called the Totah Theatre. It was this glorious spacious theatre, and we went there to jam once, and Greg really liked us, and he offered to record our set. So, D would drive us both to Farmington, where we’d set up on this beautiful stage and play these songs acoustically with Austin, all mic’d up, and it was so much fun. The theatre made us sound so good, like natural warmth and reverb, and the vibe was so chill, just us playing in this massive empty concert theatre. We’d all three go out for breaks and smoke weed or drink, and D and I would smoke cigarettes, and then we’d go back in all stoned and a little buzzed and record some more. The acoustic set was finished in a night, and we had done Pac Man Blues, Turn Me On, Little Girl, Dig This, Secret, The New One (which D wrote and I improvised on), and I did two solo songs: “The Beautiful Angel,” and “After The Love Is . . . ” Then, we recorded the Lorax. It was improvised mostly by D and Austin, going off of my cues. We ran through it once, and then recorded it all in one take. Pretty fucking good, man.

A little funny note: D and I were on a little bit of mushrooms when we recorded the acoustic set, and I didn’t have any glasses or contacts in, because I didn’t have any money to buy glasses at the time, so I was blind and tripping a little bit the whole set. It made us sound better, I think. I couldn’t imagine recording any other way at the time.

The next night we did an electric set, and recorded early versions of “Trazodone,” “Killing The Ego,” and “Set Me Free.” I had shown D the notes to Trazodone only minutes before we recorded it, so that’s why there’s a few bass flubs in the song. We were much more comfortable playing acoustically, but it was great to get that side of our music on the album too. So now, we had a twelve track album to our name. I decided to call it “It’s The Shoes!”

D and I manufactured two hundred albums or so in his parent’s attic; we’d go to Staples and buy a “make your own cd” kit and put them together while we drank and smoked and I took pills. Dustin’s parents were totally supportive of our music, and even paid Greg for recording us, just so we were square with him. I love D’s parents. My sort of girlfriend Chandra did all the cover art for the album on photoshop, and it looked really nice. Now we had a product to sell at our shows, although I’d end up getting fucked up and giving a lot of cds away, especially to pretty girls.

The problem with Austin was that he was so damn unreliable; sometimes he would just disappear off of the radar and we couldn’t get a hold of him at all. D and I would have to play shows just us two, which wasn’t bad, but it was nicer with Austin to groove off of. Eventually, I had to kick him out of the band, which hurt. I really loved Austin; he was the only drummer that I really cared about.

I still remember this one time with him, on Christmas Eve. I had driven to visit Austin in Silverton, all high and little buzzed, and we stayed up all night talking about music and life. We smoked a little bud, and Austin had all this wine. We ended up going through a few bottles, and I went to go to the bathroom, and when I came out, Austin was standing right by the door with a black top hat on, kind of dancing, and the look on his face with his glasses on makes me laugh even when I’m writing this.
Austin is a Leo, and I am too, so sometimes we’d fight about stupid shit. Another problem was that Austin was so much older than D and I; he was like thirty four and we were only kids, wanting to get high and play music and be all famous. It hurt to have to kick Austin out of the Shoes! because he was an original Shoe, and no one could really replace him.

Eventually, D and I kept jamming and writing new songs, and we met this kid named Nick who was a killer drummer. But Nick didn’t play djembe, so he started learning it for our acoustic sets, but it never sounded very good. We were much more of an electric band now, so we changed our names to Strange New Shoes (I thought of that name), and recorded a full length professional album in Durango, Colorado. We had written a lot of new songs, and we revamped many of the old songs from “It’s The Shoes!” album. The new album was called “Dig This.” It’s still available on itunes and amazon and iheartradio and all that shit.

The biggest problem with Strange New Shoes was that we were way too cocky, or at least I was, big time. I felt like the whole world owed us some kind of recognition and that we were already famous, although we were only well known in town. So, Nick wanted us to move to Boulder so we could start playing in the city, and D and I moved with him to his parent’s house. This was the biggest mistake that would eventually cost us the band and end my musical relationship with Dustin Krupa. In Boulder, D and I set up shows everywhere, sometimes we were playing four or five shows a week. Only no one knew who were, so we’d be playing five shows a week to empty bars and theaters, and getting all pissed off and fucked up because it wasn’t working out like we thought it should. D and I were drinking way too much during this time, and we didn’t have jobs, because we were set on this music thing. But in retrospect, we just ended up ripping off Nick’s parents and drinking ourselves stupid for a year. I was twenty one, D was twenty, and so was Nick. Finally, things came to a head with Nick and I. To be honest, I never really liked him all that much, although he was (and still is, I’m sure) an incredibly talented and passionate drummer. I never should have continued to work so closely with someone that I couldn’t stand. D got two DUIs in the course of a month, which was really bad, so he moved back to Durango, and I stayed in Boulder for a week or so, and then went back to Durango too, where I was totally broke and pretty much homeless. There, I tried to patch things up with D, telling him that we could start over, that we could keep The Shoes! going. But he looked at me and told me: “Move on without me, dude. Don’t depend on me anymore.” That really hurt.

I ended up moving back to California, where I started my own solo career, playing different instruments and only allowing other musicians to play with me as “projects,” not as a band. I have not played in a band since I lost The Shoes! My life in California has been well documented on my website, and my past, from age eighteen to twenty eight, is part of a novel I’m working out called “A Tragedy Of Youth.” The book has A LOT OF DRUGS.

After I finally started getting my shit together at age twenty eight, I started getting into sound recording and film editing, so I was able to make a music video for my song called Surf Zombies! It was through this project that I was able to get the fundamental knowledge and techniques to take on a project as intense as Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. The Lorax took me over a month, probably twelve to fifteen hours all together, and I think that this is the strongest, most unique project I’ve ever done. I’d like to thank my good friend Ali Adhami, who showed me how to use the Final Cut Pro X software, and teaching me how to work with different methods of film downloads. This project has been something I’ve wanted to do for years and years now, and it’s only recently that I’ve been able to realize some of these goals. Now I can look forward to releasing the long awaited album “It’s The Shoes!” online. This is the first time any of these songs have been available to anyone outside of our close friends and early fans, and now when you listen to the album, you can know the story behind it all.

Thanks for reading.

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The Making Of Surf Zombies!

Surf Zombies! was originally a project that I hoped to complete in Los Angeles, while I lived there. It was called “Surf’s Up!” and I planned to record it at Timewarp Studios, playing all the instruments myself. I took to the internet to raise some funds for recording time, and quickly raised two hundred and fifty dollars, which I set aside. It was around this time that things started to fall apart for me in a myriad of ways: my relationship with my girlfriend was rapidly deteriorating in a fury of alcohol and drug use, I was broke, and I had to leave LA in a hurry. Using the money that I had raised, I hightailed it up to Nor Cal to relax for a few weeks, which would eventually become a permanent change of location. During this time, I was seriously addicted to pills, both opiates and head pills; I was drinking and smoking, and as I struggled with this addiction, I tried to figure out how I was going to record this surf song.

There is a live version of Surf Zombies! taken from my live album “Casey Wickstrom: Live @ The Pocket, Santa Cruz.” It had been titled “Surf’s Up!” which was also the name of a song by the Beach Boys. Although I liked the energy of the track, it was obvious to me that I needed to record a studio version, which would be much more controlled and professional sounding. It was interesting for me to have a live track prior to a recorded one — usually it’s the other way around: studio song, then a live track.

In Nor Cal, I quickly fell into a routine of drinking and popping an enormous amount of pills, hanging out with close friends, and playing music very seriously and consistently, setting up live shows all over and learning new songs for my sets. I had not forgotten about the surf track; rather, it dominated my thoughts every day. I couldn’t fall asleep without my feet tapping to the beats that I heard in my head. I also felt that I owed it to the financial backers — I felt responsible to record the song, and as soon as possible, but I also felt obliged to produce a strong track that I could market and grow, and stand behind. A single to add to my growing song list.

Eventually, I was introduced to Leo Fernando, a producer at Freestyle Studios in Mtn View, at the high school. We met through a mutual friend who is a fan of my music, and we set a goal to record the single in the summer. I practiced the song by looping the bass line with my loop pedal; trying to figure out what parts to put where. I quickly set up some practice times with my bassist Bob Lanz, whom I’ve recorded and played numerous live shows with, and we began to figure out how we wanted to lay down the track. Bob would be a very crucial part of the process: because of my constant and heavy drug use, I would fall into deep depressions, become dangerously overwhelmed, and come very close to scrapping the whole project. Bob helped to keep me accountable to the song, and during the actual recording, he was a grounding force that allowed me to think clearly and move smoothly through the recording process.

For drums on the track, I had hoped to use Josh Gardner, of local band Sweet Hayah fame, who was also the drummer on my live Santa Cruz album. Josh is an amazing drummer, but he was never reliable, and I could never get him to commit to the recording date. When Bob and I went into the studio, I had to lay down the drum tracks myself, which was a little stressful, but I knew exactly what to do, and how I wanted the parts to fit together. The drums tracks were done within three takes.

The night before the recording session, I drank my ass off and really got down with the song, looping the fuck out of it, going over each solo section meticulously, really defining what I wanted. This was at my friend Tony’s house in Sunnyvale, where I had spent a considerable amount of time since I’d been back up from LA. During that night, in a flash of insight, I decided to call the song “Surf Zombies!” which was a better title, and much more suitable for me, since I love horror films, zombies and cannibals, violence, etc. Bob and I went over the vocal tracks together in the studio, screaming “Surf Zombies!” and everything. The evil laugh that you hear in the track is me, which was a spur of the moment thing. The crash, or the explosion that you hear in the beginning at the end with the “Woo!” is me cracking my tube amp: I angled it up and dropped it back on the floor (which is awful for the amp). I wanted this sound, like a crack or burst; it was reminiscent of the Pixies for me, and also reminded me of a breaking wave.

The studio time was good. We had finished, and Leo went on to mix the track down in Japan, where he was spending the summer. It was now near my twenty seventh birthday. The drugs were really controlling my life, and bad, so I decided that I would kill myself after the release of Surf Zombies! and just get it over with. After emailing a little back and forth with Leo about the mixing quality and the drum tracks, I had a pretty solid track. I got the artwork done by my friend Micah, who does nearly all of my artwork for the site and for my albums, using the main image from Lucio Fulci’s film “Zombie,” with the tagline “We Are Going To Eat You!” I had been looking for other images before Bob and I settled on Fulci’s. I put the single online for all to hear, making sure that all the financial backers got their credit. Then, I took all the pills that I had saved and fell asleep, hoping that I would never wake up, and it would finally be over.

I didn’t have enough pills to do me in, and after my attempt, there were no more pills for a while, so I had to continue living. I was happy with the song, although I wasn’t happy with my life, and what I had become. My depression and drug use would come to a head when I overdosed on prescription pain killers, and I had to quit the pills cold turkey. After nearly four months of no pills (although I still drank and smoked and did a little coke), I had become so suicidal that now ending my own life seemed like the only option. In a final act of desperation, I admitted myself to the psychiatric ward at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, where I was placed on suicide watch for nearly a week. There, I was put back on anti-depressant medicine, and an anti-psychotic for bi-polar and major depression. After I left, I completely changed my lifestyle, maintaining a life of complete sobriety, taking up yoga four to five times a week, and taking care of myself.  Within months, I began to change into a healthy human being, something I had not been for years and years. I finally felt alright, and I decided to invest in a home music studio.

After purchasing an interface and compatible recording software, and learning (at least a little) about how to work it, I decided to change a few things with Surf Zombies! For instance, the crash in the beginning was extended and the vocals were echoed. The biggest change was that I extended the bridge to four measures in order to add a saxophone solo. Unfortunately, the recording session for the sax didn’t come out sounding too hot, so I had to put it on hold, but the song was longer, and in my mind, more complete. I also altered the drum line in the introduction for the drums, which had a little hiccup previously. So now, when the drums kick, it goes straight into a punk rock surf beat, no disconnect.

I had wanted to make a video for some time after the recording, long before my stay at Stanford, and even prior to my suicide attempt. I had wanted to use images from some of my favorite zombie movies, preferably Italian gore films with poor editing and awful dubbing, made just for tasteless enjoyment. However, I didn’t want to get sued, and I wasn’t even sure how I could go about making and editing a music video. I had put together a film crew for another music video, for my song Pasadena, which was filmed in a day around the foothills of Silicon Valley. This was an excellent learning process for me, and I was able to make friends with people who knew much more about the technical side of film than I did. The cinematographer for the Pasadena project, Ali, really enjoyed working with me, and I with him, so we kept in touch after the Pasadena video shoot. I had expressed my interest in editing and making music videos by myself, and I had explained how, when I lived in LA, a friend had given me some film editing software called Final Cut Pro. It was installed on my laptop, but I had never used it. I wasn’t even sure if it worked.

Ali opened the software and was surprised that I had it. Final Cut Pro is a very expensive professional film editing program, and I had gotten it installed on my laptop for free. Ali showed me the basics of how to transfer and convert films and videos onto the software, and how to edit and cut, and I began getting into some projects on my own. I was working on a video for my song “Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax,” which gave me practice on using the program and putting it to good use. It was fun and also infuriating at the same time: cutting and pasting different clips to fit together with music was certainly a challenge, but very rewarding when done right.

I talked to my uncle about my idea for Surf Zombies! and how I wanted to go about it. The thing was, I told him, I didn’t want to get sued. “Just use free-domain films,” he told me, and a light went off in my head. I hadn’t even thought of that! I searched the web looking for free domain zombie movies and I came across one from 1974 called “Horror Of The Zombies.” It looked perfect, and although I couldn’t download it from the web, I knew that I had to use it. It took a little searching to find a DVD of the film, because with a lot of these shitty Italian movies, they were distributed under a variety of names. “Horror Of The Zombies” was also known as “The Ghost Galleon,” so that’s what I purchased from Amazon (where most of my horror movie collection stems from). I put the film onto my laptop, and went to work cutting the scenes up to fit with the song. It took me two days, probably six to eight hours of staring at my computer screen, listening to the same fragments of the same song for hours at a time, over and over and over again, trying to fit each piece of the puzzle together. I had to walk away a few times to cool down, so I wouldn’t completely destroy my laptop in a fit of rage. At the end of the project, I felt very happy with it. I was able to incorporate some cool techniques in the editing, like slow motion and cut aways to the cues in the music. A lot of this work was done at the Starbuck’s near my house in Cupertino.

I had wanted to release the film on or around Halloween, Halloween being the preferred date. However, I didn’t want to put up anything that I wasn’t completely satisfied with, so I was ready to release the video whenever I felt it was ready; I didn’t want to put too much energy into a due date. One of the biggest changes that I’ve had to implement in my life since leaving Stanford was actually taking my time with things. So, I tried not to emphasize a finish time, and one day I woke up, did some final edits, and after a few run throughs, I was happy with the whole thing, and I put the video on youtube. This was the day before Halloween.

To me, Surf Zombies! is a very special project, one that has stayed with me through some very dark and intense times. No one really listens to surf music anymore — at least I don’t know of anyone personally who is really into it, so it felt good to create an homage to the music style of surf, and also incorporate some seventies Italian horror in there. This project was very fulfilling to me, and after its completion, I know that there will be many more projects to come.

Fuck yeah.

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Durango, Colorado: Cascade Falls, Trimble Hot Springs, Hermosa Valley

The past three days have been a whirlpool of memories and places and people, all coming back to me in a new light. This town is not much different than it was when I was living here: the places are strikingly still the same, the people haven’t changed much at all. I drive down the streets and highways as if I’m driving through a dream, yet I’m taking it all in with a new set of eyes. The dreams that I have had about these places (cascade falls, my old neighborhoods, places and trigger points and emotions attached to my mind) have been realized now; I’ve made a list and I’ve been slowly, easily crossing off the items. People that I needed to meet have crossed paths with me organically, downtown, easily – the perk of a small town.

And now, I think of the drive: a fifteen hour straight shot through southern California and then through Nevada, with the desert sunset in all it’s glory setting in a thick fervent pastel glow in my rear view mirror, the smell of rain, light desert rain coming through my cracked windows, my a/c. And then a long haul through Arizona, close to the Grand Canyon, the windows rolled down as I let the cold night air rage into my car’s cockpit, the smell of pine and cool nature night, a wild natural high, like a pure deep breath of oxygen, exhilarating, the wind deafening, the music blaring. I push onward; I’ve brought with me three shirts, two jeans, four socks, some toiletries . . . I haven’t brought my guitar – this trip is not a musical one. My monkey George sits shotgun, buckled in with my mag-light. I have a bottle of natural diet pills, hardcore energy that keeps me awake and focused, driving on at a set eighty five miles per hour. I stop four times for gas on the eleven hundred mile run – my car’s thermostat goes high, and my heart rate follows, down the deserted night roads of Arizona; my pulse raising and falling with the fluctuating needle, which finally settles down into neutral, and I ride on.

Ten miles from Durango and my excitement is at fever pitch – the rain comes down in hard sheets, my wipers moan back and forth at their highest rate. I pull into town, spinning a bit in my head, taking it in at 6am (5am California time). I call Ann, head out to her house, drive up the steep dirt road to her modern adobe mansion on the ridge outside of town, near Hermosa Valley. The house is immense, large and grand, with heated floors, views that take my breath away. I feel at home immediately; Ann is family. We go to the diner downtown, although I’ve taken my sleeping pills – I took them when I got into town, figuring I’d fall asleep as soon as I arrived at Ann’s; however, upon my arrival, I have a burst of fresh energy, the sun rising over the majestic mountains that have their full view obstructed by low hanging sheets of fog from the rains. Clouds move and the day starts.

Shopping for food after the diner, then I go home and sleep for two hours. Deep dreams of frantic motion that wake me up for a sharp split moment before I fall back in almost immediately. Go to the lookout at the top of Ann’s house, surrounded by mountains and swaying deep green pine trees, the sun is close and the air is clean and thin outside. The clouds are mammoth and whiter than I’ve seen; the fringes of the cirrus clouds morph and change like cream being poured into coffee. Then the rain comes, light at first, but steady, so I go back inside. Another nap, then dinner: I cook filet mignon, with shitake mushrooms in a red wine sauce; a salad before with grilled tomatoes, goat cheese, and balsamic vin.

Earlier in the day Ann and I visited Apple Orchard Inn, down the road, where I used to work as a kid. I’m a little loopy from the drive and the pills, but I’ve had so many dreams about this place that I can’t pass up the chance to relive it all once again. Familiar faces in the small supermarket aisles. I haven’t told anyone that I’m in town; no posts on social media, no excessive phone calls or texts – this trip is for me and me only. And the days that follow, I drive downtown, walk the streets, take in the smells, the sites, the old feelings that I once worked so hard to forget, but couldn’t. I drive to the valley, into the playground of my old neighborhood, by the creek where I’ve had dreams, under trees that I would climb as a kid, breathing in the smells, taking in the memories and making a new connection with my current present moment sensations. I hike to the place where I camped for an entire summer, the place where the songs “Pasadena” and “Upper Hermosa Mtn. Blues” originated from. I take pictures fervently, from all angles, for the book that I wrote. I drive by houses where I lived, places I’ve worked; not a moment goes by where I’m triggered and snapped back to strange far away sensations of another life – every building, every passing house and store and park and tree and road and mountain is a connection to a story, a memory, and I take it all in, completely open. I have not been here in more than five years.

I eat at old favorite restaurants; I cross everything that I do off of the list I’ve made. Trimble, with it’s hot springs and sauna, I spend all day there, my haven, my safe place, roasting in the waters, more relaxed than I’ve been in recent memory, which actually says a lot. I breathe in the air, the smells, the sensations of the valley, the trees and lush greenery, the mountains, my eyes drink in the sky and the surrounding nature. I drive to Dalton Ranch, the bridge, walk out of my car and stand on the outside of the railing, looking down thirty feet in the deep green waters of the Animas river. My nerves get to me; it’s nearly twenty minutes before I launch myself off of the bridge: the green water comes rushing towards me, and then I’m immersed in it’s cold green moving current, the sound of impact is deafening before I plunge completely under, where the dulled sound of bubbles and the hum of the river fills my ears. I swim in the river and let the current take me to a small section of rapids; lying straight on my back, my feet up in the air, I’m taken down the rapids into a mellow spot, where I climb out. My throat hurts from swimming, my breath is hot fire in my throat as I wander back to my car, nearly naked, my body cold but alive in the hot Colorado sun. Back to Trimble, the hot water again; I stay until close.

Then downtown for a moment, but only a moment, because upon entering a bar where my friend is, I am immediately reminded why I left this place, and what I hate the most – the drunk dirty hippies dancing to deafening robot music, dumb sluts and douchebag guys that are constantly in your way. I help my friends load up their musical equipment (they had just finished their set when I arrived), and then I leave, back to the adobe mansion on the ridge. Make a steak for dinner, relax and listen to jazz, and eventually fall asleep.

Now it’s today. I sit on the bed in the adobe mansion writing this all out, waiting for Ann to return from Santa Fe (where she was at the opera; I took care of her dog while she was away. I spent the night walking around her house naked). We’re going to have dinner tonight, her and I. Earlier today, I met with an old friend, friend being a tentative term, because this is a girl that I had somewhat dated for three months or so before initially moving to California. Years have passed, and we meet downtown by the train station. She’s still the same little cute blonde girl with beautiful blue eyes and a beautiful face, and her body is still nice, except she’s pregnant, so that’s different than when I saw her last. Her baby is due in January. She says what all the girls from my past say to me: “You look exactly the same.” Which to me, is the best compliment I could ever receive. I’m happy to be in Durango, sober and healthier, both physically and mentally, than I’ve ever been in my entire life. We go to a pizza place, where I find my old best friend and bassist Dustin works, and his new wife, is also there. It’s easy seeing them both; there’s nothing there. I feel nothing, and it feels good.

Mean leaves, another person with another life now, and I drive north. North, past Baker’s Bridge, past the ski resort, past million dollar houses set up against the backdrop of mountains with oceans of aspen trees, mountains with a Monet sea of deep green pine trees that go seemingly on forever, and I arrive at Cascade Falls. I’m alone, my excitement and nervousness are competing for my full attention as I hike down into the canyon wearing nothing by my shorts and my shoes. The rocky thin path leads to the creek, running calmly (at first) over smooth colorful rocks and boulders and pebbles. I begin to trek into the water; it’s frigid, clean as crystal, bright and thin, rushing at an easily moving pace. And then I drop further into the canyon; the stone walls on each side of me are incredibly tall sheer straight cliffs that echo the roar and slap of the approaching challenge of the falls. I reach the first level of the falls; a cliff of smooth shale rock that I stand on, and I barely hesitate at all before I leap and plunge into the icy pool of clean clear water, where there is a rush and roar of the currents that pull you with the unrelenting and uncaring power of nature, of rushing water. After the first cliff jump, you’ve committed yourself to running the entire falls. There is a section of the run that once you’ve passed it, it would be impossible to go back. Once you’re in, you’re in.

I’ll be the first to admit that it was stupid of me to go alone. Had something happened, anything, there would be no one there to save me, and my body would have been found later in the day by a group of kids running the falls themselves. But I have run Cascade countless times (though always with friends), and this trip was focused exclusively on my own journey. So there I stood on a boulder, cold water rushing over my soaked purple and black Vans, and I take a breath and leap in. The water is frigid and deep, I touch bottom, but not hard – it feels amazing. I feel alive. The run has begun. I pass through the canyon’s levels with it’s sections of raging water, cascading and flowing furiously down boulders and into deep clear pools. I make sure to jump in where it looks deepest, making sure to not get my feet caught up in any rocks, not to get dragged under by the cold currents that swirl and move with intensity. Muscle memory kicks in; each level of the falls goes deeper and deeper into the canyon, and I’m reminded of the little tricks: where to jump, where to climb, how to jump so not to hurt myself or drown. The whole time, I am high on adrenaline, my body is not cold, I’m focused and real – on the second to last cliff, I’m up about fifteen feet over a pool. I look up at the sky, the trees overlooking the deep thin canyon, I breathe in the air, and I jump. My shoes are heavy, soaked, filled with water and pebbles that have snuck in them. At last I reach the waterfall, the end of the falls. I look around, and jump it, landing in the big pool. I swim to shore, and trek back up into the trees and rocks and plants, all the way back to the car. The entire run lasts only around half an hour. At the car, the inside of my ears are icicles, my head is frozen in a high dull whine. I am alive.

I find myself at Trimble again, in the sauna, sweating heavy, dunking myself in the creek behind the building (no one knows about it), sitting in the hot water, floating, holding myself under. Peace . . .

Ann and I have dinner at a nice restaurant. She’s one of my favorite people in the whole world, so smart and fun. We really have a great connection, like best friends. I sleep heavy at night, fulfilled.

I leave the next day, after breakfast with Ann. I take off into the early afternoon. Fifteen hours passes by like melting wax. Once again, I make the drive in a steady shot, arriving back in San Jose around three am.

I won’t be back in Durango for a very long time.

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Desperate Times: The Making Of A New Album

Hey there!

Christ in Heaven, I’ve been busy. Long hours at the restaurant, transitions in relationships, musical excursions, and extreme circumstances of change, confusion, exhilaration, depression, and ultimately, progression. Musically, I feel the strongest I have ever been – my new songs are some of the truest songs that I’ve ever played; the composition of them are incredibly challenging for me as a guitarist. I feel like I have risen to a new level of writing and playing – I’ve run these songs over for miles and miles, and still they feel new each time I play them. Recording will happen soon.

A moment of explanation for my four month hiatus from blogging and being socially active online: I hate social media. My disdain for the world wide web can easily be recognized in my absence from all things web related: I have a twitter account, Facebook, reverbnation, bandcamp, myspace, gmail – all these platforms of expression that I refuse to utilize due to a simple thought: it’s not real or sincere. I feel guilty when I’m on these social media sites, because I don’t care about them. And then I turn the mirror onto myself and say: who cares about what I have to say? It all seems so superficial to me, and I truly lack the energy to persevere through these thoughts and join the billions of others who truly feel like they have something to say. This is not coming from a place of pretentiousness, it’s coming from a place of concern for myself, from a place of wanting more. Typing is not talking, a connection online can only be so real until it falls flat into the archives of past posts or conversations. And so, with my explanation finished, I’d like to offer an apology to all of those who are curious about what I’m up to, who want to know what’s happening in my life. I can tell you where I’m at in my life in a few words, and believe me when I say that, in a nutshell, this is my life:

I work 40 hours a week at Maggiano’s in West Hollywood, I play and write music in my house, I’m trying to save up to record my fourth album, I’m seeing a beautiful girl in LA, and I’m working at Bar Pico in Santa Monica running the open mic and other shows from the bar.

My new album: Desperate Times.

Due Date: TBA


1. Desperate Times
The title track; an instrumental track, with my lap slide drenched in fuzz and distortion, raw and raucous, with stoic and solid drums by Jason Mongo Blaustein. This was the first song I wrote on the lapslide after the car accident. It’s a pretty solid way to start my 4th album.

2. Orange Grove
A short song that was created long before I knew it, rediscovered while walking down Orange Grove Avenue in Los Angeles. While reaching through the archives of my mini handheld recorder, I heard a tune that I don’t remember having ever played. Since my recorder is exclusive to only myself, I had to have written it – I just don’t know when or where. Regardless, the tune stayed with me, and I wrote more onto it later that week. It is one of the hardest songs to play, compositionally speaking. Pull offs, hammer ons, rhythmic picking, all sets me up for a very beautiful song, if I can make it through without any fuck ups. This song is about drug addiction.

3. Culver Blvd.
A song written by my younger brother Gregory, on the piano, while we were living together in a small apartment on Culver Blvd near Marina del Rey. Also an instrumental, I was a witness to the transformation of this song while Greg worked on it every night. When he left Los Angeles, my heart was broken (it is now stronger because of Greg’s decision), and I was left without a recording of his song. I had to teach myself the melody, and transfer the entire song to my guitar. This track is not the same song, but it will have to do for now. Eventually, I might have a recording of Greg’s version, on the original instrument.

4. Teen Spirit
A previously untitled cover song, written over the course of three months. This song was a catalyst for my insane leap into a more musically active lifestyle and world. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, I didn’t think about anything except this song, and the words just came to me without thinking. I didn’t write the lyrics, but it doesn’t matter. I didn’t have a choice in making the song what it became. I feel like I am just the instrument, and this song plays me.

5. Bonni
This is a song that I wrote when I was twenty, about heartbreak and darkness. When I wrote the music, I was lying in a tent on a beach near San Luis Obispo, with my first love. The song came into my head, and I sank into the sand and disappeared into the deepest sleep that I have ever had. The melody had no words. The words came half a year later, when I walked away from the first girl I had ever had, and fell into a world of intense confusion, abandonment, homelessness, and addiction. I wrote the words into a blue notebook, sleeping in a camper in the wintertime. The words and melody finally mixed together in a cheap hotel room that I was living in, while the Colorado snow fell, and the heat in the room was turned up all the way. Six years later, this song still rings true, not for the same girl, but for a few others that I’ve had and lost since.

6. Divine Intervention
A song by Courtney Rice, with the music composition by myself, on drums and guitars.

7. The Drug Song
This is a tough one. It’s such a good song, but it’s so fucking bad too. I wrote the first verse, and the chorus, while fucked up, sitting in my living room on Richard Ave. in Durango, Colorado, surrounded by friends just as fucked up, if not more, than me. Later on in life, I got sober for three years. Then the car crash. Then the relapse. Then this song. Featuring Andie Evans on bass and harmonies, she was actually the push that this song needed. I ran through the short, incomplete song for her, and she sang “Co-caine. . . ” and I wrote the rest of it later that week. Blame some of this song on her. Maybe like 20%. What I like about this song is that it doesn’t mess around. There’s no euphemisms, or beating around the bush on a topic that is really prevalent in society. I think it’s brave, and I also think that a lot of people will have a problem with it. If so, great. ps. A youtube music video might be in the works. Just saying.

8. Broken Girl, vol. 2
I love this song. With Jason on drums, we worked it into a whole new track. Worth putting on the album, no doubt. It rocks harder, and the quality is different from Broken Girl (on 1984 Sessions, 2012).

And there you have it. Possibly out of order, these are the eight songs that I will soon be able to share with anyone who wants to listen.

Talk soon,

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Universal Dance Party: A short story


Universal Dance Party

Forward by Dr. Gregory Wilson:

My name is Dr. Gregory C. Wilson, I am a licensed psychiatrist. I have been practicing for many years, nearly fifteen, in fact, and have published a number of articles and books dealing with anxiety, mood patterns, and overcoming various emotional fears and triggers. The book you are holding contains a story that I did not write; rather, I received the following story in the mail, from a previous patient of mine that I had not heard from in some time. As it turned out, I found his journey to be quite remarkable, and I transcribed it from his notebook onto my own computer, making sure to maintain the anonymity of the author, as well as the integrity of the original source. As a year or so passed, I found myself more and more taken by the story, and reached out to a friend of mine who is a publisher for a small company in Seattle, Washington. He too found the story strange and intriguing, and was able to pull some strings and have it published in a few small magazines. 

I of course remember this patient very well, and his temporary disappearance certainly put me in a place of unease. His condition was something that I had not quite seen in all my years of practice -- and yet now, as I write this forward upon the insistence of the publisher, I realize that this story involves much more than just myself and my previous patient, who remains nameless throughout. My publisher chose the title, and I approved. The following was taken from the notebook of a previous patient of mine, during and after the course of treatment. There have been minor corrections as to the spelling and some grammatical errors, and that is all. The story has been titled “Universal Dance Party.”

Thank you,

Gregory Wilson, MD.


Universal Dance Party



It all started when I saw a dead crow on the sidewalk in West Hollywood, near the Grove. I was walking along the hot stinky streets in Los Angeles, while traffic blared and busses roared by, and myriads of people moved along past me in all different directions. It smelled like sunlight roasted food garbage. Then I looked down, and I saw the corpse of a crow on the pavement; it had been dead for a while, maybe over a week or so, it’s eyes were maggot infested, writhing in and out and around it’s dead little skull. . . at first, I felt nothing. And then, suddenly, I felt the death, the sickness, the darkness began to expand in my own skull. I could feel an overwhelming drop into another world of wonder - like I was behind the screen of a movie theatre,  and I could feel the maggots in my own eyes, and I was them, too:  squirming hungrily, naturally, without remorse or any question of eating into a dead animal’s brains. I was now again the dead crow, I knew of it’s entire life, my life, flying and eating worms and bread and trash, apples from trees that had fallen into gutters; the dark nights that I spent huddled on the tops of power lines and tree branches, illuminated only by the ugly yellow lights that warmed the smog in the city sky. The mirror-like illusion of my feathers, rainbow colored ashes shining in the sunlight. I recalled the nights I spent alone, my head and beak buried in my chest, thinking of things that only crows and birds think of, the names of trees, telephone poles, all in the language of birds squawking loudly, singing, calling out. And I remembered too, the massive semi truck windshield window that smacked me into oblivion,  like a whale, into my death, with no regard, no notice at all. Had I only been a small child! If only I been a human passerby and not a crow, left alone on the sidewalk to decay and erode, to be eaten by insects in front of thousands of passing pedestrians, I would not have suffered such natural tragedy! I fell into blackness. I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t have to, since I had been dead for over a week. Yet I could still smell the death, lingering and choking in its suffocating darkness, mixed still with the trash, so thick and heavy and warm - enveloped in a whole different world that I had never known, had never wanted to know. I couldn’t look away, and I cried. Somehow, I was pulled away, although I don’t know how, and I woke up in my room and it was night. That was two days ago.

The next time it happened was a day later: I was waiting tables in a restaurant, having not fully recovered from the bird episode. The event of my life falling into synchronization with the dead crow’s death still lay heavy on my mind. It was unexplainable, really. Perhaps a momentary loss of consciousness, a psychotic episode that was brought on by. . . something. I tried to let it go, like a dream that lingers on your flesh for hours after you’ve had it; an unreal and strongly disorienting sensation that is all too real, yet clearly it is not - it cannot be. Now, I was waiting tables, and one of the tables belonged to a couple, a young man and a girl. They stayed for hours: they were ending their relationship. From what I gathered from the other servers, the guy was breaking up with his girlfriend. In the bits and pieces of their conversation, I merely gathered that neither one of them could reach a common ground with the other. This agreement, this realization, however, did little to minimize the pain that the girl had felt. She began to cry, and when I approached the table to clear off some items, our eyes met, they locked only for a brief second. And then, I instantly fell into despair; her pain was now mine. It was like a punch in the stomach; a sudden and violent drop of fear and approaching tragedy, hopelessness. All was lost. Her heartache choked at my own beating heart, speeding up the pumping blood in a never ending cycle of abandonment, losing someone so special, and yet someone so wrong for me. Wrong for her. What the fuck was happening to me? Her thoughts were now mine; her emotions were suddenly transferred entirely to my very being. I was experiencing a transfusion of a different life, of death, and with no comprehension as to why. And I knew of her past, of mine, with this boy, this young man that was once hers: the nights spent together, the afternoons at coffee shops (the coffee shop where they had met), and I was brought on by the sensations and the ever present nausea that took hold of and twisted my stomach into thick knots, it tickled my throat. The rock in my throat that formed, I hadn’t felt since I was a child - I was dying the death of others; I had found a connection into the galaxies of pain and death that surround us all. This was beyond empathy, worlds away from simple understanding, compassion or of pity. I became a connection, unwillingly, forced into another realm of intense comprehension into the windows of other beings. In a wild panic, yet as controlled as I could possibly be, with tears streaming down my cheeks, my breath catching in a sad uncontrollable range of sobs and whimpers and chokes, I excused myself and left the restaurant. I collapsed in a nearby park under a tree, and as soon as I set my back against the heavy tree, all was silent.

I felt the green intricate leaves glinting in the sun and shuddering, shaking, I could feel each leaf shivering from my arms, my branches; the wind moved my upper body, I shook and swayed in an easy graceful motion, so natural and relaxed, my center of balance so stable and strong. I stayed with the tree, in the tree, as the tree, for an indefinite amount of time. When I was able to leave, it was very dark. I’m not sure how long I was there, or if I ever could’ve left on my own. I had the feeling that I could’ve stayed a tree forever, a leaf, a branch or a twig, surviving years and decades and half centuries and centuries and maybe even longer with astonishing grace, gracefulness I had never even known existed. And as I walked home, I began to run, for all the homeless left out to sleep on the street were all around me, and I could read and feel their thoughts, I suddenly knew exactly what it felt like to live on the streets: the hot, blindingly bright concrete in the day, the cold slabs of gray pavement that sucked the heat from your body in the unflinching Los Angeles night. I felt the toll of heavy drug abuse, of lack of family and friends, hopelessness, helplessness - the road traveled by so many. I tasted their unstable mindset, dirty and twitching fervently with a disconnect of rational thought, like a skipping cd, I felt it all. There was a feeling of deep fear, and of a final submission to the great fear that ate away at these people, ate away at me. I began to run, and as I was running through the streets, the things that I was experiencing sped up, like an intricate and emotional kaleidoscope, weaving endless thoughts and feelings that I now felt. I sprinted through the dirty streets that rained down other’s psyches on my brain; the rain that saturated my body, my very being, so overwhelming and unexplainable that I wished I could die, just evaporate, or get splattered by a semi, as I had been before, as the crow. I was scared, sprinting terrified, and when I went home, the walls were breathing slightly from my manic episode, and I could still hear and feel the subtle remnants of emotions coming from those who lived in the apartments around me: I could experience their vivid and confusing dreams, hear their sleeping thoughts ever so quietly whispering into my brain, my body, through the walls and ceiling and floor. I lay under the covers and closed my eyes. I didn’t dream.

The next day, I called a psychiatrist.

I told him that I couldn’t see him, but I paid for an hour session over the phone.

The questions at first were simple. I had been to a shrink when my parents were divorced, when I was in elementary school. “Are you sad?” She’d ask me. . . Anyways, the initial questions were easy: Did I do drugs? Had I ever done drugs? Was I suicidal? If I was, or if I was thinking about hurting myself or others, it was the psychiatrist's decision as to alerting the police. I agreed to everything in the coolness of my quiet apartment. I had found this man through the yellow pages. “Anxiety Attacks,” the add had said.  

“Are you feeling the way that I feel right now, as we talk over the phone?” He asked me. His name was Dr. Gregory Wilson; he had a soothing, warm, deeper voice. I thought for a moment. I had just woken up an hour or so ago: most of the tenants of the apartment had left for work, or were out and about in the hot bright LA sun running errands. I had been left alone, thank god, with only my own thoughts for a change.

“No,” I told him. 

“There seems to be an emotional, psychological, and physical reaction upon making visual connections, or physical connections: physical being the tree in the park, visually being the woman at the restaurant. And yet, the homeless vagrants and the surrounding tenants in your apartment complex, as you described, suggest otherwise, a purely psychological trigger. It appears to me that you’re experiencing extreme out of body hallucinations coupled with overwhelming anxiety. Would you like me to prescribe you any medication?”

“Anything.” I told him. “Only I don’t know if I can bear going out into the world again. I feel like I can only survive in the woods now, as a tree, or a bush, or something.”

“I understand your hesitation,” Dr. Wilson said patiently, calmly, “but you need to remember that this will all be behind you soon. As intense and real as all of this is - and I’m not minimizing anything you’ve told me or anything that you’ve felt - with the proper help, help being the correct medication and therapy, this will soon be over.”

“It’s hard to imagine.” I told him.

“I understand. At this point, I think it’s best that you trust me. I’ve dealt with similar instances of this in the past - not quite as severe, but just the same, there’s medication for you.” He put in a prescription to a nearby pharmacy. I would have to walk there. I didn’t have a car. And taking the bus would kill me. I knew the people who took the bus - it would be overloaded, I would surely die with the amount of people, all thinking and stinking and worrying and riding and talking and some of them homeless and crazy and violent. . . I would walk.

I put headphones on, I turned up some Brahms to nearly ear splitting volume. I put on some heavy dark sunglasses that I had bought long ago (they were once too dark for me, I rarely wore them until now), and I took the short few blocks trip to the CVS pharmacy. I could still feel the thoughts and emotions of others, although it was like music coming in through a heavy brick wall: dissonant and subtle, yet still there, trying to get through to me. It was with deep concentration and heavy determination that I walked into the pharmacy. I got a prescription of klonopin, with a few small sample sized portions of valium and another of xanax. I had never taken these before, but I knew what they were for. I bought a bottle of water, still letting the Brahms blast in my ears, my eyes hidden behind the dark wall of black glass, and went outside to take a few pills. I’m sure that I was only supposed to take one, but I felt as if I hadn’t slept in years. I was drained both emotionally and physically, having felt and experienced the lives and death of anything that I came into contact with, over and over again. 

I stepped outside to the smell of heat and smog and cigarette smoke, litter on the sidewalk, trash cans full, stinking in the hot bright sun. I threw away the small white paper bags that held the pills, tore open bottles and foil and plastic, and finally, I had a small mountain of pills in the palm of my right hand. I had never abused drugs, but I was never so ready to do so. I would take nearly all of it, I decided right then and there; if it didn’t kill me, then I would reevaluate myself when or if I awoke again. Until then, I looked forward to sleep - a deep forced sleep. And the lingering effect that such drugs would have on me, possibly freeing me from everything I’d experienced for even longer than prescribed, residually carrying over until the next dosage, if there ever was ever another, seemed to be my only salvation. I opened the bottle of ice cold water with my other hand, holding the bottle in the nook of my right arm. Without hesitation, I put all the pills in my mouth, and tilted the bottle to my lips. I swallowed them, choked a moment, drank a little more water, and then walked home. Brahms played loudly in my skull.

Floating. Wasted in a sea of pills. Endless waves of pill induced stupor that crash and wash into me, over me, unrelenting. And yet, I don’t feel anything else. No one, nothing is inside of me anymore, so to speak. The multitude of anti-anxiety pills have done their job - I’ve taken far too much, but I can’t even worry about overdosing. I can’t even worry about anything. The room spins and rolls up and down, but I am the only one in it. No voices or thoughts can reach me now. The experiences of the past few days cannot reach me now. They were real - far too real - but now nothing is. Even the waves of prescription medication that rock my body like a church sermon in the south, pulsing through my bloodstream, carried all over my body through my heart, from my toes to my nose, to my brain and all over again - even this feels dull, unreal. And I love it. My vision fades into dots as the room disappears; it then reappears with the opening of my lead heavy eyelids; again and again, I’m shrouded behind the curtains of my eyelids, dots sparkle and move in the space behind the curtains, and I hope that I die. And I don’t really care. What will these pills do to me? How many have I taken? Who the fuck cares? Anything to keep me from feeling what I’ve felt, what I’ve been, the last few days. No more. Ever. Floating, wasted in a sea of pills. . .

I wake up. I woke up. I don’t know how, or for how long I was out. I woke up on the floor, on my stomach, my face in a lake of cold drool on the wood floor; it was daytime, although that meant nothing to me. I felt drugged, I was drugged, I felt stupid and disconnected to my body: my arms and legs were cut off from my brain, my brain which wasn’t really thinking at all; my limbs lazily moved around experimentally. I didn’t get up off of the floor for what felt like a long time. What day was it? Was I fired from work? Still, nothing mattered: the waves of the drug’s effects still pulsed through me, and I cared about nothing. I closed my eyes, and although I didn’t sleep, I remained on the floor, my eyes closed in blackness, for a long, long time.

“You missed our last appointment, I hope everything is all right.” Dr. Wilson’s voice again, via telephone. It had been two days since we had spoken last. I had taken nearly all of the pills he had prescribed me in less than two days; but to tell him that would be foolish - he would take it as a suicide attempt, which it was in a way, and then we’d have to go down that path - the real problem, I thought, was that I was still alive, and scared to death of suffering another episode or attack, whatever the term. 

“I’m sorry,” I told him, making up something on the spot, still reeling from all the pills. I only had a few left. “The pills worked: I took what was prescribed and I slept for what seemed like an eternity. I haven’t been outside in two days, not since I got the prescription and we last spoke.”

“Alright, then. So you managed to get some sleep in, that’s good.” Dr. Wilson said. He seemed glad. “When do you plan on returning to work, on going outside?” 

“I hadn’t planned on it,” I admitted. Truthfully, nothing of the sort had even crossed my mind. To go outside seemed like going into the realms of hell; it was scary beyond words.

“Well, as your psychiatrist, I strongly recommend that you do not lock yourself in your home out of fear of what might be outside. Let us think of a place that you could go to gather your thoughts and analyze what you’ve been dealing with, in a safe controlled environment.”

“Such as?” I asked.

“Perhaps the park again,” Dr. Wilson suggested. “Let us see if your recent emotional history repeats itself - but this time without the overwhelmingness of other people’s thoughts and emotions overtaking your own. At the park, it seemed as though you were mostly alone; you felt safe there. Why don’t you return there and write what you feel, what you’ve felt these past few days, what you feel has happened, and we can go over all of it during our next session.” 

“Mm.” I said. I wasn’t sold. However, I felt he was right. The park was by far the safest place for me, even more so than my apartment; already the thoughts of my neighbors had begun to creep back in ever so slightly, insidiously, into my own mind. Like a cool sharp subtle breeze that overtakes you in the summertime, I felt it all coming on again. “Alright,” I agreed. “I’ll go, and I’ll bring a notebook.”

“Very good. Like I said, this is something that can be worked on, that can be controlled. You need to have courage, and patience. Thank you for trusting me.” Dr. Wilson was good; he seemed sincere, warm. He was a lifeline to me, he had become one almost instantly.

“Thank you, Dr. Wilson.” I said, and hung up. I drank some juice from my fridge, set myself up with an apple, my headphones and shades, I grabbed a notebook and ventured out towards the park.

I have been here at the park for hours now, writing all of this, everything that has happened up to this point. I’m sitting in the cool green grass, under the shade of the same tree that I had become only days prior. Along my walk to the park, I encountered only a few episodes of deep transfusion to other people. At one point, as I walked down the sidewalk, a homeless man had grabbed my arm. Horrified, I pulled away, but not before I sank into his confusion, his anger, his hunger; I felt, remembered how he had been in the army long ago, had become an alcoholic, was married and then divorced, how he had let his drug addiction to crystal meth and crack cocaine, along with his insatiable drinking problem, take over his life, eventually throwing him out on the street. For a moment, I smelled like he did, I felt filthy and in despair from the inside out, poisoned as he was. I ran away, and the intense sensations eventually subsided, like a waning drug. Then there was a tree, a beautiful thin tree in bloom with gorgeous flowers and lush green leaves, ripe, and drinking in the hot sun. I placed my right hand around it’s trunk, and I immediately anthropomorphically dissolved, evolved into it. This tree was new, young - I was new, young - the life emanated from us, free and loved and rich in life and beauty; we were content. It was hard to pull away; only when I heard the blast of a bus horn to a passing car did I resume back to my walk. The beautiful feeling of peace lasted longer, sustaining in my being for a long while, only subsiding when I reached the park.

And now, I sit on the grass, each green blade telling me a story, singing me a song through my shorts, kissing my legs, whispering and laughing, sleeping and waking. What the fuck am I going to do with myself? The library occurred to me at first as a place to rest, and to gain a handle, a grasp on everything that has been happening to me - maybe there was some literature on my condition - but upon thinking of the Los Angeles libraries, and how they’re basically rent free apartments for the so many vagrants, I thought otherwise. There was too much stimulation there; I’ll remain at the park. Hours keep passing. I am safe here.

I’ve made it home again now, and I’m writing more. 

I made a decision there, at the park: I would not kill myself. This strangeness that has overtaken me can be made into more of a gift than a hindrance; this was the realization that my time at the park brought on. And I could always have the pills as an out; a last resort to take me back to nothingness if it all grew to be too much. I had walked on past the park, passing by a couple holding hands, and the pleasure I felt from them was amazing - the intimacy and love and excitement that they felt with each other was shared with me, and I flowed in joy, in the same feelings as they had. That was the secret! Find the pleasures of life, and drink them in, become them, identify and move with them. Where was the best place to take advantage of my new gift, to be freely incorporated into a world of absolute pleasure? That was my new goal, to attain such a state of being, such a sustained feeling of absolute pleasure, a place where pain did not exist, where confusion had no power.

When I told Dr. Wilson of my recent epiphanies the next day, he seemed pleased. He was still insistent, however, that I eventually incorporate myself back into the “real” word, a term that he and I held lightly, almost as an inside joke. In the past few days, I had spoken to no one else besides Dr. Wilson, and I had spent nearly all my time at the park. I had made a to do list for the week:

1. Call Dr. Wilson

2. Go to the park

3. Quit my job (phone)

I had called the restaurant and quit.They understood: after my breakdown a little less than a week ago, they could sense that something was not right with me, and they were right. They would send me my last paycheck in the mail. I told Dr. Wilson, and he seemed a little disappointed. 

“Being able to return to work would have been an excellent way to gauge your recovery,” he said to me over the phone. “And also,” he continued, “I assume that you need to remain financially stable. How do you intend to do that?” He was being practical. I didn’t know anything, only that to return to work was wrong. I was out of pills. I asked for more.

“You’ve taken all of them already?” He asked.

“Well, I threw most of them away one night when I was scared. I thought I was beyond any help.” I lied. Truth be told, I had taken over a month’s worth of head pills in a few days. “Now I understand that I can use them to help me, and use them for balance,” I explained, which was actually true, kind of.

“Very well, then.” Dr. Wilson agreed. “We have to talk about your future. I can tell that it is beneficial for you to visit the park, but you cannot stay there forever. Would you say that your symptoms have gotten worse, better, or remained the same?” 

“The same,” I said, without hesitation. It was true. Although I had experienced a deeply positive sensation that had altered the course of my condition, the symptoms were still just as strong. Once again, it was daytime, a weekday, and no one was around the apartments, so I could think my own thoughts. I felt alright.

“Fine,” Dr. Wilson said. “Once again, you can go to the park to write, and I want you to take special focus on what you plan to do next, now that you have a few tools to control your condition. For one, you know that you can find peace and safety at the park; two, you know that your symptoms can be controlled with proper use of the medication I have prescribed you; three, you have found out by yourself, that this state of being can be utilized in a positive way, not just as an overwhelming and confusing experience.”

“Right.” I agreed.

“So, now that you’ve gained much more control, we need to continue to move forward, so that you can still live and function as others do.” 

It seemed reasonable. Dr. Wilson was very smart, I felt a strong love for him; in all of this confusion and madness, he had helped save me, and by doing that, I had managed to start to save myself. I went to the park.

three weeks later. . . 

Dear Dr. Wilson,

I have not written in a long time. Much has happened since my last entry. I am no longer at my apartment, I have not worked, and I have very little money to my name. My condition has not improved nor worsened, but what has happened in the past three weeks or so has changed me entirely, drastically. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for falling out of touch with you after our last session. I hope that this letter finds you well, and can give you some closure as to our brief professional relationship.

The day that we last spoke, I went to the park to write and figure out what I was going to do with my future. On the way there, I passed by a small crowd of young people, and I immediately fell into connection with their current state of being. I experienced a heightened sense of awareness: an intense feeling of deep pleasure and excitement, a rushing waveof lasting contentedness and love. I locked eyes with one of the girls; her aura was the strongest out of the whole group, and when she smiled, I was overcome with ecstasy and love for everything. I had to say hello, and when I approached them, the closer I got to her and her group of friends, the deeper I fell into a shared state of complete elation.

“Hello,” I said to the group, but mainly to the one girl.

“Hi, kiddo.” She said. Her eyes were dilated; I noticed that all her friend’s eyes were huge and dark as well. “What’s your name?” She asked me.

I told her my name. 

And then I asked for hers. Her name was Kathy. With every second, the feeling of elation within me grew larger and larger, completely overtaking everything in me.

“What are you doing tonight?” She asked me, clenching her teeth briefly while she smiled. I noticed that, too: everyone in the group was grinding their teeth, smiling, breathing heavily. It was an overwhelming scene. I felt very hot, alive, real; pulsating with the collective consciousness of this whole group of young wild human beings.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “Can I spend some time with you guys?” They agreed that I could walk with them to the warehouse, where there was a party. We walked along, and the feeling that flooded my body only grew with the group’s anticipation of the event. Upon further inspection of the group, I realized that these young people were ravers (dancers, clubbers - the terminology I’m still unsure of); I saw now that they had florescent necklaces that flashed and strobed around their necks, and bright flashing plastic bracelets around their wrists; they carried a large supply of glow sticks, and although they wore sweaters and some of them wore long black pants, I could tell that beneath their initial layer of clothing was an outfit more suitable for dancing all night. They had come prepared: each of them carried bottles of water, pacifiers, vics nose sniffers. . . I was not privy to any of these things - I had never been to a rave before. As we walked on towards the warehouse in Hollywood, the culmination of the group’s excitement grew to a fever pitch. I knew now that they were all on drugs: ecstasy, special k - they had a large supply of MDMA pills mixed with methamphetamineand caffeine and heroin and cocaine: I saw in my mind the multitude of candy apple red pills; round pills with the image of the MTV astronaut on it; a cartoon heart broken in half; stars, glittery and exciting; half stacks, double stacks. . . I had never taken any of these party drugs - had never even thought of it. But now here I was in a group of ravers, and receiving a huge collective contact high unlike any other, without polluting my own body with these chemicals.

Dr. Wilson, what happened next will be hard to describe to you, as I’m also sure that you have never been to a massive rave dance party. The closer we got to our destination, I could feel more and more like I was approaching a wild nirvana, a utopia unlike anything I’d ever felt. When we arrived at the front of the warehouse, as we waited in the line to get it, I felt as if I was at the gates of heaven - I felt the energy - like a brewing storm of paradise was about to be unleashed on me, and I was to drown so deeply in its waves of glorious unfilteredpleasure. And yet, this was all nothing compared to when we entered the large warehouse, where constant repetitive mixes of bass and beats blasted louder than anything I’d ever heard before in my life - I felt it in my chest like a dropping bomb; the explosive pulse took the place of my beating heart, the bass enveloped me in it’s warmth, took me over completely with its endless rapid constant pattern. I lost sight of the group I had come with, and slowly made my way towards the center of the multitude of ravers. The flashing lights, the galaxies of colors, the darkness in between it all, the lasers, the all encompassing bass of the electronic beats, the endless amounts of drugs consumed by everyone there, thousands and thousands of hearts beating hard and fast, pulsing feverishly and uncontrollably with an overwhelming love and energy: rapture, dance, flashing lights, bliss, bodies, elation, drugs, color, high, euphoria, taste, sweat, excitement, strobes of black and white, ecstasy, fountains, adrenaline, life, love, heaven. . . These are all just words, Dr. Wilson, and nothing that I’ve written can adequately describe how I felt in the midst of that moving ocean of dancers, with wave upon wave of better than heaven rushing over me, into me.

And then I died.

I died right then and there, in the middle of the raving dance party. 

I died so many times, and each time I was reborn, I experienced life and death continuously, unrelentingly; the never ending cycle of the world. Seeds grew softly in the soil of the earth and erupted slowly and silently from the ground; the small tree grew and grew, its roots secured in the rich soil, it matured and grew to it’s full height, I felt it all, I saw it all, each second of its life was my own. Seasons passed. And then the tree grew old, it’s branches died, one by one, like a spreading sick cancer that eventually reached deep into its trunk, into its heart and killed it. Then the tree fell; it burned or it corroded and its decaying matter fell onto the surface of the very soil that birthed it. And the remains of the mammoth dead tree dug its way into the rich dark soil, and the cycle repeated itself, an infinite amount of times, never ending. I died and was reborn, the tree in the park, the tree in my soul. All in the middle of this rave - this dance party of sweat bodies jumping breathing fucking, an explosion of amazement - an atom bomb of sex that dropped on us, devouring us all in its tidal wave of indescribable pleasure. I was at the threshold of orgasm, the moment when time stands still, the second before you come, and the moment sustained, sustained, sustained. 

I traveled around the state of California with Kathy and her friends (I found them again later in the night), touring around to rave after rave - these dance parties were everywhere: out in the desert, in old abandoned warehouses. We went on, and I joined them each night taking in this new holy experience that had given me purpose, given me life, allowed me to see and feel that which could never before be attained. We were a part of the circuit of dance parties, a scene that once meant nothing to me, and now had become my very salvation. I did not have to take the drugs that everyone else took; there was no need for me. I had left all my things at my apartment, and when I stopped paying the rent, when I never returned, everything of value would be taken from my place, and I would continue on without it all. I would be forgotten. I still had some money saved, which I shared with the group for travel funds and the cost of the admission into the raves. I had not eaten in over a week. Every night, there was another dance party. Every night, I went to the blissful realm of some place infinitely better than heaven, better than anything. In the days, reeling from the experience of the night before, I slept soundly, desperately, so deeply that I never dreamt, in the hot van that we all traveled in. I would fall into darkness much deeper than sleep. I did not struggle with channeling the thoughts and emotions of the others in the van; although I still felt and thought as they did, their feelings were all my own; that of exhaustion, completeness and peace, topped with the ever present anticipation for the next night of raving.

One night, at a rave in warehouse out in the desert, I witnessed a rape. The girl was unconscious, white spit frothed from her mouth, she sat limp and lifeless in a chair near the wall, her eyes rolling into the back of her head, her black bangs and hair falling across her face. She had clearly taken too much of something. Two young men hovered over her, one began to caress her breasts while the other fondled her bare leg below her short jean shorts; one of them kissed her sloppily, then spit out the frothy saliva he had sucked into his mouth, disgustedly. He pulled her head back by the hair; the young girl did not resist, her eyes were gone, as was her consciousness, he continued to kiss her, shoving his tongue into the girl’s mouth. He then unbuttoned her shorts and shoved his hand down toward her crotch and savagely began to work his hand into her. The other man watched, clearly enthralled, nearly drooling himself.

In the deep wave of intoxicating salvation that I had become accustomed to, in the middle of the sea of throbbing bodies, watching these two men rape this unconscious girl, I suddenly felt an emotion that had alluded me for quite some time, definitely since I had acquired my condition: rage. I felt a sharp sickness of disgust and anger rise in me, and although I wished to look away and continue to relish in the selfishness of my man-made utopia of pure pleasure, I could not turn my eyes away from this graphic scene of molestation. This emotion that I now felt was purer than the weeks spent at these raves; it was unfiltered anger, and it was my own. I shared no one else’s psyche as I bursted and shoved through the throngs of hot bodies towards the two animals and their unconscious victim. 

Images flashed like a strobe light in my mind: the breaking of a neck with my bare hands; the sound of the snapping neck bone; the feeling of a hard packed fist connecting into a jaw, the crumbling and cracking of teeth, molars; heavy dark red blood flowing from a broken nose; my thumbs gooing into an eyeball, gouging greedily, bloody white jelly pouring out of the socket, flowing over my thumbs,  onto my hands; screams of confused pain. I saw flashes of violence and anger beyond words, with such intensity that I have never felt before. As I approached the two men and the unconscious girl, my anger climaxed into an aggression that I had never thought possible. The violent exchange between us lasted very briefly: I grabbed the one with his filthy fucking hands down her pants; grabbed him by his neck, turned him around, and hit him as hard as I could in his face. With the pop of the first strike, the connection of my fist in his nose and mouth, a fire had exploded within me. I flailed and struck at the two men with all my might, with whatever contact I could manage, I fought like a wild animal against his own impending death. The girl was saved. I was knocked unconscious. 

I awoke in the desert, in the hot hot sun, blinding me, my head heavy and hurting, pulsing in unrelenting pain. My knuckles were split open, blood had dried, my ring finger on my right hand felt and looked broken, swollen and blue. There was a bite mark on my shoulder that had broken the skin. I was alone. It took all my strength, strength that I did not have, to get to my feet and walk. The rave was done, the building was now abandoned and locked. Like a freak circus, it had left town. I walked alone, silently, down the desert highway, the sun burning my skin red, blistering my chest and nose. As the sun set slowly on the boundary line of the desert, as the chill crept in all around me, I continued to walk. As the darkness settled in, cooling my body, the darkness itself also permeated my mind. I thought of the tree in the park. How much different that feeling had been, that feeling of true peace. How stupid I had become, in my binging of gluttonous appeal - so selfish, taking in the orgasmic and drug induced pleasures of thousands of others. I had used myself and all those around me in a wild and frivolous attempt to free myself from the strange condition that I had been afflicted with. The “freedom” that I had sought, that I so desperately needed, was falsely attained while I drowned in a superficial orgy of passing pleasure, false salvation, the obsession of excess. I would have no more. Let me die now.

And I remembered then, walking in the darkness of the desert, how before I had lost consciousness in the violent fight the night before, how I had touched the unconscious girl’s head; I grabbed her by her shoulders and tried to shake her awake. I had tried to wake her, to alert her to the injustice being done to her. And as I touched her cold and sweaty forehead, as my hands grabbed and frantically shook her lifeless body, I became her. I felt the darkness: a feeling of sick twisted black fear alone abandonment that I would never wish on anyone. I felt her despair and her unending confusion; she knew nothing, she was helpless, I was helpless. I knew nothing. She was gone. I was gone. And then, the darkness had consumed me too.

Remembering all this as I walked down the desert highway, I knew that I could never return to Los Angeles, nor could I go back to the circuit of raves and dance parties and orgies of drugged pleasure. I could not go on this way. . . 

Dear Dr. Wilson,

As I write this, I am at the Thrangu Sekhar Retreat Centre, near Bhaktapur, Nepal. I have arrived only yesterday afternoon, and plan to stay for a three year retreat, and then go from there. I had just enough money for a flight to a nearby city, where I made my way to to retreat centre via walking. The remainder of my money went entirely to the centre, to ensure a confirmed spot in the three year retreat. On my journey here, upon arriving in Nepal I was taken in by a few kind Nepalese for the night, and found my way to my destination from there the day after.

My condition has not improved nor worsened, in that it is still very prevalent and constant. However, I have been able to show a great amount of self control and restraint while dealing with the symptoms. Upon my walk in the desert, I again was the recipient of yet another epiphany. While I knew that for some reason I had acquired a unique gift, I realized that I can gain more control over it by becoming aware of the symptoms, more mindful of them, and acting as more of a witness to the myriad of emotions that might overtake me. Easier said than done, I’m sure you understand, but it’s a never ending practice for me. The plane flight to Nepal, for example, was a Boeing jet plane that was entirely booked. While I flew, I was of course experiencing the multitude of thoughts and emotions that came with each and every passenger: fear of flying, relaxation, the thoughts of business and pleasure, family, births, deaths, the excitement and anticipation of vacation, seeing a loved one. . . It was overwhelming, especially at first - never had I been in such a highly concentrated, varying situation since my condition had first developed. In the raves, everyone was the same, and the overall feeling was easy to attach to; easy to ride out. On the plane, it was different: there were so many thoughts, so many different levels of consciousness. And yet, I used the flight as a way to gain some insight and clarity into better controlling my condition. As all the thoughts and emotions of all those around enveloped me, I watched and watched, tried to distance myself from all the feelings, watched how I felt as if viewing an intense art film. The end result was an accomplishment, in that I made it through the whole twenty hour trip alive, with a few transfers and layovers as well. By the time I reached Nepal, I had achieved a stronger sense of control, and that felt good.

So, how did I decide on the Thrangu Sekhar Retreat Centre, near Bhaktapur, Nepal? While walking in the desert, I continued to think of the tree in the park, how we agreed that place was safe for me, a sort of haven. I needed to find a place where I could attain the same sort of feeling, yet incorporate that same feeling of safety into a life that included other human beings, other lifestyles; a real world. All at once, an image came to mind, one of a monastery in a cave in the green jungles of Nepal. Suddenly, I recognized a deep and full truth, one that had alluded me for so long: to be at peace with myself and everything around me, in a place of calm tranquility, of self-fulfillment, and of true understanding, that is where I needed to go. I saw a statue of the buddha in my mind, along the backdrop of huge gray stone walls, lush deep hues of green foliage and dark rich brown dirt; I saw pure sunlight dripping through the trees onto the face of the enlightened one, and I knew that this place was where I belonged. Three days later, I was on a plane toward Nepal. My three year retreat begins tomorrow. 

Dr. Wilson, I would very much like to thank you for all that you’ve done for me. Although I’ve never seen you in person, I feel like I know you very well, and I’m sure that things would not have worked out as well for me had I not called you, and trusted you and your judgement. I apologize once again for losing contact with you, and for not being able to continue our sessions; I hope that now you understand why I was unable to stay in touch -- I had much to figure out by myself. I write this to you in my notebook, where I’ve written everything that has happened, and I send it to you now as a gift, as thanks for your help. 

Please take care, Dr. Wilson. Maybe we’ll speak again.

By Casey Wickstrom, July 2013

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The Car Crash, part two


The surgeries went over well. I had a cast on my right leg, and my left arm. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t move. I had a hard time talking because my face was so swollen. I had IVs and patches all over my body. My catheter was the most horrifying experience of the whole ordeal. I was given a button to press, in order to self-administer a pain killer. The button would administer dilaudid, an opiate which is thought to be 3-4 times stronger than morphine. While I obviously needed the pain medication, I found myself hallucinating violently, in an intense episode of confusion and panic. Had my mother not been right by my side all night, I don’t know how I would have made it. Eventually, we made the connection that it was the dilaudid that was bringing on these symptoms, so we rationed the doses out to every hour, calming me down after a night of hell.

The next day, I had a back brace put on, and I was helped to sit up in my bed. With the help of a physical therapist, I stood on my feet. My balance wavering, my swollen feet throbbing, and my head spinning, I managed to take four steps, turn around, and sit back on my bed. It was the most exhausting steps I’ve ever taken. But it got me. I knew I could do more.

I was being fed through a tube; I could only drink a tablespoon of water (I’m used to drinking a gallon a day).

The next day, I took more steps, with less assistance, out into the hall of the UCLA ICU.

The whole staff was impressed. I was put on a liquid diet. I could have juice, water, broth. The drink of water I had was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I had lost twenty pounds. In retrospect, though it felt like years, the next five days went by rather quickly. Doctors and nurses and surgeons were coming in and out, checking this and that on my body, taking my blood and blood pressure, checking my dressings from the surgery. I could finally watch TV and zone out, my roommates brought me my glasses, and my book, Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins. Interestingly, the book’s topic was immortality.

I was put on a normal diet; tubes were taken out, replaced; I could eat normal food. Instead of the dilaudid, I was put on Vicodin – actual pain pills. I was eventually moved from the ICU to another floor, where I had a nicer room with a view. My recovery was happening swiftly; I could now get out of my bed, and with a cane, walk the entire distance of the hall and back. I was finally released, eight days after I had been admitted for the car accident.

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The Car Crash, part one

Yes, most of you have heard of, or seen, thanks to Facebook, the incredibly violent and sudden turn of events that happened on August 21st. After my shift in the kitchen of Maggiano’s in Hollywood, I journeyed to the USC campus to pick up my girlfriend, Camille. It took me nearly three hours to find the campus, partly because of my phone’s failed GPS, and partly because of my own failed internal GPS. At any rate, I picked up my beautiful girlfriend at around 9 pm, and I drove us off to the apartment at which I live in Marina del Rey.

While taking an off-ramp towards our destination, we were hit head on by a drunk driver who was going the wrong way on the freeway, and using our off-ramp as her on-ramp.

I remember three things about the head on collision. First, I remember seeing the headlights as we rounded the sharp, blind turn, and thinking: “Headlights?” Second, I remember holding Camille’s thigh in the wreckage; she was crying, and blood was pouring from my face and head. I felt no pain. Third, I remember the door to my car being ripped open, and I thought “Good. Help is here.”

I do not remember anything about the ambulance, or even being put on the stretcher. I awoke in a room in UCLA’s medical center. The surgeons had removed my spleen, and had repaired my liver, which had suffered extreme lacerations. I had 28 staples in my stomach. I had to have a blood transfusion; I had lost a great amount of blood. I talked to cops and surgeons. I asked about Camille. They said she was fine, only a fractured collar bone. The paramedics and Camille would later tell me that I positioned myself in front of Camille prior to the collision, shielding her from further harm. I don’t remember that, but alright. In any case, I definitely took the brunt of the accident.

My kneecap was broken in various places, as was my left arm. The surgeons would operate, putting wires in my kneecap, and a steel rod in my left forearm. My face was filled with broken glass, and my left eye socket was fractured. I had stitches in three places on my face: my chin, under my left eyebrow, and under my left eye. My head was soaked with blood, and my face was a mess. A renowned plastic surgeon operated on my face.

My cousin Drew, who lives in Pasadena, was the first to see me after the accident. My mother called him, and he immediately came to UCLA. When I opened my eyes, he was the first person I saw. I remember making jokes, talking to Drew and the surgeons, telling them all I remembered. I had my voice still. I could talk. I had my teeth. Surgeons touched my hands, and I could feel their touch. I could move my fingers. Upon discovering those things, I knew that I would be fine. I thought to myself: “I have my voice and I have my hands. I don’t care if I ever walk again. I am fine.” Every time I would open my eyes, Drew would be right there beside me.

My mother, brother, and my youngest sister flew in from Colorado on Monday, only hours after I had called from the hospital. My mother is who saved my life. Her and I have the strongest relationship in the world. As soon as she entered the room, I knew that I would be getting out of UCLA as soon as humanly possible.

The next eight days were the most intense days of my life.

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