Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vinyl Vednesday 8/31/2011

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. As always, e-mail with your own big finds!]

Rick James’ Street Songs (1981) on black, Ida Maria’s “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked” seven-inch (2008) on clear red, and Mean Jeans’ “Tears in My Beers” seven-inch (2010) on black.

Place of Purchase:
eBay for James ‘n’ Maria. Mean Jeans was a promo from the Trouble in Mind label for review.

Thoughts: Music journalist Michelangelo Matos is pretty much my spirit guide when it comes to R&B. In addition to penning a most excellent book about Prince’s Sign O’ the Times, he also wrote an illuminating essay on music from 1981 that introduced me to Rick James. Obviously, James was already in my consciousness, first for “Super Freak,” then for his appearance on Chappelle’s Show. But it was Matos who turned me on to “Give It to Me Baby,” a song so undeniably funky and sexy and funny and awesome that I had to buy the record it appeared on. I used to think James was a bitter beauty queen for hating hip-hop so much. Then I heard Street Songs and realized he really just hated it because rappers couldn’t touch what his songwriting. While I wouldn’t put him on the same level as Prince or Michael Jackson, Street Songs is still essential listening for people who like sexxxy musics. Blasting this record makes me feel so good.

Unlike Rick James, whom I instantly fell in love with upon hearing “Give It to Me Baby,” my courtship with Ida Maria took a few months. She honestly first came into my view when “Oh My God” was used in the trailer for It’s Kind of a Funny Story. I found the song to be addictive, adrenaline-pumping fun, but my fiancée Michelle swore that Maria’s debut album was terrible. But I couldn’t get “Oh My God” out of my head, and soon I picked up the single on eBay. I decided that I would buy a second single and, should it be as good, I’d commit to the record. “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked” is just as catchy and, like James, super fun/sexy jam. The B-sides are mighty fine.

Said it before, said it again: Mean Jeans made a great mini-concept album about dranking back the year 2010. “Tears in My Beers” is a zesty Ramones tribute of a tune, while “Cool 2 Drive” is more somber. That’s relatively speaking, of course. Still, of all the Ramones rip-offs over the years, Mean Jeans are my favorite. They just have a raw yet hooky pop-punk delivery that never gets old for me.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Brett Callwood - 'The Stooges: Head On, a Journey Through the Michigan Underground'

The problem with penning a band biography is that sometimes the band’s story isn’t over yet, therefore robbing writers of a true ending. Such was the case for Brett Callwood’s The Stooges: A Journey Through the Michigan Underground. Originally released in the U.K. in 2008, the book covered the seminal proto-punk group the Stooges up through their new millennium reunion and their comeback record The Weirdness. That’s a solid end point, but while Callwood prepped the book for an American release, big news shook the band: Founding guitarist Ron Asheton died at the age of 60. Hence, Callwood’s U.S. adaptation has been rewritten, as well as retitled The Stooges: Head On, a Journey Through the Michigan Underground. While this second edition comes from good intentions, the actual read is, while informative, at times plodding and uneventful.

Considering the book comes in at just 151 pages, boosted by a discography listing and a poem about the band by Glenn Danzig to close it out (I’ll say this one more time: The book ends with Glenn Danzig’s poetry. Mother!), “plodding” shouldn’t occur. Yet, Head On suffers from a quote-heavy writing style, often laying out a series of interviews without really capturing the Stooges’ essence. The group’s original run was brief, but the way the book jumps from the group’s beginnings to Fun House (the best Stooges album, by the way) seems like a flash. It’s not too heavy on flavor when it comes to storytelling, but it’s not exactly fact-heavy either. This is supposed to a book about a band renowned for its crazy, dangerous live energy, but that hardly comes across.

At the same time, though, Callwood’s goal for Head On was to give the Asheton brothers their due, and in that he succeeds. Ron and Scott get equal billing with legendary frontman Iggy Pop. In fact, Callwood’s writing led me to explore Ron Asheton’s post-Stooges output, and I gotta say, more people should listen to Destroy All Monsters. A more goth-tinged, but still very punk, version of the Stooges, Destroy All Monsters are quite good. Callwood’s section on the group is also one of the stronger passages. In fact, while the Stooges come and go, the chapters covering the years between Raw Power and The Weirdness are the best, whether its dealing with other musical pursuits or B-movies (Although I could have used more love for Pop’s The Idiot. That record rules).

Like the band it chronicles, Head On is a direct, quick shot. Callwood doesn’t dive into flowery hyperbole and never oversells the group. While it would have been nice to see a wider interview pool or more facts about the band’s early days, Head On is still a concise, cohesive read. If you’re a fan, the middle chapters about lesser known pursuits will hook you. If you want to explore punk rock beyond the Ramones and the Sex Pistols (and you really should, poser), Head On makes the case for the Stooges’ relevance, then and now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Vinyl Vednesday 8/24/2011

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. As always, e-mail with your own big finds!]

New York Dolls’ Too Much Too Soon (1974) on black, Zombie Zombie’s Plays John Carpenter (2010) on black, and the To Benefit Petra Haden seven-inch compilation (2003) on grey.

Place of Purchase:
NYD came from my recent trip to Shore Things in Ocean City, N.J. Zombie Zombie was snatched up unheard from Repo Records in Philadelphia specifically because it involved John Carpenter. The Haden comp came from defunt shop Spaceboy Music in Philadelphia (I’d say R.I.P., but the clerks there were always wieners).

Thoughts: I’ve been trying to find New York Dolls’ Too Much Too Soon on compact disc for years, but I finally caved and bought it on vinyl. I decided to go with Shore Things for this particular item because one summer prior, a clerk there harassed the bedickens out of me about buying it, much to my consternation. I’m glad I finally bough it though. It’s such a fun, funny glam rock/proto-punk collection, a bridge between Ziggy-era David Bowie and later ’70s acts like Kiss and The Ramones. It’s deliciously raw despite all of its ’50s doo-wop inclinations. Best revelation of all: I finally understand that Voodoo Glow Skulls song “Stranded in the Jungle,” for Punk-O-Rama 5, was actually a Too Much Too Soon cover.

John Carpenter had a string of brilliant genre flicks in the ’70s and ’80s, and he’s something of a DIY icon to me, if only because he was able to create so much of his movies on his own, from scripting to directing to scoring. French DJ duo Zombie Zombie acknowledge just how important Carpenter’s synth scores were by covering some of his biggest “hits.” Yeah, the A-side’s take on the Escape From L.A. theme is weird, if only because no one wants to talk about Escape From L.A., but the B-side packs two of Carpenter’s best compositions. First off is his most well known piece, the Halloween theme, a simple piano piece that I think might be impossible to ruin. It’s just so haunting and intimidating. Closing out the EP, though, is the theme from The Thing. That movie relies more on tones to create atmosphere, and Zombie Zombie pack it with all the dread they can muster.

To Benefit Petra Haden is one of the first records I ever bought. I’ve gone through phases as a record collection. I’m just now coming out of a compulsory need to double up on all of my favorite bands, like Jawbreaker and Discount. When I first got a record player, all I wanted to do was pick up rare, vinyl-only stuff from my favorite bands, which was probably a better idea than rebuying every album I liked. As a benefit comp, Petra Haden seems like a bad idea – it’s a limited edition seven-inch, created after the original Rilo Kiley live album recorded to benefit Haden was ruined, meant to help pay for Haden’s medical bills after she was in a hit-and-run. This comp is worth way more now than it was in 2003. But if you were all about the power-pop like I was at the time, you were obsessed with this double-seven-inch. You get Weezer playing a Pinkerton cut back when they never played those songs, a new Ben Kweller tune, and one of Phantom Planet’s better tunes from their self-titled record. Also, AM Radio shows up. While I’m not the Weerez/BK obsessive I once was, I still treasure this set.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

regarding Science Club's status

Two things:

1. My band Science Club played a terrifically sloppy show in the woods on Saturday. This guy Frank hosted it, and the dude lives in front of a haunted hayride. No joke. Tons of bugs, but it was a good time. We opted to play mostly new material, because we never do, and it's really time we started showing off our ever so dense catalog. We hardly ever play most of our songs, which is why they were so sloppy but ya'll fuckers should feel honored anyway.

2. When I wrote "new material" above, I meant "songs not on our upcoming EP Failure Ballads. The art is nearly done. The liner notes are on the tips of our writing utensils. We took a power lunch last week to hammer out the deets. Nate and I wore suits. Nick, ever the rank amateur, showed up late in a business casual outfit. UNBELIEVABLE. We argued loudly in front of children. We drank deep. We wrote checks and we tasted the bolder life.

Anyhoozle, the EP is coming out this fall.

Braid - 'Closer to Closed'

The last few years have seen a creative resurgence from ’90s emo icons. Sunny Day Real Estate got back together, while luminaries like Blake Schwarzenbach and Davey von Bohlen continued to release high quality music with new groups forgetters and Maritime, respectively. Sure, there’s a touch of nostalgia involved, but some of these artists are still creating new works and fans are being rewarded.

But they can’t all be winners, and such is the case with Braid’s pseudo-comeback EP Closer to Closed. Then again, Braid never really went away much as it morphed into a new band, Hey Mercedes. Now, I loves me Braid something fierce. Frame & Canvas is one of my favorite albums. Hey Mercedes, however, does not occupy any space in my music collection. Rather, HM exists to remind me that Braid ultimately went through a name change that preserved its legacy and dumped a whole lot of mediocre emo tunes on a lesser brand.

While Closer to Closed still nails Braid’s style (constant tempo changes; bouncing similar sounding words off each other, per the album title), it’s big drop in quality, even if it does rope in all the original players and producer J. Robbins (ex-Jawbox/Burning Airlines/Government Issue). Braid circa 2011 is spit-shined mall emo-pop. It’s way too clean and way too much like a lot of the Hot Topic-loving band’s that ripped off Braid over the last decade.

Of course, when I think emo, I think youth, and there’s a part of me that wonders if I’m just outside of Braid’s demographic now, that nostalgia has cut me off from those formative years. But then I remember Schwarzenbach and von Bohlen, and how far they’ve come since Jawbreaker and The Promise Ring, it becomes clear: Closer to Closed is a clunker.

Friday, August 19, 2011

regarding Science Club's new show.

Frank's Garage
5160 Butler Pike
Plymouth Meeting, PA


-Starts at 8, ends whenever it ends.

-$5 a head to compensate Frank for letting us use his space.

The Next Big Thing
Science Club
Knight Kaptain

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SWTHRT - 'Compact Disc'

Fresh from the ashes of my beloved Museum Mouth comes SWTHRT, band of a thousand pronunciations. Perhaps it means “Sweaty Hurts,” which I think is a sex thing. Maybe it’s an initialism for “South West Tammy Has Ripe Tomatoes,” which I think might also be a sex thing.

Or maybe it’s “Sweatshirt” and they just left out the second “s” to keep their logo even-lettered, but that seems too obvious.

Having done the whole punk rock by way of Lemuria with Museum Mouth, guitarist/vocalist/drummer/bassist Karl Kuehn has now moved on to post-punk with SWTHRT’s Compact Disc, aided by keyboardist Becca High. Some of Museum Mouth’s elements carry over, like the grainy, dry production style, but generally speaking, this is a whole new sound for Kuehn. Here, he cultivates some serious Joy Division/Cure circa Faith/Seventeen Seconds worship.

“Good Omens” opens the record with a sparse bassline a la “A Forest” before High brings in a bright keyboard line. The result is akin to a more lo-fi Pains of Being Pure at Heart, although with less adenoidal vocals. At only 26 minutes in length, Compact Disc doesn’t have much room for expanding beyond the formula “Good Omens” sets, although there are glimmers of shoegaze in tunes like “Maggie Valley.”

The problem with Compact Disc is that it draws from a style that’s pretty popular right now. Yeah, that means it should appeal to a wider fanbase than maybe Museum Mouth ever achieved, but it also means that there are more bands playing this kind of music. SWTHRT is good, but they don’t surpass their obvious inspirations. Throw in a frustrating band name, and you get something that, while solid, is also a little forgettable.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

myPod: Fa-Fi

[myPod is an attempt to edit down my CD collection as I import my music on to my brand new 160 GB iPod.]

Face to Face

My introduction to Face to Face is perhaps unique among diehard fans, in that I was introduced to the pop-punk group via Ignorance is Bliss. The black sheep of F2F’s discography, Ignorance is an alt-rock record that dips into shoegaze. It’s essentially their Dear You, an album of surreal imagery that just bludgeons you with its otherwordly guitar tone. It’s not exactly punk rock, but it’s alternately heavy and dream-like and pretty dang great.

My next F2F purchase as a youngster was Big Choice. “Oh, they’re a punk band,” I thought. “Cool.” It was like discovering the band all over again, only this time I obsessed over catchy choruses and furious tempos. Big Choice remains one of the band’s best releases, along with Face to Face, which is arguably their catchiest record. Also essential listening: How to Ruin Everything, their supposed swan song before 2011’s Laugh Now… Laugh Later. That one is far and away the fastest and loudest, a real “rage against the dying of the light” record.

This only accounts for about half of Face to Face’s discography, though. The other half, while still pretty great, pales a little. Their debut, Don’t Turn Away, is a solid pop-punk album in the Fat Wreck vein¸ but it’s a dry run for Big Choice. Reactionary, released as damage control for all the fans who hated Ignorance’s experimentation, is a little by the numbers. It’s catchy, but it’s also probably their least distinct release. That leaves Standards and Practices, a surprisingly solid covers collection, and a fun split with Dropkick Murpheys. Finally, Laugh Now, while not the best F2F release by a wide margin, still boasts some good songs.

What attracts me to Face to Face is as follows: Frontman/guitarist Trever Keith writes song that everyone can identify with. The band has been absurdly blessed with bassists; both Matt Riddle and Scott Shiflett laid down thick, hearty grooves. The tempos are almost always blazing. The vocals soar. Some people write off pop-punk for being repetitive. I think they just haven’t heard Face to Face yet.

Verdict: Keep.

Factors of Four

Female-fronted Philly punk band that puts on a heck of a show. Their recorded output doesn’t do them justice though.

Verdict: Sell.

Fake Problems

Sometimes it’s weird outgrowing a band. Sometimes it happens gradually – I’ve found a few records from high school that don’t hold up at 25 – but others just kind of fade away quickly. I was all about Fake Problems’ freewheeling, humorous folk-punk circa 2007’s How Far Our Bodies Go. Then they hit a creative freeze, first by making a record that was too silly (It’s Great to Be Alive) and then overcompensated by making one that was too serious (Real Ghosts Caught on Film). I held on to Bodies for a while, but this most recent listen didn’t do much for me. It’s time to break up.

Verdict: Sell.

The Falcon

The Falcon is basically The Lawrence Arms.

Verdict: Keep.


Today was pretty stressful at work. But thanks to Fang Island’s self-titled full-length, I was able to suppress my murderous urges through the magic of guitar rockitude. The first three tracks form a sort of suite, culminating in “Daisy,” that centers me. Basically, they’re the indie rock version of Andrew W.K. Their EP Sky Gardens has a similar effect. Man I hope their formula never gets old (unlike AWK).

Verdict: Keep.

Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard

The Son Volt/ex-Uncle Tupelo frontman hooked up with the Death Cab for Cutie lead singer to compose a soundtrack to a documentary about Jack Kerouac. The result was a chilled out slice of Americana that heavily references Kerouac’s work without seeming derivative. The album’s a little expensive since it comes with the documentary, One Fast Move or I’m Gone, but it’s still a pleasing listen.

Verdict: Keep.


Growing up means discarding your Drive-Thru Records discography. Fenix TX was an early pop-punk band that gave DTR the pull to land future big names like New Found Glory and Midtown, so I’ve always held a sort of reverence for them. But I own too many clean SoCal pop-punk records, and besides, the juvenile humor displayed on their self-titled debut (I have the original version from when they were called RiverFenix) is a little too violent and misogynistic for my taste. Lechuza puts pop-punk tunes next to hard rock ones, which sounded weird then and now.

Verdict: Sell.


To celebrate this 50th release, Saddle Creek Records pressed an anniversary compilation promoting all of their acts. It was an essential release for me in high school. I had just gotten into Bright Eyes. Through this comp, I learned about indie acts like Rilo Kiley, Cursive, and Desaparecidos. But the exclusive tracks are kind of ho-hum, and every band on the comp other than the three in the previous sentence sound just like Bright Eyes (Well, minus Azure Ray). 50 was important when I was 16, but I don’t need it anymore.

Verdict: Sell.

Fight to Live

Dubious punk band from Doylestown. Their split with Best Thing in Town was solid, but their self-titled debut is hilariously terrible. Of particular note: “Trans,” an anti-love song about a beguiling transvestite; “Don’t Scare the Emo Kids,” about how punk is totally punk; and “Chinatown,” about being so punk that ya got kicked out of an Ataris show.

Verdict: Keep.

The Fire Theft

Sunny Day Real Estate is better renowned, but three out of its four members – Jeremy Enigk, Nate Mendel, and William Goldsmith – put on a mighty fine sequel with the short-lived Fire Theft. TFT essentially took SDRE’s dramatic emo leanings, which when last heard had matured into something approaching U2 on The Rising Tide, and continued along that path. The Fire Theft is anthemic and operatic, and while I still prefer SDRE, I also enjoy this quite a bit.

Verdict: Keep.

Vinyl Vednesday 8/17/2011

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. As always, e-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: Terence Trent D’Arby’s Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby (1987) on black, Gustav Holst’s The Planets, as performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra with William Steinberg, conductor (1970), on black with a sweet shiny, trippy cover, and the compilation The Right to Assemble Volume Two: A Hardcore Punk Compilation From New Brunswick, N.J. (2008) on clear.

Place of Purchase: D’Arby was purchased at Disc World (R.I.P.) in Conshohocken. Holst was obtained from Impact! Thrift Store back when it was still located in East Norriton. Right to Assemble came from my homies at Chunksaah Records.

Thoughts: While he burned himself out creatively pretty quickly, Terence Trent D’Arby put out one hell of a debut record. Yeah, it’s a little ’80s-ish in production, but the dude had a clean, soulful voice and a songwriting style that skipped along the border between pretentious and hilariously awesome (Sample lyric, from “Dance Little Sister,”: “GET UP OUTTA YA CHAIR GRANDMA! / Or rather, would you prefer to dance, grandmother?” This is a spoken word into, by the way. D’Arby loves spoken word intros). While the guy never quite topped Prince or Michael Jackson, he certainly had the confidence needed to try on this first album. Plus it’s got the super catchy “Wishing Well.” That song is so sparsely arranged but so infectious.

While I haven’t done this in a while, for a period of time I used to love digging through crates of vinyl at thrift stores. The success ratio was practically nil, but the few finds were so cheap that it felt validating. Also I love looking at all of the crappy Christmas records people donate. One day, a creepy dude saddled up to me and started going off about how classical is the best musical genre. He talked at me for maybe 10-15 minutes, long enough to scare my then-girlfriend, now-fiancée, Michelle. I was looking for classic rock and ’80s pop on the cheap, but this dude kept pushing Holst’s The Planets on me with a vengeance. I finally caved – it only cost a few cents anyway. Besides, hey, maybe I could dig classical too. While I’ve come to since love the orchestral works of Hans Zimmer, Planets is merely one of those once-in-a-while kind of albums. It has some amazing swelling moments. Those strings are, um, really stringy. Also, I kind of like the random looks it gets when people flip through my collection.

OK, back to the punk rock. Man, 2008 was a great year for Hub City Hardcore, and Right to Assemble boasts exclusive tracks from a ton of bands that I was obsessed with then: The Ergs!, The Measure [SA], Static Radio NJ. There’s a bunch of other shouty, distorted guitary type groups, and the whole thing is just a real fun listen. Throw in a cool zine and a download for the first volume of Right to Assemble, and you’ve got yourself a real deal in stereo. Punkrockneverstop.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Horrors - 'Skying'

When the Horrors made the jump from garage rock-flavored punk to shoegaze on 2009’s Primary Colours, the result was revelatory, to say the least. I think I said something to the effect of “Got-damn! I say got-damn!” the first time I heard it, and the record continues to be a bright spot in shoegaze, a worthy successor to My Bloody Valentine and Ride. Here was a record with a throbbing, vibrant sonic array at its disposable, something that managed to sound dissonant and ethereal in equal measures.

But you can only pull that kind of a shocking turnaround once, which is why the group’s follow-up, Skying, is nearly, almost, ever so slightly disappointing, to the extent that it doesn’t bear the mind-blowing progression that marked its predecessor. Primary Colours was a thrilling left field follow-up to Strange House; Skying is a logical progression. Still, when you’re following up such a strong artistic breakthrough, being predictable isn’t so bad.

Skying still falls under the shoegaze tag. Yet it’s not quite as abrasive Colours, and that’s a big difference. If Colours was so loud it made you see sounds, Skying is the soft comedown, comparatively. Shit, the first two tracks, “Changing the Rain” and “You Said,” walk at a midtempo pace, dropping melodies just like honey while being a better second coming of the Stone Roses than Second Coming itself. I’m also going to throw in a Psychedelic Furs reference, if no other reason than songs like “Endless Blue” have saxophone.

What fans get here is a play-with-the-margins kind of album. If you got onboard with Primary Colours, congratulations, here’s another record of swirling, noisy pop, albeit with more everything – more quiet parts, more post-punk inclinations, more sax. But you also get an it-ain’t-broke kind of album, one that delivers on all the promise of Colours. Skying is nearly an hour in length, but it carries a hypnotic haze throughout.

If Colours was the sound of the Horrors showing off their record collections, Skying is them rising up to meet them. It proves that Colours wasn’t a fluke. It reveals that a band that used to rely on shock tactics for attention actually had something going on underneath. It acts as the quieter yin to Colours’ searing yang. Also it’s just a straight up good album.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Michael: One Year Later

[Note: This was written on my first day of vacation, Aug. 6th.]

I call it survivor’s guilt, but that’s not quite right. I was never going to lapse into drug addiction. That’s not Joe Pelone. I’m a good soldier and I know what is right and I will not break and everyone can count on me forever. But there’s still that lingering, nagging, angry feeling that if I could trade places with Michael I would, that he was meant for something better than a drug overdose at 23.

It dawned on me today that, had Michael not asked me to join his band Emergency & I, I would never have met my friend Scott. And if I didn’t meet Scott, I wouldn’t have met his sister Michelle, my bride-to-be, my only true love, my best friend, my everything. Setting aside all the music Michael introduced me to (Weakerthans, Get Up Kids, Crime in Stereo), he set off a chain of events that led to my marriage. Without my cousin, my current life and all the events that led up to it do not exist.

Which is to say nothing of Michael’s DIY attitude. For a time, he was the heart of the Lansdale music scene, and he booked groups like The Ataris, Crime in Stereo, and Set Your Goals to play our stupid little piece of Pennsylvania. I like to think that, had he stayed clean, maybe Michael could’ve stayed with the music business. He always talked about launching a record store, but I think joining up with an indie company like R5 Productions would have been of interest to him.

But that’s never going to happen.

I went to visit Michael’s grave yesterday in Conshohocken. There was a funeral procession occurring maybe 10 yards from where he is buried, so I had to park a way’s away from him. As I stood there, dwelling on the year that separated me from his passing, with the earth pulsating beneath me, like every breath could bring him back, a large crowd of strangers flooded the area with their own sense of grief.|

I have no intention of ever crying in front of hundreds of strangers (again). But I was tempted.

Over the last year, I have tried to hurt myself. That’s how badly Michael messed me up. I went to therapy for while, but it wasn’t until I went to Europe on a mission to research Michelle’s family that I really began to take heed of the healing process. I’m no longer a threat to myself, and I guess I don’t feel the pain of Michael’s absence as much I used to, but I still miss him. Even though the last few years weren’t easy. Even though he could be an asshole. Even though his decisions were his own and nothing I could do could or would ever change them. I loved him then and I love him now.

There are still times when this situation doesn’t feel real, like he’s still out there. For a while, I was visiting his grave on an average of once per month because I couldn't stand him being forgotten. It helped me process my grief and to normalize the concept that he’s gone. I still get choked up sometimes – work on Monday was hard – but I need to remember that I am alive, that I still have time to live.

I carry Michael with me in everything that I do.

Endless Vacation: Jersey Shore

[Endless Vacation is a travel log. It pretty much peaked when I visited Europe in the fall of 2010.]

Left a little late on the one year anniversary of my cousin’s death. What can I say, the Pelones know how to make a vacation emotionally draining. After a three hour drive, Michelle and I stopped at Green Cuisine in Stone Harbor for lunch. Green Cuisine remains one of my favorite restaurants, even if it is 100 miles away from home. The folks there just know how to make a really good vegetarian sammich, ya dig? The smoothies are pretty great too. Then we hit the beach. Day #1 yields minimal sunburn. Let’s hope the rest of the week plays out similarly.

While I mocked her at the time, Michelle’s decision to bring some of her produce with us paid off well for dinner. She was concerned that her veggies wouldn’t keep while she was away for a week, and as it turns out we almost had everything needed to make some quesadillas. After a quick stop at the local market, I settled on cooking us peach quesadillas, supplemented with German Riesling and chips and guacamole. Everything was good, save the dip. I think I have a new favorite recipe. Thanks, peaches. Then I got fitshaced.

Felt a little rough the morning after, but I drank lots of water, so it could have been worse. While Michelle got ready, I went out on the deck and knocked out Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol while listening to Jesu. Anya’s Ghost is about a Russian-American girl who falls down a well and meets a ghost. It’s pretty good. The art is beautiful and it moves along nicely, and the story is detailed enough to keep adults invested while still maintaining a clear linear plot that younger readers will be able to keep up with. It would be a great animated movie. What’s Henry Selick doing?

We met up with the newly engaged Eric and Erin in Atlantic City Sunday. While I’ve been to nearby Ventor and Brigantine, neither have us has been to Atlantic City proper. In fact, almost everything I knew about the town came from Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraksa.

But the casinos are actually really nice. We spent hours walking around Caesar’s. Had some good vegetarian food. Did a lot of people watching. We gambled a little – Eric gave me $5 to play Kitty Glitter since I paid for lunch – but sadly my ability to match kitties with their desired glitter did not pay off huge dividends. The shops are neat, though, and I realized that AC isn’t as far away as I thought. During the off-season, I can get here in probably 45 minutes, which is about what it takes for me to get to Philadelphia anyway, so I might come out for a show or two in the future.

For dinner, we drove out to Stone Harbor for Green Cuisine again. My plan is to eat there every day. Afterwards, we explored the local shops. With our impending move to a house next month, we opted to check out some art for sale. We settled on a picture of a couple holding each other in a park with an urban landscape in the background. It’s a vitreograph, a series of paintings on glass layered over each other to create a 3D effect, by the French artist Jean-Pierre Weill. My mom actually owns one of his works, and while I would like to own one of his larger creations, we just don’t have the money now. Still, it’s created a goal for us. As our new family prospers, hopefully we’ll be able to pick up a few more of his creations, as they’re quite beautiful.

Went back to the beach on Tuesday. We both got burned, but it was worth it to play in the ocean together. Michelle never goes in the water. Also I listened to The Clash’s London Calling all the way through. Question: Great album, or greatest album?

Afterward we drove out to Ocean City with the intention of vinyl hunting, but Michelle had an allergic reaction of some sort. We stopped at CVS and then a clinic for assistance.

“Go to the record store,” Michelle told me.

“I can’t leave you,” I said.

“Go!” she said. “I want you to live.”

“I’ll come back for you,” I proclaimed to her, and to the fates.

And I did too, with a Tori Amos seven-inch in tow for my poor, sick baby girl. I also picked up…

-The Dismemberment Plan – Is Terrified (CD)
-Wings – Venus and Mars (Black vinyl, with two posters of Paul and Linda McCartney being obnoxiously adorable together)
-New York Dolls – Too Much Too Soon (black)
-Torche – Healer/Across the Shield (white, with a DVD)

Thanks Shore Things. Later that night we made Mexican food and read books.


Went to the Wetlands Institute, which promised an aquarium and a nature walk. The trail was littered with beer cans. As for the aquarium, let’s just say it had some interesting exhibits, including a display on horseshoe crab orgies. Another dealt with turtles getting killed by cars. Later, we watched Spy Game, about sexxxy man-spies who play games… WITH THE LAW. Michelle and I attempted a double date-y round of mini-golf with Maria and Dan. There was a 45-minute wait, so we went to a bar instead. Forty-five minutes later, poof, no line. Then it started raining after the third hole…

On Thursday, my cousins/aunt/uncle came to visit. Hit up the beach, watched some seagulls fight. Burns were spread all around. Then we got shore pizza, as it was meant to be. We decimated a 25” pie. Michelle and I went for a walk around the island. We played skeeball! Skeeball is awesome. We also played a Terminator shooter. The guns were huge/awesome. Then we got frozen yogurt, which is healthier than ice cream. We are responsible adults.

Then we got drunk and proceeded to do drunk things like play Scattergories with my sister and her friends and watch Damages.

On the last day, Michelle and I took one last walk on the beach before departing for Philadelphia and Blackbird’s vegan cheesesteaks. Then we hit up our beloved Repo Records. I purchased…

-Braid – Closer to Closed (CD)
-Galaxie 500 – On Fire (black vinyl)
-The Horrors – Skying (CD)

This was a good vacation.


-PJ Harvey – A Man A Woman Walked By
-PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
-Maritime – Human Hearts
-Cheap Girls – Give Me a Beer Home
-Jay-Z – Greatest Hits
-Juliana Hatfield Three – Become What You Are
-The Heat Tape – Raccoon Valley Recordings
-Tombs – Tombs
-Jesu – Ascension
-Mitch Hedberg – Mitch All Together
-Mitch Hedberg – Do You Believe in Gosh?
-Richard Hell and The Voidoids – Blank Generation
-Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
-The Raveonettes – Raven to the Grave
-The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced?
-The Clash – London Calling
-The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: As Bold As Love
-The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland
-David Bowie – Station to Station
-The Breeders – Pod
-Various Artists – Here We Go
-High on Fire – Death is This Communion
-Vermont – Living Together
-High on Fire – Snakes for the Divine
-The Promise Ring – Very Emergency
-Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros – Global A Go-Go
-High Places – High Places
-Tim Armstrong – A Poet’s Life
-Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
-The Clash – Combat Rock
-Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros - Streetcore
-The Himalayans – She Likes the Weather
-The Promise Ring – Boys + Girls

Books read:

-Vera Brosgol – Anya’s Ghost
-Various – America Lost and Found: The BBS Story
-Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and some other dudes – The X-Men Omnibus Volume 1