Sunday, December 15, 2013

Drumming: The Early Years

What goes through the head of an eight year old? That was a long time ago for me, so I can't remember a whole lot besides hot dogs, but one important thing I can tell you is that it was when I first became captivated by the drums. I also think eight years old is about the age when your dreams start the slow transition away from "some sort of laser space hero" to more attainable pursuits.

Now, I suppose I can't speak for everyone when I say that. It's possible some people entertained the idea of being a space marine well into high school or college, but for me, I was ever the skeptical one. Perhaps when I pitched my pie in the sky career aspirations to adults before this age, I saw the slight wincing. The patronizing gazes. I heard the dulcet tones hidden beneath their encouragement. "Yeah you can be an astronaut!" They'd say, failing to add "even though they will only accept perfect human specimens and you threw up from the tilt-a-whirl so maybe try something else."

So one day, I was sitting on the porch at my camp listening to some music, when someone put on "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin. My ears perked up.


"This fucking...somethings!!!" I thought. Later I would find out the word is "rocks". Before this time, I guess music had never really grabbed me. Maybe because it had always been something that was just on in the background. Or maybe attentively listening to music was on that long list of things that your parents did, and you were told "you'll do it too someday!" and you nodded while actually thinking "no that's something old people do, and I'll never be old, so..." Or maybe it was because I was fucking eight.

Whoever put on that Led Zeppelin album has no idea how much they changed my life. The guitars were all SQUEEEELAAAA and the vocals were all HRRMMAAADEEERRROOO but what REALLY got me was the BEAT. So POWERFUL. It hit me on a truly primal level. I'm not sure if it was a chance mix of circumstances that led to that event, or if it was bound to happen because it was just coded in my DNA or what. But that's when I made my decision. Drums for me! Nothing else for my whole life thanks!


So I'm dreaming of drums all the time at this point, just scheming how I could possibly get my hands on some. I knew it was more complicated than

Parents: Ok.

So I had to bide my time. What opportunities did I have to play? Let's see..I know! My second cousin had a drum set! He was several years older, and I heard he was super good. So, how to make this guy my new best friend and use him for his shit? Well luckily it never came to that, because I heard he would be bringing his equipment to our upcoming family reunion!!! The drums were so close I could TASTE THEM. They tasted like WOOD AND METAL SCREWS.


So there we were at the family reunion in a giant field by my Dad's cousin's house. The field was full of tents, a giant fire pit, and a small stage with the mighty drum set. I knew about five of the probably ten million people there. How many first cousins do you have reader? A few? More than ten? Well my Dad has about forty. FORTY. And they were mostly all there. And they all had kids. And they all brought friends.

So I was a shy kid, and I didn't really have the fortitude to stroll up to my older cousin amongst the hubub and say "Hi can I play your drums?" So what I'd do is walk near my parents and say something like "wow, look at those drums! Sure wish I could play 'em!" My parents were well aware of my percussive desires, and of my shyness, so they got the hint that they were gonna have to pull some strings. I distinctly remember my dad asking my cousin if he wouldn't mind letting me play the drums, while I was close by all fucking

And my cousin said something like "sure."


So now I just had to wait til the drums were available.

Well, I think the theme of this family reunion must've been "let's never stop playing music ever" so I had very few opportunities to actually try my hand. It was like sitting at a shitty concert with the promise of pie after the band is done, except the band never finishes and you start to convince yourself you don't like pie that much and you should just fucking leave.

When suddenly BAM! Opportunity! YES! But what's this? Who the fuck are you? This stupid little fat blonde kid hopped up onto the drums and just started smacking the shit out of them. I had never seen this kid before in my life but I knew immediately that I hated him. HOW LONG HAD YOU BEEN WAITING HUH FUCKFACE?! And he Just. Kept. Playing. He couldn't even play beats. He was just hitting random shit with the endurance of some sort of titanous beast. I stewed in my anger, along with several other kids that wanted him to shut the fuck up, when finally some other kid intervened. "Hey man, you've been playing forever, it's my turn." The stupid little fat kid said "NO! I need to JAM!"

Well so did WE. How about we START by jamming the sticks UP YOUR ASS. I wasn't sure if I was related to him, but I hoped not cause I'd be ashamed to share the same blood as this stupid pile of dog shit.

I think several other kids lost their gumption and just let this kid have at it for awhile, but I was determined to wait. Finally the kid left the seat.

Because the family was getting up to play some MORE MUSIC God DAMMIT.

So I waited and waited and waited some more, when finally my opportunity came. I found myself at the seat. Sticks in hand. Feet on pedals. Behind the instrument of my dreams. And..


Man, how the fuck do you play this thing?

This was hard.

I'd spent so much time lusting after this fine instrument, and hadn't really given a thought to what I'd do when I actually had the chance to play it. Sure the guitar was a mystery, the piano was a mystery, and horns and reed instruments were a mystery, but they all combined strange finger dexterity and knowledge of tones. But the drums? It looked like all you had to do was hit shit and coolness would just happen. But my every attempt to hit any of these drums resulted in a truly impotent bellow of insignificance. Also I don't think my feet touched the pedals.

My dreams were crushed. Did I cry? Probably. I had watched my cousin and various other mystery relatives play this thing with ease. What, I actually needed to PRACTICE? Pffffff. So fine. No shortcuts for me. What other choice did I have? Hmm, school percussion!

My brother had joined band the previous year, only he played a lame instrument, like the lameophone or something. I knew if I wanted to cultivate a knowledge of drums and percussion, the school music program would be a smart way to go.

Just one problem though. At this point I was 9, and I obviously wasn't the only nine year old that wanted to be a drummer, and to prevent a band comprised of one flute, three trumpets and eighty drummers, there was a stipulation. To join percussion, you need to have taken at least two years of piano lessons.

Woulda been nice if they'd told us this shit when I was seven. I had of course taken zero years of piano lessons, and wondered how I was going to overcome this hurdle. Luckily my parents talked to the band director, who graciously made an exception, with the caveat that I start piano lessons now, and take them in tandem with music lessons through the school. I would later hear from the band director the conversation went something like this:

Band Director: To play percussion you need at least two years of piano under your belt.
Parents: Well, he hasn't taken any lessons, but he really wants to play drums.
Band Director: I know, a lot of kids want to play drums, but without the piano lessons, we can't do it.
Parents: You don't understand. He really wants to play drums.

I like to imagine my parents subtly sharpening a knife during that last bit.

So the band director relented, and I was in! And it was BOORRRINNNGG!! First, drums are loud and expensive and my parents sure as fuck weren't gonna drop hundreds of dollars on something I'd get sick of, so I'd have to struggle through years of piano and percussion lessons before having a drum set of my own.

Second, percussion lessons in school were very much not drums. It was all orchestra bells and practice pads. Orchestra bells look like this:

And if you're wondering how the general populace felt about this instrument, here is a 100% real transcription of a conversation I had with two guys at my bus stop:

Guy one: What are those?
Me: Bells.
Guy two: You play the bells?
Me: Yes.
Guy one: Bells are stupid!
Guy two: Bells are boring!

So there's that. 

Practice pads look like this:

If you're struggling to figure out exactly what you're looking at, just imagine a drum, minus everything fun. Using these helped us get our chops up, without the noise. The noise was like 90% of the reason I chose drums in the first place, so this was a fucking travesty. The fact that I put up with this shit for years shows you just how badly I needed to play drums to be happy with my life.

I was only so patient, and I think my parents sensed that, because a couple years after I started playing percussion, I got my very own snare drum. There was still no "full drum set" yet, but I at least got part of the real thing. The only thing was, when you hear a snare drum on a recording, you're hearing an amplified, EQ adjusted snare hit. When you play one of those babies in real life you get weird ass overtones and rings and buzzes and echoes. I was disenchanted, but persevered, figuring all I had to do to achieve that idealized sound was to buy a one million dollar snare drum at some point in the future. I'd already been patient, so what's a few extra years or decades? Incidentally, I later discovered you just needed quality drumheads, proper tuning and muffling pads.

A bit after the snare drum years, I became aware that Junior high Jazz Band was a thing. Ahh Junior high Jazz..let's take some of the most stylistically complicated music there is, and hear it played by a bunch of shitty kids. Gotta start somewhere though, so I stayed after school and got to fiddle around a bit a couple times a week. By now I was coordinated enough to play simple beats, though not well. There was also the problem of the other drummer.

He was better than me, because he had already been playing for a couple years at this point. This did wonders for my confidence, as any smidgen of improvement I felt I'd made was quickly overshadowed by his superior skill set. So I was relegated to conga drums, or what everyone else liked to call the bongos. Because to most people every hand drum is a fucking bongo drum. 


I think the band director saw me deflate when I got my new assignment, so he was very supportive and talked up the congas like they were some sort of backbone of the band. I think he even played a couple of tunes with congas in them for me. I feigned enthusiasm, cause I understood he was just trying to make me feel better about sucking, but really the congas were just a way to say "I've heard you play drums, and I think you'd be better suited to play far fewer of them. Also we're going to take away your sticks." But dammit I played the fuck out of those things to the point where my joints ached from slamming them incredibly hard with virtually zero proper technique. Still pretty sure nobody heard me. 

But it's ok. Soon I would get a drum set all my own.

To be continued. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

3 Random Memories

The other day a couple of random memories popped into my head. I suppose they are the type of memories that stick because when they happened, the experiences felt profound, even if in retrospect they seem trivial. For each memory I'm guessing I was between 4 and 6 years old. Now I'm going to fucking tell you all about them.

1. "It's No, Thank You."

A lot of the circumstances were foggy, but I'll try to set the stage. I was at my Uncle's house, and I guess it was some sort of family gathering. My Uncle was moving a lot at the time, so that gave us all the excuse to go "check out the new place" a few times over the years. Incidentally, even though the place kept changing, it always smelled the same.

There we were, lots of people milling about, eating and drinking etc.. and I'm fucking off like 5ish year olds are wont to do. I was a super picky eater, and I guess everyone somehow caught wind of that and felt they had a responsibility to correct this issue. As a result, people kept coming up to me saying something like "HEY WOULD YOU LIKE AN ORANGE?" And no, I didn't want an orange. They were gross and stringy and not pizza so I said "No" because you know, the answer was no. My Uncle overheard one of these interactions and suddenly became the rudeness police and somewhat firmly informed me "Matthew, when someone offers you something you don't want, you say 'no, thank you.'" I thought to myself "ok sure whatever that's two more words than is necessary but I'll nod in acknowledgement that you conveyed this information to me." I tossed out this new information pretty much immediately because as I just illustrated, what the hell were those two extra words for? It seemed syntactically uneconomical.

See, maybe if he'd said "being terse with someone like that can be construed as rude" (phrased for a 5ish year old of course) it would have made more sense at the time, but since all I was told was "It's no, thank you" I had to make a choice between adopting this new way of life on faith, or rejecting it outright. I of course, rejected it. Even at the tender age of 5ish, I had some ingrained problem with authority and wasn't about to alter my vocabulary. Not for him.

I think he suspected this may have been the case, because not long after his lesson, he tested me. He came up to me and offered me something he knew I wouldn't like. It may have even been another orange. It still wasn't pizza, so I reflexively said "no" again, quickly realizing my error. See, I had no plans assimilate "no, thank you" but still should've had the wherewithal to at least pretend I had if I was talking to him. The funny thing though, is he wasn't even smug about my slip-up. He wasn't condescending or demeaning. He was purely interested in me learning this polite gesture to make the world a better place, so his failure hurt that much more, and he got pretty upset. Upset enough for me to think "whoa, this guy is fucking serious." He held my arm, the universal gesture for "I would hit you if I could" and made me realize in no uncertain terms that it's fucking "No, thank you."

Pretty sure I still checked with my parents after though. They said "yeah, that's the more polite way to do it." Even without the ironclad conviction of my Uncle, this was enough for me to start using the phrase, since my parents were basically king and queen of the world at this point.

All these years later I can't even imagine how snotty it must sound for even a 5ish year old to dismissively say "no" so I'm glad I learned when I did. I hope I didn't raise too many eyebrows before that valuable lesson.

Same age. Which is good, because if I was much older you'd probably think "wow he was a dumb kid." I mean I was, but you'd think "no this kid was really dumb."

So I'm not exactly sure what triggered this concern, but I remember thinking "wait just a god damn minute...we all have eyes, mouths, noses, can we tell people apart?!?"

No, seriously. I thought this.

I honestly could not fathom how, despite having all the same things on our head, we were able to tell people apart. I thought it must be a combination of height, hairstyle/color weight, etc.. because obviously a nose is a nose and eyes are eyes just like a circle is a circle and a square is a square. This couldn't be enough information to distinguish people from one another right?

This is the part where you may pause and think "nope, I definitely never thought that."

A lot of times when you're perplexed as a small child, what do you do? You ask your parents. But with this one, I didn't. There was apparently some evolutionary process firing in my brain that made me think "No man, not this time. Keep this one to yourself." Something told me this should NOT be a mystery to me and if I asked my parents they'd probably think something was wrong and then "accidentally" leave me at a gas station miles away or something and that would be that.

I don't know how long this inner turmoil fermented in my brain, but I do remember when it stopped. I was sitting in the living room. My parents had an impressive vinyl collection, and one of the albums that had been pulled from the shelves at the time was a Beatles album. Looking back at the album art, it must've been "Hard Day's Night". I was looking at all of their monochromatic faces and I thought to myself, "Wow, Ringo's eyes are a way different shape than John's.....wait a minute..."




The elimination of color and texture from their faces was enough of a reduction to give me that eureka moment. I was so disproportionately proud of myself. I almost told my parents about my discovery. I would stroll in and be like "Hey Mom and Dad, so I was thinking the other day about why we can tell each other apart. I thought we all have the same things on our faces so it should be impossible right?" Here I would pause to smugly chuckle and add "luckily I'm really smart and I figured out how our facial features, though similar, are different shapes for different people, so, you know.."

But I thought even that would be pushing my luck. Best to just celebrate this one quietly and move on.

3. The Day I Smacked my Dad in the Face
This one is really fuzzy. I must've been really young. The fact that the memory is still with me speaks to how intense the experience must've been.

We were at the library. My parents were good parents, so we would frequent this place for everything it had to offer. At this point since I couldn't read, that was basically puppet shows, magic shows, and I guess looking at picture books. This day in particular my Dad brought me and my brother. I mean, I assume my brother was there I'm not sure. Whatever happened, it must've been super fun, but I don't really remember anything before...the incident. I only remember the moment where everything changed.

My Dad gathered us up, only I didn't want to leave, cause you know, libraries are gangster as fuck. I had no concept of "time" or "jobs" or "responsibility" or "other people" really so to me what reason did we have to leave? I was having fun, so fucking wait til I'm ready to leave, and then we can go. If I'm still having fun, what sense did it make to cut it off? So I evaded my Dad, who grew increasingly frustrated. Eventually he had to just pick me up and haul my ass out of there. I didn't like that very much, but couldn't exactly fight back. Or could I?


Could I?


.........Uh oh..

I can't quite tell you exactly what happened after that. I'm not sure if it's cause I blacked out or what. What I do silence. I remember no backlash. No reprimanding. No shouting. Only silence. This was strange and unfamiliar. I think I had braced myself for..something, so when it didn't come, I felt the psychological equivalent of stepping down that last stair when there are no more stairs and the floor greets your foot sooner than you expected and your equilibrium is jostled for a bit.

The leaves outside rustled in the breeze.

Life had now been divided into "Time before I smacked my Dad's face" and "Time after I smacked my Dad's face"

I wandered around confused in this state of condemned nothingness. I knew something bad had happened and the fact that there were no immediate repercussions must only have meant my Dad was plotting. Plotting what though?

We got home and my dad went to another room. There was no gathering where I was sat down and scolded. I was left to stew in my own guilt a little longer. Eventually my Mom approached me.

"Did you do something bad?"

"Did you?"

I must've been clearly struggling with my guilt. I was told to walk into my parents' room and...


I was on fucking edge. I never went in my parents' room. Especially with nobody escorting me. Now I needed to walk in there alone like a fucking man and tell my Dad I was sorry for hitting him. I quietly entered. He sat on the bed, facing away from me. Dammit I didn't even have his attention yet. I had to earn it. I don't remember the exact exchange but it was probably something like, 



"......I'm sorry"

This didn't need to be creative or heartfelt. This was clearly driven almost entirely by fear and shame. But I was forgiven. I exited, shaken. 

I have not hit him since. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Being the Skinny Guy

I'm pretty sure the heaviest I've ever been was back in 2008. I was on vacation, staying at a friend's grandparents' house after hitchhiking with him across hundreds of miles in a few days. Needless to say, we were hungry. His Grandparents were very kind, rarely letting a few hours pass without saying "HEY! EAT! EAATTTTT!" 


I weighed myself after a week of eating prodigious amounts of food, during which I exercised an unremarkable amount (none). I tipped the scales at just above 160 pounds, but I think I was wearing boots. 


When I was young, not only was I very skinny, I was very short. I remember being in first or second grade, and we were measuring everybody's height for some reason. I was the shortest in the class! I remember thinking, "What does this mean, is this good?" I guess at that age nobody really cared, and hey I was the most something-est! Then a few years later, in fifth grade or so, I started noticing that I was still shorter than basically everyone. But no matter, we started learning about puberty and all the wonderful height and weight gain it entailed, so naturally I assumed I'd get tall and fill out just like everybody else. Except I didn't! 

Pretty soon, everyone my age started to think "ok, let's develop into actual humans now" and I was left in the dust. I actually remember the moment I started thinking my shortness was really becoming a problem. There was an assembly at school one day, so the whole class crowded into the auditorium. At one point I was walking right in front of the girl I had a crush on, and she STEPPED ON ME BECAUSE SHE DIDN'T SEE ME BECAUSE I WAS SO SHORT. 

Haha, no but actually I had tiny legs and I guess I was moving too slow, because she yelled "move it short kid!" to the delight of her friends. A crushing moment for me to be sure. But, I wasn't doomed to be a modest pillar of ineffectiveness forever. I'd have to get taller at some point right? 

End of 9th grade. Hooray! By then I had shot up to about my current height, "tall-ish". So what if it was years later than everyone else? But a problem remained. I was still about the same weight. I had merely stretched. 

I was in denial for awhile. "I'm not that skinny" I thought to myself, somehow ignoring the fact that basically everybody my height seemed to weigh about 30 pounds more than me. I would look at someone that looked "skinny" to me, and then covertly compare something like forearm width and notice I always came up short. Eventually I thought, "Okay, enough of this shit, it's time to start working out." So in high school, I started going to the gym. The only thing was, I wasn't aware that to actually bulk up, you needed to lift more weight fewer times, and eat a fuckload. I didn't exactly eat a balanced diet, and my strategy involved lifting not very heavy shit the wrong amount of times, so despite a steady increase in the amount I could lift, I looked basically the same, whilst going from "able to beat 1% of the world in armwrestling" to "able to beat 2% of the world in armwrestling." I even remember senior year, thinking that although I was still pretty skinny, I'd put on a small amount of weight and was more normal sized, until one day after cross country practice, it was really hot, so I took my shirt off, and one of the guys on the team remarked "wow, I think you're about the skinniest person I know." Annnd defeat.

So you might be wondering. What are the advantages and disadvantages to being the skinny kid? 


Because I carry less weight, it's easier to lift myself, so I can appear tougher than I am if someone asks me to do chinups or pushups or something, which is basically never.

If I ever forget how many ribs I have I can just look down and count cause they're fucking right there. 

I can fit into small spaces. Crowded train? No problem. I can usually wedge in there. Only a tiny bit of space to sit on the bench on the subway? Also no problem. I can usually squeeze in, although I've noticed some plus sized people are entirely undeterred by the fact that they have no business trying to squeeze into a space previously occupied, snugly, by someone 1/5th of their size. 

The ability to turn sideways and become completely undetectable. 

Dressing up like a skeleton for halloween is way more realistic.

I only need a modest sized umbrella.

MUCH more stamina while masturbating.

I'm much more aerodynamic when flying through the air horizontally. This hasn't really been helpful to me yet but I'm thinking it will at some point.

Riding a large dog isn't totally out of the question.

If they ever run out of medium sized shirts, I can usually fit into a small shirt too, and hey maybe I'll even opt for that anyway cause it's less fabric and I can help save the earth.

Getting drunk is way cheaper.

If you ever need someone with skinny arms to reach into a gopher hole to pull out your wedding ring, I'm your man. 

I metabolize caffeine awfully quickly, so though I might not have a caffeine buzz for as long, the amount of time I do have it is fucking legendary.

The ability to spring up a flight of stairs with the grace of a forest nymph. 


Having to constantly field the question "How do you stay so thin?!" when someone observes me eating the one unhealthy snack or large meal I've eaten that week.

If I ever break the law and a cop tries to grab my wrist and says "come with me!" he'll be unprepared for just how thin my wrist is, and it will startle him, giving me a chance to get away. Hmm, I should be a felon.

A stiff breeze will frequently blow me into oncoming traffic.

If anyone asks me to lift a car off their baby, I'll probably only be able to lift if halfway and then I'll drop it again and oh god I've just made everything worse.

If I ever stumble into a protruding object, my bony frame offers absolutely no padding, and instead of a slight *thud* the impact will create a resounding *THWACK* which will draw all sorts of unwanted attention.

Every time I carry something remotely heavy looking, people panic and shout "OH GOD DO YOU NEED HELP?" No it's fine I just tripped over the ruffle in the carpet a bit, my body isn't collapsing beneath me.

If I ever have a bad day, I'd love to take out my aggression by "axe tossing" or "boulder rearranging" but it's just not realistic.

I get nervous if someone hands me too many helium balloons.

The only time I'm ever not the smallest person at the gym is if someone couldn't find a babysitter.

If I ever go skydiving above a forest and my chute fails to open, instead of the branches violently but slowly breaking my fall, my narrow frame will probably slip right through the branches and I'll slam into the ground. 

If I turn on a powerful hose I fucking go flying all over the place.


I'd say being skinny when I was younger may have caused a bit of insecurity to bleed into my later adolescent life for awhile, but overall I feel fine about it now. And why shouldn't I? Basically, nobody cares. I don't think I've got any deep psychological scarring from it, and besides, literally everyone has their hangups about how they look, and coming to terms with how you look becomes easier once you realize that. 

Oh god I sound like the end of an episode of Family Matters.

Have a good day everyone.

Monday, July 29, 2013

What an Asshole.

Here is another chapter in the "things I've told some of you but will now flesh out for all the internet to see." This is a tale of a huge asshole.

It began last weekend, when after a couple days of rehearsing with the band, I needed to hop back on a Metro North train from New Haven, CT to take me home to Brooklyn. I had taken this trip several times before, and it's usually pretty uneventful. This time would be different! DUMDUMDUM... 

I arrived at the train station at about 6pm. I checked the schedule and saw the next train to Grand Central was at 6:27 on track 14. A slight wait, but no big deal. I headed through the tunnel, and up to track 14, whereupon I saw a train pulling into the station. "Awesome!" I thought, because although sometimes you get lucky like this, a lot of times the train doesn't arrive until a couple minutes before departure, so you're stuck standing on the platform for awhile in cold, or dark, or in this case heat. So yay! Now I could sit in an air conditioned car while I waited to leave. 

The train pulled in, paused for a beat, and then let all the passengers off. I like to sit near the front, so as I was moving up the platform, I did the awkward "try to walk past someone and pick the same side as them multiple times" dance at least 3 times before just standing the fuck still and waiting for the hordes to pass me by. Once the train was empty and the platform clear, I headed the rest of the way up towards the front, and hopped into the second car. As I strolled through the empty car to find my seat, the doors closed. "Hmm, weird" I thought. Then the doors opened back up. Was this to invite me back onto the platform? I paused, and listened for someone on the intercom to say "please step off the train", but didn't hear anything so I assumed the doors were staying open. It wasn't that long before departure I guess, so it made sense that they'd just let people board as they arrived. I walked up to the very front car, and had a seat. The doors closed again. Hmm. I remembered how sometimes the crew does this thing where they'll only open the cars in the middle, so I assumed because I'd gotten on the train fairly early that's what they were doing. The middle doors were probably still open. Secretly though, I was nervous that maybe all the doors were closed, and this train was going to leave. Maybe it had to pull onto a maintenance track, after having barely arrived in one piece. Maybe it was actually a different train that was slated to arrive a bit later that would actually be taking on passengers. But no! Nonsense! I thought. Nobody told me to get off. Every time I've ever stayed on a train when I wasn't supposed to, someone has made it very clear very quickly to get the hell off. That didn't didn't happen, and the train remained on the tracks for several more minutes, so I figured I was good to go. It was about 20 minutes to departure at this point, so I just pulled out my book and started reading, basking in the temporary capaciousness. 

I was a bit startled when the door opened up and a gentleman appeared. He locked the door behind him with a special key, so apparently he was the conductor or some other crew member. He walked to the front into the little conductor room, pulled a few switches or whatever it is these guys do, and walked back into the aisle, carrying himself with a bit of a surly disposition. I'm sitting maybe fifteen feet away from him, and despite him turning vaguely in my direction at some points, he didn't acknowledge me. I assumed he would and figured "good, if I shouldn't be here, he'll let me know." Sure enough, he spotted me with a very slight, but noticeable lurch to his step. His face was a mix of surprise, and angst, like he was about to drop trow and start jerking off or something, and he was imagining what would've happened if he'd gone through with his plan before he saw me. After staring at me like I was an alien for a bit, here is how our conversation went as closely as I can recall:

Him: They let you stay on the train?
Me: No, I'm actually on the next train out.
Him: And they let you stay on? 
Me: ...No..I just got on. 
Him: Oh..well you aren't supposed to be on the train if the conductor isn't on the train. 
Me: Oh sorry, I just got on when everyone else got off, and nobody said anything.

I looked at him expectantly. He said nothing. I think he had planned for his time in this car to be alone time. So since he was probably reluctant to even start a conversation, he certainly felt no obligation to end it with any sort of closure. A few seconds passed, and I shrugged.

And he went about his business. I watched him rhythmically move about the cabin with the poise of a man that had done this before and had only recently become aware that he was awfully tired of doing it. He made his adjustments to whatever, taking these big pieces of metal off the wall, fastening them back into place, and I wondered why he'd bothered to remove them in the first place. It was fairly silent, aside from his jingling keys, and his audible breathing. I took a moment to replay the conversation in my head, feeling vaguely unsettled by the way it ended. I scanned for incendiary undertones. Eh, he was a paltry fellow that seemed incapable of subterfuge. 

Anyway, the fact that he called what I was doing "staying on" suggested that this was indeed the next train out, and it wouldn't be pulling out of the station to be switched with the actual train or anything like that. If they had had plans to do that, surely he would've told me. I figured he must've realized me getting on the train early was an accident, and since this was the train that was going to be leaving anyway, no sense kicking me off. Besides, he was apparently one of the train crew, and now that he was on the train, I wasn't technically "on the train without the conductor" anymore was I? So I went back to reading my book. It was approaching 10 minutes before departure, and many passengers were accumulating out on the platform. I was surprised they hadn't let them on yet, and decided to crouch down in my seat a bit, lest they spot me and make a fuss. 

And then, the guy left the train. Hmm, guess he wasn't the conductor? Oh well, surely the real one would be arriving soon. 

Suddenly with just over 5 minutes to departure, my worst fear came true. I watched all of the passengers on the platform do an abrupt about face and walk to the other side. FUCK! They switched tracks on me! But WHY? There was a perfectly good train sitting on track 14! Just like the sign had said! "Oh well, guess I'll get off the train. There must be some button you can push to override the doors or something!" 


I was puzzled. I looked around for that mysterious train crew guy, but he was nowhere in sight. I walked to the other train doors. All equally closed. I walked to the next car. Although they were also just as closed, they felt extra closed, like the rubber was being squeezed to it's limit. Feeling perplexed and a bit agitated since the real train was LEAVING IN 5 MINUTES, I hit the "emergency intercom" button to get someone to open the doors. 

The instructions read: Push button, and wait for solid red light, then speak. Good, those instructions are easy to follow even while panicking! So I pushed the button and it blinked red. I guess when it turns solid, someone has acknowledged the call. Here's my impression of that stupid button:


I hung around long enough to be fairly confident that nobody was there to answer my distress call and that I would probably die alone on this train car. So I'm thinking "FUCK I'M TRAPPED FOREVER!" And I started darting between cars as fast as I could, because the faster you panic, the better your chances of escape. All the doors were still closed. Also, in these particular trains, every 3 cars or so, the doors between the cars go from small sliding doors, to big ass locked doors, which is what I was now met with. So I ran back and hit a different emergency intercom button because I dunno maybe they were wired to different speakers or some shit. I was kind of running out of options. BLINKBLINKBLINK with no answer AGAIN. My head started spinning. They were probably slowly sucking oxygen out of this train car too.

I thought about dialing 411 and getting the phone number for union station, but the clock was ticking and I didn't have time to navigate a stupid automated phone system, especially in my current adrenalized state, so I walked up to the glass on the doors, and started banging on them. Passengers walking up the platform would hopefully spot me, and get someone to let me out. Pretty quickly someone did spot me. I mouthed the words "HELP?!" as if I needed to say anything. Obviously I was on the wrong train, and needed to get off. The girl looked at me kind of puzzled, and sheepishly pointed ahead of her, probably wondering if she had just aided the possible escape of a serial killer. So I ran up to the next car, thinking maybe someone had opened a door up there. Well they were all still closed, but there was the train crew guy! PHEW. I got behind the door closest to him and banged on the glass. He looked up at me while on his phone, and although I couldn't hear him, he distinctly mouthed these words:

"That's your problem now."

Now I've been angry in my life before, very much so in fact in this story, but usually the anger is at a combination of things, or circumstances. Never have I felt such rage directed at such a singular thing: This Fucking Asshole. 

After I shook off the shock of his douchiness, I snapped back into action. He strolled away from me on the platform, but I would not be ignored. I followed him. I went to the next car, and pounded on the glass there. He kept walking. I followed again, and pounded again. He turned back in the other direction. I doubled back, and pounded the glass even HARDER. I wanted him to remember these pounds for the rest of his life. My hand still hurts from it. I was ready to break the fucking glass and deflect the inevitable punishment onto this guy since if he'd let me out like a decent person, I never would've had to break the glass. Despite my pounding and pounding, he continued to ignore me. Maybe he couldn't hear me through the several layers of dumb that surrounded his brain.

So I reflected. Dozens of thoughts clustered into my head in a matter of seconds and I'm gonna do my best to string that cluster out into a coherent thread. 

First, this had to end one way or another, and when it did, how would I ruin this man?

Second, did I deserve this somehow? Should I really have known better? When those doors first closed, and then opened back up, should I have known that meant "get out?" Maybe. But the combined lack of announcement to exit, the fact that I was on the train on track 14 that was said to be leaving soon, and the train crew guy not telling me to get off, I think despite maybe thinking I had bent the rules a bit, staying on the train wasn't unreasonable.

And third, what was this guy's problem?! For him to trap me on this train, knowing full well he had the capability to let me out, means I must've done something to really piss him off. But during our brief conversation, he may have seemed a bit miffed, but I'd assumed that was because he hated his life or something. He didn't snap at me, didn't seem all that angry, and I stress once again, he did not tell me to get off the train. So why the total 180? Did I do something that didn't sit right with him, and after ruminating for a bit, only then did he realize how angry he was with me? What did I say? Just a few basic sentences that fairly clearly laid out how I ended up on the train, and then I sat there reading my book. Nothing objectively assholish about that I don't think. Did I make a face without realizing it? Did he not like my tone? My posture? No. I hadn't done anything wrong. Maybe this went deeper.

Maybe when I got on the train early, and got my pick of whatever seat I wanted before anyone else, he realized I'd cheated the system. Perhaps watching me do so brought on a flood of painful memories for him. He simultaneously remembered all of the times in his life he'd ever waited in line while other people got better seats than him. Dozens and dozens of bus stations. Train stations. Airports. Always getting the shitty seat. Maybe that's why he ended up working as a train crew member. Now he would always have a seat to himself on the train. But then I showed up, and despite having not payed my dues, having not gone to train school(?), and not working my way up the corporate ladder, I'd found a way to get a seat all to myself. The fact that I had found this shortcut made him furious. This workaround that had always been so elusive to him, and I had found it so easily. He thought of all his failures in life. I became the personal embodiment of anyone that had ever wronged him. He needed justice, so he trapped me on the train, with only minutes before departure. I would watch all the passengers climb in, the doors would close a mere fifteen feet from me, and I would watch it pull away, trapped behind the glass of the train that was not to be. 

So I yelled. I knew nobody was listening, and it was clear that these doors were quite soundproof. So I yelled and yelled and pounded the glass more and more. He continued to ignore me and ignore me and ignore me. I became a caged beast, reduced to only my primal urges. I took one final stroll to the front car of the train and threw my arms up in defeat. It was 6:25. The doors of the other train would be closing very soon. I put my hands on my hips, eyes wide, breaths heavy and deliberate. I was starting to fantasize about the terrible ways I would make this man's life terribly inconvenient for awhile. I turned..

And the guy was inside the train, one car up. He was going to let me out!? I guess he had the tiniest shred of decency in him, and realized "holy shit if I actually let the train leave without this guy I'm a much much much bigger asshole than I imagined him to be." After all, what if I had something extremely important to go to? For all he knew I was meeting someone in the hospital! 

I made eye contact with him, and he made a douchey face while yelling something. I was behind 2 soundproof doors, so obviously I couldn't hear him. I made a probably equally douchey face while making a flailing hand gesture that tried to communicate "I can't hear you idiot". I walked through the doors to the next car as he was in the middle of his shouty lesson:


But I was in no fucking mood. I stopped him right there. Foul language ahead:


I'm amazed I didn't try to break his face. I felt pretty self-righteous for a bit, thinking "what gives him the right to trap someone on the train like that? Who is HE to teach someone a lesson about proper rules of the train this way, when I didn't even realize I was breaking them? Nobody told me not to get on the train, and when he had a chance to inform me of the error politely, and ask me to leave the train,he did not." Instead he assumed I got on the train early to piss him off and took it personally. He made me think, up until the very last minute, that I would miss my train. How long had he planned this? Was he alerted via some secret earpiece (that he probably felt all smug about having) that the train was switching, and that's why he got off the train? Did he have a chance to warn me at that point and instead took it upon himself to enforce the rules in the very worst possible way?  

He continued his rant with NO! YOU WAS TOLD NOT TO GET ON THE TRAIN BLAH BLAH BLAH I'M A GIANT DUMBASS, and saying some more of the wrongest of things that are wronger than wrong. Why was he saying I was told that? Didn't he remember not telling me that? Didn't I tell him nobody said anything? Didn't he remember talking with me, letting me sit there for several minutes as he went about his business? Would I just sit there like that if he'd told me to get off the train? I briskly walked across the platform into the thankfully still open doors of the correct train. The doors closed fairly soon afterwards, and I gave the guy the finger all the way out of the station. 

People I ended up sitting near probably overheard a bit of the conversation, and I got a few perplexed looks, but I didn't share the story with anyone. I was too busy fuming. I was literally shaking with rage. It took me half the train ride to calm back down.

And then occurred a brilliant display of the universe balancing itself back out. 

Nobody came to collect my ticket. The tickets are good in either direction for two months, and I will certainly use the ticket soon.

I rode the train for free that day. 

Man, fuck that guy.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rocked on a Mountain in Maine

Our band wanted to do something big. 

What's something people will notice? What's something we can do that takes planning, but not a ton of money? One day Nick thought "I know, let's shoot a music video on top of a really fucking tall mountain!"


We were going to need some help. 

Friends of the band lept at the opportunity to help us out with this monumental endeavor. Our friend Kate actually had a camp nearby that we could stay at the night before too. WHAT AMAZING LUCK. I don't think any of us realized just how out of the way this camp was, but more on that later..

So the expedition started with me joining Nick and Mesa in Connecticut on Thursday night June 14th, where we planned to discuss the final logistics involved in organizing the trip (read: drink). We would get up the next morning and drive the approximately one million miles to Kate's camp, stopping a few places along the way to gather food, supplies, people, and to distract ourselves from how much this was  probably going to suck.

Pit stop #1: Topsham
Nick's Mom's house, about 4 hours into the drive. We needed a break, and were going to meet up with some more of the crew, Tyler, Dan and Ryan. This is when we realized two things. One, "Wait just a god damned minute, how are we going to sync the audio from the track with the video we planned to shoot?" And two, "What if there's no parking at the mountain?"

For the first solution, we needed to acquire a battery powered stereo or iPod dock. We all owned those things, but nobody had them at their disposal. Lucky for us though, my parents had a sweet boom box, and we could swing by to grab it. 

know most people don't call them boom boxes anymore, but this was a fucking boom box.

Also possibly from the future.
All we needed were batteries and we would blast forth our tunage from the highest point in Maine. Fortunately, this device didn't run on car batteries like you might expect. However, it did need eight D batteries. Perfect. It wasn't heavy enough.

We would all slowly learn to hate this boom box. And by slowly, I mean quickly.

The second solution was to call ahead and reserve parking spaces. The route we had intended to take is highlighted in green below. Up the Chimney Pond trail, up Saddle to Baxter Peak, across the Knife Edge, and down Helon Taylor.

So we called to reserve parking by the Chimney Pond entrance. Here's the lady on the other line:

It turns out the only available spots left were at the Katahdin Stream campground, by the Hunt trail.


Ok no worries, we are a flexible bunch! We agreed we would persevere despite any bumps in the road. Hunt trail it was. This was happening.

Seriously though, fuck. 

Pit Stop #2: Waterville
My parents house to pick up the aforementioned boom box. We also got some girl scout cookies that my Mom had lying around. 

Pit Stop #3: Milford
Shaun's place, where him and the rest of the crew, Bill, Smey, and Francis would join. I think the original plan was to get there at a reasonable hour, and head up to Millinocket fairly quickly where we'd all go to Hannaford and grab food for the next day's hike. Well, that didn't happen. People were held up variously, and we decided to hit the Hannaford in Orono instead. I don't know about anybody else's shopping trip, but my thought process in the grocery store basically amounted to this:

What foods can I eat that will make up for my almost total lack of physical preparation?

I ride my bike a decent amount and did a few sets of squats in the weeks before, but I wasn't really in hiking shape because you know...I didn't want to overtrain... So I, and everyone else, were all trying to load up on carb-heavy and energy-dense foods to stave off any hospital visits. Fruit smoothies, granola bars, cliff bars, bananas, etc..

We got our groceries, and it was about 7PM at that point. Kate's camp was 2 more hours away but didn't have an address that was really on the map, or easy to navigate to, so we were going to meet at a little store close to her camp instead of the Millinocket Hannaford, then make the final leg of the trip before eating and then packing it in for the night. 

The highway north of Orono Maine is about as desolate as a highway can get. There is just nothing but trees and fields for miles and miles. Not even close to as isolated as we'd get though. 

Pit Stop#4: Kate's Cabin
The closest store to the camp was the Abol Campground and General Store. Getting there was an expedition in itself. We couldn't just use GPS. We had to look up the directions ahead of time, save that shit, and hope to hell it's wasn't confusing once we got there, because GPS satellites are a fairly tale in those forsaken fucking boondocks. 

Here's how the trip to the general store went as far as I can remember:

  • Arrive in Millinocket
  • Drive to the outskirts of town.
  • Take a quick turn onto a fire road, and then onto the Golden Road.
  • "Hey we must be close! The store and camp are on the Golden Road!"
  • Drive a few miles on pavement.
  • Keep going onto a dirt road.
  • "Oh the road has turned to dirt! Not long now!"
  • Road turns back into pavement.
  • Back into dirt.
  • Back into pavement.
  • "What the fuck?"
  • Drive over the most pothole-laden road on the whole earth. 
  • Night falls.
  • Pull into the store parking lot where we'd all probably get murdered by wild forest people.

As middle of nowhere as this place was, the scenery (when it was still light out) was absolutely beautiful. The sun was setting, shining its last light onto the mountain, and it was so secluded and quiet and just amazing. 

So, this store was the agreed meeting spot, only Kate and two more of her friends, Matt and Alan weren't there. Hmm. Well nobody had cell service, so we had to just assume they'd be there shortly. We waited. Forty long minutes passed, and we started to worry a bit. We tried to think of backup plans that weren't horrible, (pitch a tent in the woods somewhere? Try to find the cabin ourselves?) but we couldn't. Then we thought through the possible scenarios that would explain our friends' absence. Either we had somehow gotten the meeting spot wrong, they had gotten into some sort of accident, or they were making us wait, because we were assholes and this was payback for us taking our sweet ass time getting there. 

Several cars drove by us over these forty minutes. Each time we figured this HAD to be Kate, cause who the fuck else would be driving by this secluded-ass closed store at this time of night? Apparently a lot of people, and they all had trucks. Luckily none of them tried to murder us.

At this point Nick and me decided to break the number one rule of horror movies, and split off from the rest of the group. Maybe there was another entrance to this campground a mile or so down the road? Or if they had gotten in an accident, maybe we'd come across them? About a mile down the road another car passed us coming from the other direction. It wasn't a truck, so we figured it must be Kate. We kept driving just in case though, and just as we were about to turn around, we saw a moose. 


It ran across the road, into the woods, and then cause it's a moose, and is dumb as hell, it ran back into the road, and then along the road. GOOD WAY TO NOT GET HIT MOOSE. REAL SMART.

So anyway, we turned around, and sure enough, the car that had passed us was Kate. They had gotten a flat tire, but were back in business, and now it was time to head to the camp. Phew, they weren't dead. 

As secluded as we were, the camp was still several miles away. We drove and drove, knowing that if any of us got hurt, this is how much farther the ambulance would have to drive. The scenery had changed from breathtaking to just dark and scary. This road had already claimed one tire, how long before it claimed another? We didn't even have a spare tire. HEY LET'S NOT THINK ABOUT THAT THOUGH RIGHT? HAHA GOOD TIMES OK WOOHOO!!

Eventually, we arrived at the turn to the camp! Hooray! And you know, why would the driveway be any longer than a hundred feet or so? There's already absolutely nothing out here. We assumed that Kate's family wouldn't want to bushwhack through hundreds of yards of forest any more than we would want to drive through it.

Wrong. Again.

This road looked more like an ATV trail. And it stretched for quite a ways into the woods. Much farther than any of us thought was necessary. But we finally pulled up and realized it wasn't this far in so nobody would hear our screams, it was to be close to a lake.

Oooh, pretty.

This place was the definition of serene. I kind of wish we had gotten there before it was dark.

So we made a fire, grilled, packed on the calories for the next day's hike, and all acted in a way that suggested we didn't fully understand the scope of what was to come. I, and several others, had hiked Katahdin before, so I thought I knew what I was in for. Nope.

We went to bed at around midnight. Hell, we only would've gotten a full night's sleep if we'd gone to bed at about the time we'd left Milford, so FUCK IT.

The Big Day
Up at 4:15. Yes, AM. We needed an early start because we still had to pack all of our stuff, and then backtrack through pothole land and several more miles to get to the gate before 7:00, as our parking spots would be forfeited at 7:05.

Seriously look at these potholes.

After some more grand prix racing, thirteen of us rolled up in four cars to the gas station right outside the road that leads to the park entrance. We had stopped because one of the cars was almost out of gas. But the gas station was closed. The park entrance was several miles away still, so we had to split up again. We couldn't risk forfeiting the parking spots, so we had to just hope they'd find gas somewhere, and make it back in time. This was the second instance of waiting nervously.

Then, just before 7:00, they rolled in. Phew again. 

Time to gear up!

It's Mountain Time Motherfucker.
We made sure our bags were all properly packed, and divvied up the instruments.

Maybe I hadn't yet made that clear. On top of all of our normal hiking equipment, we also had to carry the following:
  • Guitar
  • Keyboard
  • Snare drum and stand.
  • Hi Hat and stand.
  • Floor tom.
  • Kick pedal.
  • American flag (because 'Merica)
  • Stupid fucking Boom Box.

Here we all are, fairly early in the hike. You can see by the looks on our faces it was starting to sink in how much carrying this shit was going to totally blow.

After a little while, we got to the first signpost that told us the summit was only 4.1 miles away, which really doesn't seem that far until you realize it totally is.

We were still in high spirits though. Carrying that shit was tiring, but not totally exhausting yet. We would all soon get our second wind. We were all munching away on energy food, staying hydrated and keeping positive. Here are some of us a bit higher up.


See? We were still feeling good. Good thing too, because we were probably less than a quarter of the way through the whole hike.

Below the tree line, there were a few points of intense steepness, and a few more lookout spots. It was a pretty intense to climb extremely high, hop up onto a lookout point, look at all the surrounding peaks that stretched waaay above us on all sides, and realize that the summit we were headed to was much much taller than all of them. One of these lookout spots included a dazzling rendition of "A Whole New World" complete with backing vocals, harmonies, and key changes. If anyone has video of this, please let me know. I think the world needs to see it.

Above the tree line, it started getting STEEP and WINDY. We could no longer just haul the extra equipment up on our shoulders. We had to strategically hand pieces up to each other assembly line style while scrambling up and over huge boulders. Hauling equipment up a mountain takes quite a bit more energy than not hauling equipment up a mountain.

Good thing we were tough as hell.

We got to a popular rest spot with no incline, and took a break. Time for some ab-rolling sandwich eating.

Definitely the only person that's ever done this.

After we were somewhat recharged, we hauled our asses up another steep incline to the great plateau.


To this:

Plateau-y as fuck.

This seemed like a good spot to film, so we recorded a run through of our song, "Our Way" WHICH I CAN'T SHOW YOU CAUSE I DON'T WANT TO RUIN THE SURPRISE.

After that, we had only one final ascent to the summit. At this point, hikers that weren't fucking around had already made it to the summit, and were on their way back down. 

Earlier on in the hike, these people that saw our equipment thought we were totally insane, (and they had a point) but now that we were close to the summit, they didn't want to be discouraging, so they all had very positive things to say to us. I think we heard the exact phrase, "Looks like we're missing the party!" probably about 100 times. But you know what? They were RIGHT. We told everyone our band name, and told them to look for the video in the coming weeks. I'd say probably about 1% of those people have actually remembered our band name.

During this final ascent, we were starting to feel some pretty ill effects. My hip started to hurt with just about every step, and other people were starting to get cases of rubber-legs. Remember that boom box?

If E.T. was a boom box.

This isn't that heavy, until you carry it up a mountain. It's also the world's most awkward shape, so anyone cursed with the burden of carrying it at any point during the hike felt like doing this:

Not long now though. This would all be worth it.

BAM. Summit.
We celebrated. We ate. We drank (water). We rejoiced. Now it was time to do what we came to do. Make a fucking music video:

Just a preview...

And eat bacon.

Spectators were in awe. Who were these crazy bastards that hauled these instruments up a mountain? Here's an actual conversation I had.

"Holy shit! You brought instruments up here?! How did you get them up here?!"

"We carried them."

You see? They knew "we carried them" was the only logical answer, but they asked anyway because some part of them refused to believe that anybody would be that crazy and/or stupid.

And this is exactly the reaction we wanted. We can only hope some of these people remember who we are, and are intrigued enough to look for us later.

After this was our attempt at making a five hour energy commercial. See, Nick had purchased over a dozen of these to be handed out at the summit, the idea being that we could all chug them together on camera and get an endorsement from them or something. Well, it was so fucking windy there was no possible way to hear anything, but we kind of got some shaky footage of us all drinking these more or less at the same time from a distance. Somehow I don't think five hour energy is gonna go for it though. But hey, five hours of energy. That's about how long it will take to climb back down! Perfect!

But in all seriousness, this was the culmination of a colossal effort that I never thought we'd actually achieve. I knew this was our goal, and I knew it's what all the effort was for, but I still can't believe we pulled it off, and I still can't believe the support of all the people that helped us along the way. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Thank you to everyone involved.


Also thank you to Kate, Matt, and Alan for hosting us the night before. They didn't feel like hiking the mountain at our slow ass pace, and had slowly broken off from our group. They probably didn't want to be associated with our hijinks since it wasn't totally guaranteed that we wouldn't end up arrested. I don't blame them. We caught them on their way back down as we were making our way up that final ascent, and said our thank yous and goodbyes. But hey, they too were missing the party.

So after getting all the footage, eating some bacon, and some more rejoicing, we'd noticed that by then, basically everyone else had cleared off the summit, so it was time to pack up and go. We had originally planned to go across the Knife Edge, but that was out of the question now, unless we went down a different way, and hitchhiked the several miles to the other parking lot. Plus it was windy, and the Knife Edge is pretty dangerous in the wind. Oh, and what's this?

Hmm, that's getting fairly close.


We were in for some weather. Eh, a little rain never hurt anyone though huh?! We went back the way we came, stopped at the plateau, and took one more break, all while hoping we'd get lucky, and just maybe the storm would circumvent us. That would be super helpful, because the exhaustion really started to set in at this point, and keeping spirits up became more difficult.

Then it started hailing into our faces.

The storm did not circumvent us. At all. It came at us full force. Although we didn't want to get rained on, we had mentally prepared for that possibility as we watched the storm ominously approaching. Well, it didn't rain! Instead, it started hailing sideways at us, and a humble cheerlessness settled on us all.

We now had to hike down this:

While it hailed on us. While still carrying our equipment.

Feeling exhausted, wet, and miserable.

I know Nick...I know...

But we trudged on ahead. Everyone was now fighting their own battle against the mountain. Going at our own pace was key, so at this point, the groups started to separate. The focus and determination needed to keep going took all the energy we had, so interacting with each other became less and less frequent, so as to not expend energy needlessly.

I hiked on ahead, wanting to get this over with as quickly as I could. Boy were those cascading rocks endless. Every time I felt I had made major progress, the next turn came, and I looked down onto the still remaining miles of nearly vertical wilderness.

Like I said, I had hiked Katahdin before, but not this trail, and I wasn't carrying a fucking drum before. IT MADE A BIG DIFFERENCE. I had to maneuver back over the boulders, set the drum down, cautiously slide down a rock, get my footing, turn back around, hoist the drum back onto my shoulder, go about one step, and do it all again.


and over..

and OVER.

While it continued to hail into my face.

And none of us had any choice. We had all reached our breaking point, but had to move onward. I kept looking at the vast expanse of wet slippery stupid boulders in front of me, and felt exhaustion and defeat like never before. The last thing I wanted to do was anything, but we all had to do what amounted to hundreds of squats on slippery rocks with dead legs, and I cannot stress this enough, WHILE IT WAS HAILING ON OUR FACES.


Other times in my life when I've felt exhausted, I've always had a choice. Any sort of workout I had done that involved extreme exertion always had an out. If I really needed to, I could have opted out. I could have stopped running, biking, swimming, lifting, whatever. But not today. I had to bring this drum down this mountain. There was no way around it, and it was a very jarring realization. My legs trembled violently with every step, and I still had miles to go.

After what felt like forever, I found one of the lookout spots we had stopped at on the way up, so I shimmied up it and sat for a bit. The hail finally stopped, and the sun even peeked out a few times. I just sat there, reflecting, feeling the faintest sense of completion on the horizon. I thought about Tyler and Dan carrying the boom box, and how much it must have totally sucked to be them.

The end was almost in sight. Just two more miles. I waited for everyone else to catch up to this lookout point. I discovered that Nick had broken his guitar, and that although they had tried to keep the boom box sheltered, it had gotten wet, and probably didn't work anymore. We later confirmed after it totally dried out that no, it did not work. Our worst fear came true.

We carried it back down the mountain for nothing.

There were a few twisted ankles. Everyone was wet and exhausted. Behind every laugh was a glimmer of hopelessness, as if to say "It's hard to enjoy laughter, knowing this may be the last time I ever do it."

We recharged as much as we possibly could, and then set off again, quickly splitting up into our respective groups once more. Here I am closing in on the last mile carrying a big wet drum:

I dare you to find any happiness in this picture.

Every step was the most exhausted I'd ever felt. I had to talk to myself to get through it, knowing that each step I took brought me closer to victory. I felt like I had walked three miles since the two mile point, and I hadn't even gotten to the one mile marker. My brain was starting to turn to mush. No room for rational thought or spatial awareness. My body was eating itself. My entire being had boiled down to "one foot in front of the other, and don't drop this fucking drum."

With about a mile left, I was alone again. There were more frequent spots with little elevation change, and although I couldn't walk normally, I managed to awkwardly bound through these spots fairly quickly without collapsing.

The feeling I got when the trees opened up to the campground by the parking lot is one I will not soon forget. I felt like a fucking hero even though I had completed what countless people do on a daily basis. But they weren't carrying drums were they?!

It was about 7:30 when I rolled in, several minutes behind the first group. Yup, that's a solid twelve hours of being on that mountain. The bugs were pretty fucking terrible at the bottom, so Shaun and I figured we hop into Nick's car while we waited, only it was locked. Oh look, no worries, the sun roof is open! I climbed into the car through the sun roof to unlock the door for Shaun.



My thought process:

Hmm, this alarm isn't going to stop is it?... I wonder how far behind Nick is?...Wow, people at this campground probably don't like this at all...

The honking went on for several minutes until we decided to pop the hood and just rustle around and pull some fuses until it stopped. Most of the fuses didn't come out, and the ones that did come out didn't make it stop. But then, suddenly, it stopped on its own. WHEW. I was at the end of my rope and didn't want to deal with that shit.

So we squashed into Dan's car, and waited for the rest of the gang to show up. They came in about fifteen minutes apart each. We were all delirious, communicating through mostly mumbles and grunts. About an hour passed, and we had one final member of our crew that was still on the trail. He was accompanying an older fellow too, making sure he didn't get lost. It got a bit nerve racking at the end, but at about 8:45, Francis rolled in and we all cheered quietly to ourselves, since we had no energy for anything else. We unceremoniously said our goodbyes, again, too exhausted for anything else, and drove out of the park. And now began the journey home.

Driving Home
As soon as we got in the car, our main priority was to not be in the car anymore. We were eager to get to Mesa's parents' house, where we'd recuperate, and then head home the next day. Well, things don't always work out.

I fell asleep almost instantly. Even when I wasn't asleep, I wasn't fully awake, until we got to an intersection, with a sign that none of us recognized. The only landmark on the sign that was remotely close was the ranger station to the left. Everything else was something ridiculous like fifty miles away. The ranger station must be where we came in! So we turned left, and were met with a dead end. There was another truck parked on this road, (who the fuck knows why, but thank god) and we asked him for directions. In the world's best Maine accent he replied

"Ayuh, yah go upta that stawp sign, take a right, and yah gonna go seventeen miles."

Seventeen miles. On dirt roads. Speed limit 20mph. So almost another hour. Just to get out of the park.

All three of us did well to not communicate to the other two how utterly fucking destroyed this news made us feel, but a silence hung briefly after we heard the number "seventeen". I wanted to meekly reply, "..are you sure?" But this dude was Mainah as hell. He looked like one of those guys that can tell you exactly what time it is by looking at the sun, or tell you where the closest moose is by sniffing the air. He knew exactly where he fucking was. 

On a normal day, having to go an extra thirty four miles would make you snap your fingers and say "shucks!" but on this day, we had nothing left. It felt like he said "Ayuh, upta the stawp sign, take a right, and drive LITERALLY FOREVER."

Again, we had no choice but to go back. I drifted in and out again, but I remember coming to once we drove past the entrance to the parking lot we'd left from. Ahh, not long now. I fell back asleep.

Suddenly I awoke to screaming, violent jostling and then SMASH.

I snapped into a confused primal alertness. My senses came back. Nick is yelling, "is everyone ok??!" Thankfully, everyone is. What the fuck happened? Did we hit a pothole? A deer? A moose? A tree?

Apparently we had skidded off the road on one of the sharp turns and crashed into a rock, crunching the front end, smashing the windshield, and causing the airbags to explode out. I only became fully awake after it was all over, and I was in the back seat, so I didn't experience the full brunt of the terror, only the aftermath of the car being sideways at about a forty five degree angle as it filled with the strange smell of deployed airbags. Still awfully scary. We gathered our wits, and thought maybe despite the damage we could at least drive the car off the rock and to a garage, and then go from there, but it was stuck. We managed to crawl out of the car and tried to push, but it was totally pinned. There was such a huge rush of adrenaline, that we couldn't even feel exhaustion or creeping soreness anymore.

So what now?

We were stranded in the middle of a dirt road in Baxter State Park, in the dark, miles from anyone, and even more miles from a phone. Good thing our friends were behind us.

Bill, Smey, Shaun, and Francis were in the car behind us, and had also taken the wrong turn out of the parking lot. We had passed them after turning around, so we knew they couldn't have been far behind. A short time passed, and sure enough, they arrived. They saw the destruction and I can only imagine how they felt, since they didn't get the surge of adrenaline. They suddenly had to deal with this in a more exhausted state than we were in. Luckily, everyone remained level headed. Miraculously Mesa's phone got one bar of service just in time for her Mom to call. What are the odds? She had time to discuss what had happened, and that everyone was ok, but that we'd be a bit late to say the least. Then the service dropped out again.

So the plan became this: Mesa would hop in the other car with those four and go get help, while Nick and I would stay at the scene of the accident and wait for the help to arrive. They were going to presumably find the closest phone and try to call a tow truck or the police or whoever would be able to help. Off they went, and Nick and I had no idea how long they would be. The closest store was that gas station I mentioned before, but that was definitely closed now.

So we hopped back into the severely tilted car, knowing that there was nothing we could do but wait.

The surge of adrenaline had mostly worn off at this point. The exhaustion crept back in, and we tried to just sleep in the car until help arrived.

I don't know how many of you have ever tried to sleep in a car in the woods at a forty five degree angle after a car accident after hiking ten miles, but it wasn't exactly easy. I sat in silence for a bit, my head spinning a million different directions at once. The anxiety of thinking about how totally isolated we were, and how difficult it was going to be to just wait for at least an hour, (almost certainly more), while we sat in a busted car on the side of a dirt road, along with the exhaustion of the day, along with the sudden recollection of all the terrible horror movies I've ever seen, was totally overwhelming for a brief period. I said to Nick at one point. "This is making me anxious as fuck. I'm never going to be able to sleep." And Nick said "Well, it's the only thing we can do right now." And I knew that, but after hearing him say it, I guess I was able to fully resign myself to that fact, chill the fuck out, and drift off. But then the cars started coming.

I didn't think there would've been so much traffic on such an secluded area at this time of night, but over the course of our wait, four separate cars drove past us. You gotta love the good nature in people though, because every one of them stopped. I would've loved to get some sleep instead of having to repeatedly hop out of the car (which took some effort I might add) and explain to everyone that yes, we had an accident, but we were all ok, and help was on the way. After about an hour and a half, the fourth car drove up, and I started my little speech. But then, about halfway through explaining the situation, another car pulled up behind them. It was Bill, Smey, and Shaun. Hooray! I told the fourth good samaritan that we were taken care of, and thanked them for stopping.

Apparently a few miles outside the road leading to the park entrance, the gang had found a little inn with a phone. The owner was very accommodating, and let Mesa use the phone all she needed. She called in a park ranger, who would come fill out an accident report, and explain how to move forward with the situation. Once this was settled, Bill, Smey, and Shaun came back for us.

We all headed back to the inn, talked with the park ranger, figured out what to do about the insurance and tow truck, and we arranged to have Mesa's Dad pick us up at whatever garage we got dropped at the next day. Bill, Smey, Shaun and Francis made sure we were all ok, and departed for Milford. (Thanks again guys!) The owner of the inn set us up with a couple of rooms for the night at a discount, reheated some soup and bread for us, which at that point was the most delicious fucking thing in all of the universe, and we were able to finally get some sleep.

What a day.

The Next Morning/Aftermath
We started with all that boring crap like calling triple A, and the insurance company. I hung back at the inn while Nick and Mesa visited the scene of the accident to get the car onto the tow truck. The driver allegedly looked at the car in its wrecked state and had this to say.

"Yah done good kid."

Then, apparently while pulling the car off the rock, the car rolled too far and smashed into the truck, busting the taillight. GOOD. PILE IT ON. 

The tow truck arrived back in the inn to pick me up. According to Nick The conversation between him and the driver went like this:

Driver: Yuh ruhm widdya gon get ayuh wid gon upta yur?
Nick: *mumble mumble*
Driver: What?
Nick: What?
Together: Hahaha!
Driver: ...
Nick: ...


When they pulled in, I noticed the driver was about as magnificently bearded as I expected, and we headed to the garage to wait for Mesa's Dad, who showed up fairly soon after, and hauled our destroyed selves back to Blue Hill. 

This concluded one of those few times in one's life where you really have no idea what will happen next. Sure you never really know exactly what's going to happen, but usually you have at least a vague idea of what the immediate future holds. But to be wrestled away from that path was a valuable experience. Am I happy we got into a car accident and stranded? Fuck no. But we all worked it out and steadied ourselves within the next day or so, and to be reminded every once awhile that you're capable of that is important. It also helps to have friendly, helpful, loving people around. Thank you Schubecks for your hospitality. 

The next day involved much much much stiffer legs/backs/everythings. The slight change in elevation between the kitchen and the living room was enough to make us pause and evaluate how best to go about it. The soreness lasted about a week, or what Shaun likes to call "Thigh Awareness Week." It's very unpleasant, but each step reminded me of our grand journey, so it wasn't all bad.

So we rented a car, and drove the one million miles back south. We unloaded the gear, and then I hopped on a train back home to Brooklyn to get not enough sleep for the next several days. 

Memories achieved. Thanks again everyone.


Our Album is coming out within the next couple of weeks. Don't worry, you will all definitely know when it happens because we will be very irritating in our perseverance. The epic video to accompany the equally epic song "Our Way" will follow shortly after.

In the meantime, here is our first single:

Stay tuned.

RIP Honda.
RIP Nick's Guitar.
RIP Boom Box.

Actually no, fuck you boom box.