13% [chapter 26]


There was a dream in 2013 that repeatedly tried to make itself heard. But for months, it would break off before you became conscious of its words. Until the night you stood lucid in this other world. Details merged and became too real. You heard a voice say, "This isn't a dream. This actually occured."

As the scene unfolded, you shrank down to the size you once were at the age of 4 and 3/4. Playing with your brother in a motel's swimming pool while your parents attended an Amway rally, all the other kids were slowly gathered up by their guardians as dinner time crept closer. Your brother said, "C'mon, let's go!" But you wanted to swim some more. So he went back to the motel room while you continued to pretend you were a dolphin or a guppy or a mermaid or a rock, totally submerged.

Finally climbing out of the pool, no one else was there, just you. Then you noticed an old man that looked like Santa Claus coming through the pool gate. He smiled and urged you to follow him into the changing room. You behaved. He lifted up your little body and placed you on a sink, slipping his fingers inbetween your skin and your wet bathing suit.

Pleased with what he saw he smiled some more. Turning you around, he whispered excitedly, "This won't hurt." He spread open your butt cheeks and stuck something inside your private parts that felt warm and squishy. But it did hurt. A lot.

You screamed and cried for him to stop, but he just covered your mouth with his rough hand and kept cramming it in and out.

Delighted with himself, he soon let go and you slid down off the sink onto the cold tiled floor. Trickles of blood were wiped away like inconvenient stains. As he calmly walked out the door, you scampered to your feet, ran outside and sat on the hot asphalt of the parking lot, screaming your fucking head off. Rubbing your ass against the blistering concrete, you wanted the heat to peel off all the skin from this place that now felt so gross and mangled and strange.

People walked by, looked down at you curiously but said nothing. You screamed and screamed ,"Mommy! Mommy!! Mommy!!!!" but no one came. A droning voice from somewhere unseen declared in a low monotonous tone, thundering, "Cry all you want, no one is ever gonna come save you."

Hoarse, you could not cry anymore. So you just sat there staring up at the wind blowing through the trees as the sunset sank behind the buildings. You stood up and limped back to room 146 where the rest of your family was waiting.

Opening the door, your mother shrieked, "Where the bloody hell were you?!" and slapped your little reddened face. Numbness set in at that moment. And there it stayed.

Upon waking from this lucid dream, of course you did a fair amount of crying, but more importantly, a question that had always remained unanswered was no longer vague: Why was it that the first time your father sat you in his lap and began grinding against your 6 year old ass did you think, "oh no, not this again"? You never knew how you already knew what sex was.

Clearly this memory had been repressed. Hidden from you so that in the coming years of further abuse, you would somehow not crumble under such tremendous born-to-be-deadened stress. Yes, if this first rape had been known all those years ago, you definitely would not still be alive. And some weird level of gratitude was felt toward your minor saviour brain that it held this secret from you for as long as it did. And that it felt you were far away enough now to deal with the truth.

It felt good to be complete, integrated, and happily unhinged. Free from the skepticism that all this shit happened because you deserved it. Nope. It was just a side effect of the disease of living.

*u can call me ph!*


13% [chapter 25]


It is said that the average American has about12 different jobs during the course of their career. Having worked since you were 13 years old, most often at 2 jobs simultaneously, you've had no less than 48. Clearly you're still unsure as to what constitutes a so-called career. But there was one job that was unlike all the rest -- a part time position as an archivist at a sculptor's studio in Oakland.

The paid internship began in 1996 while you were in art school. For 10 hours a week, as the artist assembled steel sculptures, you were left alone in the office to catalogue slides, transparencies and photographs, organize press clippings and prepare checklists of pieces for exhibition under the guidance of his wife's publicity campaigns. This soon led to assisting in the shipping and receiving of artworks to and from museums and galleries and later, upon the advent of the digital age, creating a database of the sculptor's 50+ year portfolio.

You also began taking photographs of his newest works upon completion. Each year, the images got imported into bigger fancier mac computers and his works mutated in medium and scale, swelling from 24 inch lacquered constructions to 14 foot towers of shining stainless steel. Your hours, pay and responsibilities also increased to include designing book layouts and shooting videos of the artist at work to be shown at his exhibitions.

At lunchtime, the two of you would discuss art or current events and laugh about some of the crazy stunts he'd pulled in his youth with the other stalwart figures of 1960's London from which he'd hailed. Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney, Stanley Kubrick -- these were not icons,  they were his friends. In fact, that black monolith in the beginning of the film, "2001: A Space Odyssey" was one of the sculptor's inventions.

While he was teaching at Ealing College in London, an impromptu raucous debate on rock music lacking opera's gravitas of the human condition planted the seeds of both "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Tommy" into the minds of his young impressionable students, Freddie Mercury and Pete Townshend -- whose habit of destroying guitars wasn't just to have a wank; it was performance art, a symbollic act of deconstructing the establishment.

You felt genuine love for the sculptor. He was not only your mentor but the supportive father figure you'd never had. You could tell him things most other people would never understand. A kid during WWII's bombing blitz, he'd been through his own battles with addictive habits, abusive relationships and good thoughts gone wrong. He'd been further than that, done more than that. You actually trusted this man. And for many many years, you were happy as an uncorrupted clam.

Every spring and fall, the sculptor and his millionaire heiress wife would take vacations to their second home in the south of France, leaving you to man the phones at the studio, pick up the mail and pay the bills during their month long absence.

In September of 2014, while completing the video editing for the sculptor's latest documentary film, you decided to take advantage of this quiet time at the studio to record something that would augment the soundtrack. Pressing record on your android phone, with your face pushed up against hollow stainless steel columns, you sang random vocal tones. Fairly obsessed with this natural reverb effect, you recorded 3 short takes.

By now, deep in the throes of PTSD, you'd become completely isolated from all other people. Daily, you were held in the grips of your eclipsing drug addiction. And with an increasing dependence on this one last remaining job, this one last remaining person that still spoke and listened to you, the rawness of all that had fallen away flattened your entire past into this one glimmering instant.

Humming alone under the studio's large arching skylights, the late afternoon's soft dying light shimmered against vibrating steel plates. An irreversible sense of loyalty to the sculptor engulfed you. He was the only person, in all these 20 years of living in San Francisco, who had not abandoned you. So those notes sang an elegy of torrential gratitude.

Tears dried, you arbitrarily pasted the 3 takes together into a single wav file. But the random tracks fell into a seemingly preordained sync. Too strange. Pushing Save, you stuck it on the soundtrack immediately, not giving yourself the chance to screw up something so weirdly self-contained.

Sadly, after that culminating autumn, everything changed.

Gradually, pecks on the cheek and a "see you next week," mutated into a giggling hand sliding up your thigh or shifting down the back of your pants. Frozen, your dissociating reaction was physical absence. Then came his confessions, "I love you." "I really do love you." "I'd love to fuck you, you know that?"

Maybe since turning 80, he felt this was his last chance to shag a younger cunt. But that did not soften this insult's impact. Nor did it prepare you for the final collapse.

On the drives back to the BART station after work, the sculptor shared with you the wet dreams he'd been having. As if you should be psyched about that. He had no idea that he sounded just like your dad.

You said nothing. Just turned you head and stared out the window at the blaring sun as it bled dry this droughted land, cadmium plated colorless and bland. All the same repetitive torturous dooms from 4 to 45. Come home to roost. Damned. This one man you thought you could trust,who perhaps had some platonic respect for you being a fellow artist, who supposedly cared about you, nah...he just wanted to fuck you too. Just like all the rest. Sinking found you back down in the oubliette.

Heartbroken with unveiled eyes, you could now clearly see all the ways in which merits were being withheld from you. How horribly exploited was your true usefullness. Of the literally hundreds of photos you took at his studio, not a single one was credited to you. Others in your position would make triple what you were paid. But a simple pat on the back and some verbal approval was all they needed to give poor sorry stupid you. An invoice from another employee proved this inequality: the $150 hourly rate was happily paid in full plus another few thousand in "creative fees", whatever the fuck that means.

The gallery that represented the sculptor said your book designs were too amateurish, so a mound of money was spent on professional designers who then published a book that looked identical to yours. He then admitted out loud, while you sat slackjawed in the room, "Why should I pay a designer thousands of dollars for good work when I can get HER to do it for me for free?!" He considered $20/hr "free", apparently.

Ultimately though, it was your own fault for not knowing your own worth, squirt. Or for thinking that The Art World would somehow be better than The Corporate World or The Music World or Any Other World. They're all bollocks. People like us don't belong for long in it.

But the money didn't really matter, you could get over that. It was the sexual harrassment you could no longer put up with. So you told the sculptor one day as he squeezed your knee, "Please stop. This makes me uncomfortable." He excused himself, stammering something about how he was raised. Then he stopped taking you to lunch or updating you on what tasks needed to be done that day. Communication simply ceased. Now his wife was your new boss, telecommuting.

The recovering junkie in him always assumed you were doing shady shit behind his back, but in your blind loyalty, you never did. Whenever he misplaced something, he'd go on a rant about it being stolen until you'd find it laying in the place where he'd left it. Every one of those tantrums compounded this upcoming fracture after so many faithful years of working unstiff. His flexibility and easy going attitude suddenly vanished. Now he was threatening to fire you when you showed up harrowed-faced and 15 minutes late, wearing extra layers, tucked in, buttoned up to the nape.

Many more insulting insights floated down the pike in the following months. In response, hints were constantly being dropped that you wanted to move away, that your meth infested house was killing you, that California had worn out your deluded gullible ass, that you just couldn't take it anymore. He said, "No, you have to stay here for the rest of my life and carry on of my legacy." Meanwhile, his wife told you to train the woman they'd hired for a large living wage to take over your soon disappearing position.
Not even gone, but already replaced.

The ice was thinning. Cracking had come at last, turning your harrassed rosey-eyed hurts into downright obliterated justice-hunting rage.

So while they vacationed in France the next May, you secretly planned your big escape. Adding an extra zero onto your final measly paycheck, you left a note that this was your "creative fee". You deleted all records of your labors, wiped harddrives free of your presence, shredded every scrap of paper that once held traces of mutual respect or artistic kinship or well-crafted catalogued crap.

Soon after they returned from France, with the employee gas card in your wrathful hand, you charged every gallon of diesel fuel from the Bay Area until Chevron stations no longer populated this ever-widening cross country scam. Just beyond the Rockies, the paper trail of your helpless fury and well guaged betrayal fell off the map.

Now all of those shady assumptions could satisfy themselves to their heart's content cuz you no longer gave a creatively collated fuck. And there could be no question in his mind, when he received his credit card bill the following month, that you were never coming back.

Art was dead.

Your big career. Fork stuck. Done.

Maybe now the sculptor sees you as more than just a pair of fresh tits typing out his commands. Maybe now he has some kind of twisted bitch respect for your vengeful third act. Maybe now he understands the pain of being a whole human being that refuses to get shafted down into their lowly station, regarded as nothing more than a usefully cheap snatch.

Yet, in all of my foolish wisdom, I somehow doubt that.

*u can call me ph!*


13% [chapter 24]


In January of 2013, when all the electricity had blown out and everyone else living at Bleakhaus dealt with this lack of power by running away to their boyfriend's or girlfriend's houses, you were the only resident left cuz you
had nowhere else to go. So you sat frozen in your room with a bike light strapped to your head, watching wisps float off from your cold quickening breaths. For 3 months this continued and it was during this darkened quiet time that a new/old idea came back to you. On March 1st, you woke up and bolted out of bed reciting the words, "BOX TRUCK!"

After a lifetime of paying rent to live in a house where heat hot water and electricity were frequently out, where your only trustworthy companion was in the form of a little brown mouse, it was not a far stretch to visualize living alone with the exact same creature comforts of null and void for a lot lot less. Maybe in that solitary space, you could be at your best -- or at least, just fucking be.

No one else would be in yer face, judging your every move, telling you how to live your life or denigrating all exasperating attempts to uplift this stagnating environment. So you started saving every penny. Pennies that came from unemployment checks, from working under the table, from pumping up the volume of ebay sales, from committing the occassional act of corporate embezzelment without a single post-financial-collapse-but-banks-get-bailed-out moral regret. SCAM presidents.

Isolation and entropy increasing, after nearly 10 good years of loving your home, Bleakhaus became just a coffin filled with clinging memories of happier, more musical times. Only a quiet empty room crowded with the past now greeted you. A comparatively cruel skeletal outline in your current curb kicked loveless state of mind.

Spring, 2015, you knew the time to leave was approaching.The flickering lights in your bedroom said so. After a while,you no longer bothered turning the switch on at all due to the constant twitches and fissures going off above you. Annoying. You didn't want to read too much into it, but it was a bit weird. Then the flies swarmed in like never before, and you knew that this really was The End.

Scouring craigslist for a viable vehicle to live in, everything was too expensive for your lowlife savings. You test drove a mini schoolbus with your friend Erich, but it didn't feel good for the long haul. Dejected on your bike ride home from the 5lowershop warehouse where Erich lived, you rode by a white Isuzu FRR box truck parked on Bayshore Boulevard with a For Sale sign in the window. Exactly what you were looking for, but you couldn't afford it. Still frustrated the following week, Kismet tipped you off as you passed by the same truck again, parked on 24th Street. But for the greatly reduced price of $5000.

As soon as the previous owner turned the ignition key, her engine's rumble sang of freedom and you fell in love instantly, clamouring "YES, I'll take it!" Gladly handing the man the biggest stack of money you've ever had in your hand, there was no turning back.

The piano moved in first, then internal construction on Haustruk began. Everything takes longer than you think it should, but life was already looking brighter from the back of your 7.1 litre turbo diesel's viewpoint. High all day and night with this higher purpose; to work like mad and get the truck homeworthy before you had the chance to sabotage yourself with some lame ass mindfucking shite.

While parked in front of Bleakhaus overnight on Mission Street, there'd be a friendly wave from Albert the garbage man at dawn. And instead of a $65 ticket, a gentle headsup from the traffic wardens to move on at 4 a.m. cuz the street cleaner would be coming soon. After the bars closed, drunken college girls in heels would come clik-clak-stumbling down the street on their weekend quests for male validation. Then they'd see what you were doing and ask themselves, "Wha..? Is this allowed? Really...?" At all hours, every prostitute working Capp Street wholeheartedly approved.

During those 13 weeks of laboring on conversion, you wouldn't allow yourself to do any drugs inside Haustruk. Though the kid who rapidly tagged "SOBER" onto one side of the box climbed into the back with you one night and smoked himself icey while another kid, a clean cut upper middle class student at SFAI slowly tagged the other side with "HOLDIN'". Oh, the hilarious irony. But you didn't want to foul up this spiritually free space with your own acts of drug abuse. So you let your habit happen only in your echoing old room, thinking maybe you'd leave this thing behind, too.

Be like the wind, you said repetitively, as you sobbed onto a decade's worth of belongings getting slotted into boxes.Packing unpacking and repacking. Don't make a big fuss. Cry as much as you like. Just keep packing. And leave when the breeze feels right.

Otherwise it would hurt too much ~ the overwhelming fear of choosing this narrow path. Choosing to leave your big cheap flat, this tinderbox of doom, filled to the brim with triggers, eviction threats and other muddled irritating drug addicts. Choosing to effectively become homeless and live off-grid in a box truck with the only thing that still mattered to you, that beloved red piano. Yeah, scary. Choosing to quit work quit sex quit drinking quit drugs quit everything; after 30 years of running at full speed around every different type of dependency with blind ego-eyes and a tiny desperate heart that was now numb as fuck, all used up.

This mountain of fear might've paralyzed whatever faith you had left that you weren't done living yet. Sincere attempts to have going away parties with old friends were met with a complete lack of attendance anyway, so it was best to let go by slipping away silently, in little pieces, day by day.

At 4:30 a.m on the summer solstice, you were headed over to pick up your regular refill of PTSD meds/meth when that particular breeze came through your newly converted house truck's window and said, "Go. Now." So you stopped at a traffic light and took a left off Townsend onto the freeway heading east.

Chanting loudly helped calm that panic stricken shriek from entering these unknown territories at a rate both so long planned and so suddenly. Eventually, the beauty and stillness of constant change crept back into the driver's seat and nothing mattered except moving another foot forward and breathing.

Coming down, there was no crash landing. It was more like swimming out to sea.

No matter where you were from now on, you'd always be at home. Trying to understand, without grasping too tightly, some momentary smaller sense of peace. Even in the face of each newly discovered gutwrenching difficulty.

Now there was a sweet fragile tenderness to life that was previously hidden beneath society's senseless demands and your mind's own violent self-berating. Now you noticed things outside like how the leaves on trees curve upward when it's about to rain.

Thanks to practicing binaural meditation daily for the last few years, right before doing some more drugs, one ritual would gradually replace the other, and something in you had changed.

I hear it's called bodhichitta ~ the love that never dies. It lives in all of us, down in the most digusting part of ourselves, somewhere gross inside. When all else gets stripped away, you might be bleeding and skinless and invisible to the naked eye, but, hey - don't worry, you too will find it.

*u can call me ph!*

13% [chapter 23]


Built by Irish immigrants in 1853, two identical triple story victorian houses were situated at 2429 and next door at 2419 Mission Street near the corner of 20th. A treelined courtyard connected them with a series of smaller rowhouses set behind. A sign above the courtyard's iron gates proclaimed that this was "Catherine's Court".

Archived historical maps of San Francisco denoted the lot at 2429 Mission as "Anna's House" and 2419 as "Catherine's House", the twin O'Conner sisters and original inhabitants. Deeds of ownership never involved the exchange of money. Instead the properties remained gifted within the family, passed down from generation to generation.

The twin houses sat fairly weathered, having survived every natural and manmade disaster over the last 160 years. Constructed of low grade wood lathes and molded plaster, they had a distinctive 16" lean in toward one another. During each earthquake the walls would just wiggle and sway, their weakness being their greatest strength.

Far below modern housing codes, there was no heating, deep layers of paint were peeling, the plumbing was regularly unreliable and old cloth wiring sometimes arced inside the walls. Doorbells had long ago been disconnected. Roofs leaked. Pigeons pooed. Raccoons scuffled. Mice squeaked. Remnants of gaslighting poked out through holes in the walls that went uncapped. Curious ornate iron levers that no longer opened or closed anything rotated with uselessly intricate squeals. Innovative sliding pocket doors stood rusted shut. Hand wrought chandeliers dangled elegantly in disuse, only half lit. But when the late afternoon light shone through her sagging windows, she was still a beautiful beautiful slum.

A beautiful slum to you and to countless other tenants, some of whom had their lives briefly captured on census reports. Such as Theodore Reilly, a watchmaker in 1880 whose hand painted gold entrance sign was still barely visible on the stone front step. And Kate O'Leary, a divorced 43 year old woman who employed herself as a dressmaker in 1890 to some degree of self sufficient success. And the Hanley family who ran a curios and candle shop downstairs in 1900. And maybe even the police officer Thomas Kane who, in 1910, was often shitfaced drunk and terrorizing his wife Sarah and their epileptic teenage son, Thomas Jr. while their temporary lodger, Charles Graves, an unemployed tanner, tried not to get involved.

One day in the autumn of 1994, not long after moving into the front room at 2429, you came home from school resoundingly depressed. Opening your bedroom door with your head hung low, you were assualted by the thought, "i should just hang myself." But this struck you as odd since all of your usual suicidal impulses would shy away from that particular mode of death -- guns, jumping, pills, drowning, bleeding out: yes. Choking or burning: no.

Lifting your gaze you caught a glimpse of a man in haggard 1920s clothing hanging by his neck, the rope taught and swinging from the ceiling. He glared at you with a thick ragged mustache and a disgusted scowl, a dirty black bowler hat plastered to his unwashed disheveled head. In the shock of that moment, he disappeared. But his image would come to haunt you over the years, systematically hijacking every episode of depression with that same thought, "you should just hang yourself."

But you were not alone. Other people from every walk of life and every varying degree of verve would move in, soon become depressed and find themselves fashioning a noose . Mr. Burkhalter, the master tenant, later informed you that over the course of the next 15 years, he had cut down at least 7 of his former roommates to stop them from killing themselves. Their reasoning was always peppered with bouts of amnesia and complaints of an oppressive negative energy from which they could not escape. Until they moved out of that house.

Sadly, after much melodramatic art school agony and hosting many happily chaotic parties in which then unknown bands like the Dandy Warhols played shows in their underwear in your living room, you moved out of 2429 in the spring of 1998.

You went from your huge $260 rent controlled room to living alone in a $600 studio in the Tenderloin that felt too nice for you. Soon, you were living in a non live-in $165 basement cubicle on 16th and Mission. Then you moved into a warehouse around the corner filled with musicians and artists called Pubis Noir.

Litigation meant that you could all live rent-free for a couple years at least. In exchange, you had to walk around the huge hole in the common space where the couch had fallen through the rotting floorboards, ignore the black mold mushrooms sprouting up next to the bathtub, avoid the river of debri and fleas flooding the basement (a.k.a. Mission Creek) and prepare for the dead junkie's body that would be blocking the front door, the only feasible exit.

Every day, soapy bath water would rain down from the residential hotel above. Plastic garbage bags, pvc pipes and buckets would snake around the warehouse making the space look like a scene from the Terry Gilliam film, "Brazil". But life was bearable, marked by fabulously anarchic Noise & Pancakes shows every Sunday afternoon. And for 6 months at a time, a friend would collect your unemployment checks from your first big lay-off and send you these meager funds while you lived low in London, Berlin and Belgium. Good times.

Then eviction came. Another $400 warehouse room sprang up but it soon wilted and died too. So with all the ambitious pride of any aggro 33 year old artist, you moved to New York City and stayed in a room on 139th Street that was a third the size but triple the price.

Still not sure why, but call it what you will ~ destiny, fate, synchronicity, random coincidence, total bollocks ~ but 7 years after leaving 2429 Mission Street, having moved 11 times and going a distance of 32,000 miles, you ended up 6 feet from where you started. Catherine's Court had called you back.

In the spring of 2005, immediately after moving into your new $323 room at 2419 Mission Street, you started having intense lucid dreams. Unlike most lucid dreams that happen within an imaginary landscape, these Bleakhaus dreams always began and ended in exactly the spot where your physical body was sleeping. In them, you'd instantly know you were dreaming, get up out of bed and walk to your bedroom door. But it opened up to a portal that was not entirely pleasant, so turning the doorknob meant swallowing some trepidation and dread. The hallway was a swirling black mass of sadness and timeless resentment, flowing from east to west. It felt like walking under water.

And in the black water you could see so many people from the past whose traumatized emotions held them there, stuck in the riptide.

1984, a frustrated and berated housewife who longed to be with the women she loved overdosed in the kitchen. 1979, a tall blond man in a cowboy hat with a fatal gun shot wound stood in the bathroom. 1877, a starving 10 year old boy by the stairwell begged for some bread. 1816, before the house was built, a group of 6 native Muwekma Ohlone women escaped slavery and ran for their lives but were tracked down by members of their own tribe. Captured and forced to return to the mission, they fought back but were massacred on this hill. In black and white, like an old scratchy film loop, the scene repeated itself endlessly with the lost cries of an unspeakably unjust crime.

In waking life, every late April, the annual arrival of a dark foreboding presence would stalk the hallway, making it nearly impassible to anyone perceptive. You'd stay in your room and pee in a can rather than confront this huge looming shadow until it went away in early May. But in April of 2010 that dark presence became bolder and ventured into your room one day.

Focused on some domestic duty while sitting on your bed, you heard your door swing open and sensed someone skulking around the bend. The air got thick and sticky with ionized threat, then the ghost announced itself with a loud crumbling BOOM. The stereo which was not turned on suddenly sprang to life and began blaring that cd skipping sound. All the lights in the room instantly dimmed, and you heard a man's voice clearly say, "After what's coming, all of this will seem like such a luxury."

Scenes of screaming devastation and infernal fires flashed through your mind. You felt his helplessness as he watched everyone he loved die. And he blamed himself. If he hadn't gone to work that day, he might have been there to save them. It was his fault that his sister, his young wife and his wee child were dead. Towering above you but facing away, his hunched over frame wore dirty work overalls and was burdened by a huge canvas backpack, filled with all the heaviness of his guilt remorse and shame. Another loud BOOM and he was gone. Everything returned to normal.

It didn't take long to piece together that San Francisco's biggest natural disaster happened on April 18th, 1906 and that this man's spirit was still a victim to it.

Events like these prompted a continuous stream of roommates to move in, then quickly leave. Especially if they were sensitive types who could clearly see the ghosts surrounding them. You contacted one of these former roommates named Lucia and relayed this recent appearance to her. She validated that these details were identical to what she had witnessed the previous April.

Reaching out, you needed to find someone who could teach you how to help this greiving man leave the hallway because now you had felt his pain and that overrided any fear. A woman named Crystal Cobra came over one day and showed you the ropes of crossing spirits over.

In preparation for this ritual, you made sure this man knew that you wanted to help him. "It's not your fault. Forgive yourself and let go. Put down that bag and get ready to leave here because your family's waiting for you to join them." Then you played music to calm everything down and serenaded him on his way out.

There was no way to prove that this worked without waiting until the following spring. So you waited. In April of 2011, nothing weird happened. And it felt good, helping someone move on. You trusted this euphoric spiritual gratitude much moreso than the feelings that were conjured up by the unappreciative agendas of the undead.

Keep in mind that these events all occured at times when you were straight, not high, but they did sound crazy enough to drive you back into the arms of drugs where you could be safely numb. Until the next time. But now you had an Open For Business sign above your third eye, so empathy only increased -- regardless of your drug fueled attempts to feel nothing.

Knowing very well what it's like to be overlooked or ignored or belittled, a communal defeat draped over you. Ghosts are people, too. With all the same emotional needs that haunted their living days. Walking around the mission alone in the dark, you could sense the overwhelming pain of everyone in this city who had ever ended their own life. And that was a collective cry you could never hope to repair on that precariously fragile night.

But how would YOU like to be stuck for eternity with no body, screaming out for help? Then whenever anyone hears or sees you, they just run and hide? Or worse yet, use you for amusement to profit in a freak show that's regularly broadcast to self-agrandizing narrow minds?

So you decided to perform one giant Releasing Ritual for every spirit still trapped at Catherine's Court. Months in preparation, it went off quickly and without a hitch. Everyone filed on excitedly to the big caravan in the sky.

Except for those who stayed behind.

The 6 native women were still caught looping in their last tragic moments of struggling to survive. You felt lacking in your ability or rights to move them on from this land, so you sent all relevant information to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Council. Perhaps their souls would find peace in hearing prayers spoken in their own language by their own decendants of their own (still unrecognized by the federal government) tribe.

And the hanging man. He resolutely refused to leave. Angry and densely black as ever, his shadow paced up and down your hallway for ages after that. He had some specific need that had not been met yet. But you didn't know what it was. And now, you were tired.

During the last few noise shows at Bleakhaus, other people saw his ghost wandering around and yelped, "Did you see that!?! The shadow of a man just walked across your room!" You non-chalantly replied, "Yeah...he's waiting to be crossed over but...i tried...i dunno what he wants me to do..." People looked at you funny, changed the subject and quickly left the room.

Sinking deeper into depression during the next 2 years, you yelled at his ghost in desperation. "What the fuck do you want from me asshole?!" And after a while, you spent more time getting high and less time caring. Until you got to the point where you started looking up at your painted red glass chandelier, wondering if it would hold your dead body's weight.

"Wait. Hanging? What the Fuck! I'm not actually depressed at all, am I? This is that ghost fucking with me again, isn't it?" To which a chorus of disembodied voices sang out triumphantly, "YES!!!" And your anger at his impetuous invasion of your personal space gave you just enough impetus to get back to work on researching this unknown dickhead's demise.

Online, you found an archive of San Francisco obituaries that dated from the 1870's until the 1950's. Concentrating on the 1920's because of his dated clothing, you began reading through the thousands of entries posted. It was a daunting task. Emotionally taxed after reading the first 700 obituaries, you had to stop and try again tomorrow. It all seemed so pointless, randomly searching for a nameless man but something told you to just keep looking. Somehow, you'd KNOW when you dug up his obit. 3 days and 1200 listings laster, all your hairs stood up on end when you read about the suicide of a 26 year old Mission district resident, John Sinclair.

Deeply in love with his next door neighbor Maggie, she convinced John to murder her husband George so that she and John could be together. She claimed that George was abusive so John stabbed this innocent man to death. Maggie then turned John in. He was found guilty of murder and convicted. Maggie soon remarried someone else and left the city. Abandoned and betrayed, John hung himself in prison.

If you ever thought you knew what betrayal felt like, it was miniscule compared to his story. "I'm sorry... I am so sorry..." was all you said to the ghost of John Sinclair. And then he was gone.

A wave of gratitude, amazement and bewilderment came crashing over you. If emotions are strong enough to bend space and time so that this kind of communication could happen 100 years apart, then all of our emotions deserve respect. Even the dark ones need acknowledgement, just like the rest of us.

Bleakhaus was finally clear. Your job was done.

But it didn't take long for it to start collecting spirits again. 18 months later, your schizophrenic roommate went off his meds and quickly lost his shit. He stopped bathing,
had to urinate constantly and spent every waking moment alone in his little room smoking himself silly until his hallucinations and headbanging and screaming ramblings left everyone else tattered and witless. Kidneys failing, 2 days later, his twin brother went in to check on him, wondering why he was so quiet. He discovered his brother's dead body sitting upright. A rigor mortised fist still clutching his bong. Soft webs of discharge veiled his half open eyes.

3 days later, your dead roommate's face appeared within a whirlwind of confusion and stood hovering in your doorway in the middle of the afternoon. Good ideas and bad smells whipped around him like black sparrows and gray finches. You yelled, "You're dead! Go find your mother!" But the thought of his recently deceased mom just made him sad and lonely. He chose to stay with his living brother who was busy tossing all of his grief and loss and increasing drug binges back into the downward spiral. Carelessly unhinging with every month of nonpaid rent building, the living twin left all other non-lease holding tenants on tenderhooks and wincing.

In the pit of your gut, you knew that if you didn't leave this house, you'd be next. But with nowhere to go and no money to get there, you felt trapped and weak. Eclipses kept coming. And strange things continued happening.

*u can call me ph!*


13% [chapter 22]


On the flip side of your handsewn musical memory's buttflap stretched a snake skinned seamline whose name is Lydia Lunch.

At The Record Exchange in Princeton, New Jersey, just after turning 15, you spent the money you received from your crappy job running a hot dog stand in the lobby of a pre-Walmart department store called Jamesway on the first vinyl record in your collection: '13.13'. You had no idea who Lydia Lunch was, but the cover was all black with red text and you instantly adherred to the song titles printed on the back: 'Afraid Of Your Company', 'Lock Your Door', 'Suicide Ocean', 'Snakepit Breakdown', 'Dance of the Dead Children'.

13's always been your favorite number. You felt sympathetic for it having received such a bad rep when it did nothing wrong except be unique and meaningfully prime to pre-Christian calendars and Mother Earth-centric festivities celebrated by potent thick-ribbed women before they were all branded as whores and condemned to death; untold millions drowned, hung, boiled or burned alive for knowing the healing medicinal properties of plants we now commonly call weeds. Masculine consorts seized the holy stations where women stood defenseless because there was no such thing as weapons or fences or war for over a thousand years. Then the conquerors dressed themselves up in flowing robes, grew their hair long, wore fake padded boobs and ritually pretended to menstruate monthly. Instated, they took the daughters of those women burned at the stake and forced them to dance around the pole 100 times, barefoot in the smoldering red hot coals of their mother's scorched remains so as to ingrain in them what would happen if they disobeyed the new laws of the male god. All in terrific disdain for the philosophies they could not control and the life-giving abilities they could not contain. Penis envy is a Freudian phrase that's about a hundred years old, but womb envy's been going strong for 5000 or so.

The moment the needle dropped, you felt relief. These songs made it ok to be this angry. To seek some poetic retreat from the worries that rained down amidst cold war threats of nuclear destruction, to the things that were being done to your young numb feminine body, to the fucked up foot binding rules society was expecting you to follow without question. This record let you know it was your duty to voice dissent. Even if no one ever heard your hollow holler, it was better than ending up like your mother; whittled down into submission, cleaning up in service to an unappreciative master, doing the best she can, passive aggressively getting her way by naggingly not taking a stand.

After becomming engaged with your new tattoo machine, you spent ages designing and drawing and inking Lydia's image from that album cover. 13 snakes portraying Medusa hair wrapped ouroborous-like around your forearm, along with the words "cvm patentia" (with patience). A reminder that whenever you felt suicidal, the best thing you could do is just wait. So many times, a few days after crying yourself down into a gluten-induced tarpit, you'd feel fine and realize that life was actually ok. Then some pleasantly gentle thing would happen and while smiling, you'd tell yourself, "Gee, sure am glad i didn't off myself last week." Approximately 40,000 times, this has been the case.

Synchronicity explains how then, after seeing the tattoo you were working on, a friend told you that Lydia Lunch was coming to play in San Francisco that weekend. A special set of the songs from '13.13'. Another friend gave you a free ticket at the door. And you spent that entire night not believing this wasn't a dream, a mere 28 years in the making.

Upstairs, just after the gig, you stood 3 feet away from her but couldn't bring the awkward teen inside you to say anything susinct. You were just grateful being there, hearing all those songs again, as if the universe was pouring forth rays of serendipity all over you and all you could do in your starstruck state was stare into the headlights. Death was coming like a speeding train to crush you down into nothingness again, but for now, that was totally ok. At that moment you felt you were standing in exactly the best fated time and space.

Less than a month later you were invited to play an opening set on stage in LA where she was headlining for the Extreme Futurist Festival on December 22, 2012. The first day after the End of the World. Just being invited was a miracle in itself. Something that never happened. You'd become accustomed to organizing events on your own because it was the only way you could ever play shows, by putting yourself in the mix instead of waiting around forever for someone else to book you a gig. Even if just across the Bay Bridge. So being invited to play such a huge festival in LA was absolutely monolithic.

A further surprise was that this invite came from someone to whom you were an outright bitch. Rachel had been flown to SF to play at a Throbbing Gristle tribute festival called Destroy the Universe a few years earlier. But while helping set up the stage for her soundcheck, you found her demands arrogantly shortsighted and rude. Completely stressed out and overtired you told her, loud enough so that all the other bands could hear, "Ya know, being a dick to the person who's running your sound is a really bad idea. No one deserves to be treated like shit!" She quickly recognized the sense in this. Pleasantries were exchanged afterward and you stopped scowling eventually.

By now, it was like you'd become the proxy mom while staging shows, telling young rock stars and divas to remember to say please and thank you and to clean up after themselves. It's called having consideration for others. And it disgusted you that these things had to sometimes be said out loud.

Being doormatty and pleasing other people laid flat in contrast to this sad outstanding fact that the only people who seemed to have any respect for what you were doing were the ones you stood up to. And you're resoundingly grateful that Rachel even remembered such a smalltimer like you. Other folks just walked all over you. Because you let them, stupid. Because you thought that's how you make friends, by being kind and useful. But those people weren't friends, they were just opportunists using you. Shoulda figured that out by middle school. When you get good grades everyone hates you. So you learned how to dim your light, hide your potential, not speak your mind, fail on purpose so that you could have a social life. And look where it got you.

Putting all that behind you, you got too psyched about the prospect of playing on the same stage as the woman who had initially inspired you to make music in the first place. And your shits quickly turned into cement bricks. Looking to social media for proof that this was real, you excitedly posted the flyer for the upcoming festival with your band name proudly emblazened on the amazing lineup below Lydia Lunch, Survival Research Laboratories and NegativLand. But no one responded or commented or liked this wonderful thing you'd been invited to do. In shocking astonishment, you reposted the news a few days later to the same non-responsive silence. And again. With spiralling eyes. Still, nothing. After years spent congratulating other people's record deals and massive tour bookings and escalading accolades of success and achievement, finally here was your Yay Hooray. But no one was happy for you. Not one person.

Devastated, you were beyond hurt. You'd taken for granted how much it meant to feel that someone else out there was rooting for you. This was something even your own mother would never do and that magnified this perceived damage. How hard was it to click a stupid fucking little button? Confused as to what you must have done to all 400 of the super friends in this community for them to collectively consider you such an undeserving asshole, you waffled and flailed and stewed, alone on a computer in your room. Clinging to these unravelling strings of disbelief, you sent messages to 3 or 4 other musicians, inviting them to come play this stellar show with you, willingly splitting up the 45 minute set to share the ample stagetime with others you felt close to. To share the joy. But they all said no, too.

More than just a slap in the face, or a punch in the gut, this total absence of support completely threw you for an endless looping mindfuck; its degrading mental tail spin dragged you further down the dark self-doubting trail than you can, even now, relive without feeling a bit sick. Abandonment via social media made you go from shitting bricks to being just a piece of shit that shits shit bricks. Virtual poo with poo in it.

Then, a week before the festival, Kat, whom you'd been playing with in an improv noise trio replied and said ok. She'd go with you. Exhaling exasperated gasps of relief, you set about making a papier mache mask of a huge dead bird skull that would disguise your scared shitless face while standing on stage. In sloppy speed driven agonized haste over too many sticky twitchy nights and long drawn out days, you decided you'd rent the truck, do all the driving and reserve the hotel room where you'd both stay. Kat was from LA, so all she had to do was give you directions to the venue.You'd use all your rent money to pay for everything and bring a bunch of merch to sell, hopefully making up the difference. This was a risk you were willing to take because, hey, This Was Your One Big Break.

The night before leaving for LA while obsessively repacking all your gear, a cold breeze wafted through your room at 3 in the morning whispering, "Leave now. On your own. Just Go."

"No, i can't do that. Kat'll be upset if i leave without her..."

For a moment though, you did consider the freedom of doing just that after being so torn through and deboned by that searing high-pitched lack of anyone having your actual back.

As you began loading shit into the truck, you got a parking ticket. Then another. And another as you waited for Kat to arrive at 9 AM. A dread had sunken in by then that was so thick and biley, you felt certain something really fucking awful was going to happen. Like an accident. A car crash. Or some other kind of foreseen disaster. So you procrastinated. Hour after hour, you waited for this nauseous anxious feeling to go away, and got yet another parking ticket in your panicked state. At noon, realizing this trip had already cost you $180 without going anywhere, you and Kat finally drove onto the interstate.

Driving down the grapevine into Los Angeles at rush hour, you ran out of gas in the dense freeway's middle lane. A big strong blonde woman stopped traffic by parking her car across the fast lanes so that you could let the truck roll backward into the breakdown lane. With semis blustering by every few seconds, the stalled truck rocked and shook like a little toy capsized. Until the tow truck arrived, you both sat counting each second as if it would be your last, delicately impaled on a bed of nails, crooked and rusty. Kat yelled through the cocophany, "Is this life in the fast lane?" and you laughed hysterically. You were just glad no one was dead. But that expectant fatal threat hovered too close, waiting to pinch you from every next breath with the tiniest of misplaced steps.

Towed, refueled and running late, you quickly changed at the hotel and sped toward the show with $20 left to your name. Your phone rang every 15 minutes wondering where you were. Again and again, you cried that you were on your way. Kat kept turning her phone's google map this way and that, losing track of the north star. Repeatedly missing the exit and sleeplessly stressed out from hours of speeding around lost in the dark lead to you having seizures behind the wheel on the busy honking unforgiving highway.

Pulling over at a gas station, you bought a paper map of the entire city. With eyes so weary and crazed, the mass of unfolded tiny letters crammed up next to each other in a gray blurry fog of unreadable characters. Moving the map to and fro from your disintegrating face, you could not see a fucking thing. It reminded you of the time you were tripping on acid in London's subway and all the lettered signs morphed into unknown symbols like Chinese. Your cell phone kept going off, demanding to know where the hell you were. Lost in Burbank. After the lightning storm of seizures passed, you sat down under the pale green halo of a street light and just sank to the ground. Admitting total and complete defeat. Pummeled like a pylon. So close. Yet so far away. Needless to say, you never made it to that stage.

Dropping Kat off at her friend's house the next day, too upset to say anything, you drove home alone, $400 in the red. Several pitstops were made along the way, in between waves of crying so hard that you couldn't even see the lines on the road.

Relationships disappointing you was something you'd grown so used to that witnessing the death of your sex life the year before was no big deal compared to this. The dying of your creative life was like losing your only child, like losing something so innocent and sweet that had never harmed anyone or anything. It had only ever brought joy into your life. But it got killed because of your own inability to be there for yourself. It was a deeper self-inflicted wound that no part of your soul knew how to forgive. A slow droning sound with the cold stone glare of a hungry barred owl filled your head as you drove too fast, riding on fumes of self-hate because you had not cared enough for the one thing that tried so hard to save you from your destructive demonic self.

Afraid to succeed because you didn't know how to, failure was your self-imposed comfort zone. It's all you knew. It's all you deserved, you thought, because you'd amassed so much proof of this. The big miracle gig was supposed to even all that out. This one good thing was supposed to make up for all the bad things you'd already been through. You needed it to redeem you. But it didn't. You blew it. And the hard hitting smack of that fact was not something you wanted to survive.

If there is a lesson to be culled from all this, it certainly showed up even though you didn't: Trust Your Gut. It Will Never Lie To You.

At that moment in your room when the wind was whispering,"Go now. On your own," Kat was at home thinking she didn't really wanna go to LA with you. Just like everyone else. And if you would have just said Fuck It, wrote down the directions to the venue and then went and did this one awesome thing For Yourself, there may have been a river of redemptive successes that came from passing that test.

It showed you that intuitive feelings are not selfish reflections of wishful thinking. That clear voice KNEW not only what was best for you, but also what was good for others, too. And that blew your mind open a little wider in time. It meant that intuition is somehow attached to the collective mind that seeks to uphold a benign group health, it wants the best for everyone, for everyone to become their best selves. And now that it was crystal clear no one outwardly cared, you could quit trying so hard to please everyone else. This was the next best thing that could have happened to you.

Always mining for creative veins of gold, you began taking photographs at each unhurried pause on the long drive home. At several shifting spots you stood in psychic quicksand, donning the dead bird head you'd put so much effort into creating. It hung over you like a shroud in silent solace with death's ordinary unbiased approval.

Walking off into the woods beyond a town called Gorman, beneath heavy mossen bare oak trees, ankle deep in yellow leaves, the crow skull cawed for this lifelong loss in front of a clicking camera lens. A young doe stood curiously close, chewing grass and watching this display of creative desperation on that otherwise quiet afternoon.

At sunset, the bird head scanned no man's land across the brown acrid haze of Bakersfield, stung by the putrid winds of slaughter, dung and fodder.

In moonlit orchards of the central valley, near a small town called Tranquility, more love shone from the migrant workers tin huts, strung together with Christmas lights and songs of collective suffering than from the 2 car garaged tract homes of upstanding plastic surgeried families, comfortably alienated from each other and themselves.

There you found the blessing of knowing, sinking in the chilly mud, looking up at the ringed moon through a bird's eye sockets, that this tragic turn of events would be remembered indefinitely. Only you and I would know how oddly peaceful and liberating those painful static hours in motion became. And how they would naturally shape all future behaviors after that day, December 23, 2012. The second day after The End of the World.

On the third day, you posted these photos on facebook with the tale of your utter failure to achieve anything in LA. It got a bunch of Likes.

So you closed the lid and hammered in another spike with a clear-seeing half-smiling respite. Even if no one else ever would be, you were now and forevermore, on your own side.

*u can call me ph!*


13% [chapter 21]


Like a bright red thread stitched alongside your wayward militaristic drift, Oxford, England ran loosely in and out, connecting every embroiled rift.

As a kid, a consistent return was made here bi-annually to visit your mother's side of the family. At 4 Salisbury Crescent, up a wooden ladder on the 2nd floor, through a hobbit-sized door, lie the children's vaulted attic room with a window opening up onto the sky, forgiving all spry imaginings of the young. Holidays spent at this address had a particular scent. Like a lush fertile garden, a damp compost heap of tranquility. Sinking into the big soft bed, under an enormous fluffy feather douvet, this was the one place in the whole world where you always slept soundly. Protected by the presence of your stalwart grandparents in their separate bedrooms downstairs, steeped in constant cups of hot sweet milky tea, amidst their jovial nonstop bickering, bad things never happened here. It was like living inside a fairy tale with a Little Match Girl ending, where what would normally seem morose was actually serene. And you consistently hated having to leave.

Until the last holiday visit in January of '88. Hammered, your drunk dad clamoured up into the attic where you were quietly drawing. He stood you up and hugged you for way too long, blubbering something about how much he loved you. Your marble arms clung to your sides, preparing for the worst. Reaching his hand up your shirt like a fumbling adolescent, he tried to french kiss you while squeezing your teenage tits. WHATTHEFUCK?! Such an impetuous offense after testifying against him in court and going through all those years of state-appointed therapy. Yet, This Shit Was STILL Happening. There are no words for my contempt.

Sprinting down and out of the house, ripping on your coat, you snagged some cash from your mother's purse and just ran. It didn't matter where. Realizing later that the legal drinking age in England is 18, you slowed your pace after careening past Squitchy Lane and decided to go do the adult thing. Deal with this fresh contamination by getting shit faced at the nearest drinking establishment.

Happening upon a local pub called Jericho's Tavern, you went in and tried to order something fancy and punishing. Like a marguarita or a long island iced tea. The bartender was having none of that. He finally agreed to pour you a few stiff rum and cokes begrudgingly. "Schtupid yankee twat," you could hear him thinking. Though he warmed up to you after asking him to teach you how to hand roll cigarettes.

The pub was fairly empty for a while until a group of kids came in carrying a ton of music equipment. It took a while for them to set up their gear in front of the stained glass window at 4 in the afternoon, but they laboriously sturdied themselves to play what appeared to be their premiere gig. A few of their friends straggled in to offer support. Then they launched into a confusing barrage of something ska-ish but slower in tempo and with minor keyed melodies.

What really captured your inebriated attention was the painfully self-conscious tremor of the singer's voice and the vortex of his presence, there on the floor, no stage present. Too human. Too tender and uncongealed for your current state of mind. He shone with an agitated energetic flood-light that you were already drowning in on the dark side of the room; that angst-fueled youthful resentment for a world you're born into without your full consent, but given enough sensibility and fuck-it-ness to reckon with another Cerberus head. Feeling stripped skinless after a few songs in, you stumbled out of Jericho's and went trouncing back to the house, weeping half-heartedly as the setting winter sun glittered across the icy banks of the river Thames. Turns out, that singer was Thom Yorke performing one of his first live sets.

On another visit to England in 1997, your cousin John gave you a cassette tape of the new album a local band had just finished making at your aunt Shirley's recording studio in Chipping Norton. It was called 'OK Computer'. And you replayed that tape til it stretched out beyond capacity.

By 2003, you sent a bunch of your xeroxed comix and cds of some music you'd made to John and asked him to pass the extra copies onto that band. It was your way of saying thanks because it had been a long time since you'd fallen entranced into a widely shared soundtrack after the release of 'Amnesiac'. You were inspired to hear a group that kept evolving, housing different emotional chasms, not just repeating itself or petering out or starting to wholesomely suck within a decade. As it was with precious few other musicians whose work you loved, their music had become a coping mechanism. Like a plumb line to hold up against the internalized trials of life, and see that somehow, you are still doing alright. A sounding board, a psychic connection, a sonic imaginary friend.

John soon replied, saying that he saw your comix strewn around the studio in between recording sessions and that they loved them. Thom listened to your cd but thought "it's quite dark." That still makes you smirk like a blushing self-promoting yet totally obscure jerk.

But it's called Feedback, yo.

Since the 192 bands you played with in your own neighborhood rarely gave you any, it was worth its weight in words. Otherwise, you might have continued to believe that you didn't actually exist. That everything you made was "not suicidal enough." That, after all that work, you were "lazy", and "striving to be ignored." That "the songs you wrote were too heavy -- we're just trying to sell records here not change the world." Beyond people exhibiting surprise (though you'd never understand why) that such "spooky" music was being composed by a woman, that was it for a decade's worth of feedback, yo.

For this reason, you remain indebted to Big City Orchestra, Lance Grabmiller, Skullcaster, Andy @ Last Gasp, Weasle Walter, Chicken John, DarphNader, Dave Ligon, OX, Zoey, Willow, Charlotte, Fred @ Thrillhouse and Trixy Grace, the righteously good-hearted ranks of LCM, 5lowershop, The Lab, Church of The Buzzard, SPAZ, MediaAlliance, MaximumRockNRoll and A.T.A., Twerk, Eve Tekromantik, China of Boyskout, Skott Cowgill, Headboggle, Margarita Lara, Neighborhood Bass Coalition, Joe Donohue, Motion, 12K, Leafcutter John, Matt Flynn, Brendan Seibel, Filthmilk, Doug Poore, Fatima, Prizehog, Chupa, Kat Genikov, Tony de Jesus, Alan Dubain, Paul Smith, Jonah Rust, Dark Muse, Heartworm, Aviatrix, Ethan Port, Tamara Glass, Angel Bethke, Despicable Alien, Rachel Haywire, nullspace, Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, Common Eider King Eider, SYMPLX, Lucia Patino, Brianne Hanshaw, Brice Frillici, Realicide, Cy, Leland Kirby, Dromez, Crebain, Bill Reeves, Thorsten Sideb0ard, Nature Abhors Normality, Zac, Billy Bragg, Mick Nasty, Sinda Koslinka, Fernanda Loaiza, Stuart Chisholm, Burmese, Mitch Levay, Torn By Teeth, small drone orchestra, Debbie Dingledong, Lob Instagon, Don Haugen, Horseflesh, Horn of Dagoth, Derek Kelly, Shane DeSilva, Josh @ The Guardian, Jeff Ray, Petey, Heidi Alexander, John Dwyer, Eric Bauer, Josh Pollock, Jef Templar, Henry Larsen, Cameron Gibson, Dylan Simon, Gorpy Endockle, Derek Pardue, HausArafna, Brent St. James,Noah of Cameltoe, Jeannine & Bill Thibodeau, Maz, Dale Lankford, Douglas Land, Erika Dillingham, Rob Gillespie, James Tracy, Casey Appeldorn, Healamonster & Tarsier, Eddie The Rat, Not Breathing, Ramsey Kanaan, Gerald Hawk, Beth Custer, Keith Curts, Joey Hurt, Colin Studybaker, Raub Roy, Vetivert, V.Vale, David James, Evil Moisture, Screamo Leemo, Bonfire Madigan, WendyOMatik, Legendary Pink Dots, XtraAction Marching Band, Rich Westmeyer, Phoebe Garofano, Mary, Dolce Maletesta, pirate radio Jake, Abra Jeffers, Sarah Lockhart, Diego Gonzalez, Nebbie Loon, Kelli Winslow, Luca Garino, Lik Neon, James Tracy, AC Way, 6ixes, Stubee, Swoondoll, Vyvian Looper, John Burkhalter, Brandi Obsolete, Demonsleeper, Chris&Cosey, Styrofoam Sanchez and Sharkiface for their encouragement and appreciated aid.

Plus the letter that arrived from Svetlana; a lone female employee working 12 hour shifts at a crowded light bulb factory in Croatia. She said your music helped her get through her unremitting hellish days. So you mailed her a big free box of everything you'd ever made. Following your own string is the only way to escape the Minotaur's maze.

At the tail end of 2011, the 2nd half of 'In Rainbows' haunted your last visit to England long after its initial release. All surviving family members were now scattered far and wide from 4 Salisbury Crescent. Riots in London had just ended a week previous to your arrival in Hackney. The police had altered their original "beeboo beeboo" siren sounds to the typical American cop car whine because, according to a local radical, too many U.S. crime shows had desensitized the population and those old siren sounds held no crowd controlling power anymore. But that healthy disrespect for authority is something you've always admired about the people living on the Isles.

Crossing the channel by overnight ferry, everything you once loved about Belgium's unconventionality had mutated as well. Buried in an amalgamated blue gray EU mush. Gentrification on a continental scale. It broke your heart to see Ghent become so expensive and overblown. Just like SF. All you could do was sit on the little bench beneath the 15th century cathedral spires and sigh. Europe was losing it's local hues to The Big Nothing of steamrolling globalization, trickling down its unelected debts. Doing no good for anyone except, of course, the 1%. But no one seemed to be all that upset. Because now their heads only stared down into their iphones, grasping onto some new form of virtual protest. Note: Belgium holds the record for being the longest running country with no official government. And your friends there were rightly proud of that accomplishment.

In the spring of 2013, just in time to stay inside and deal with the debilitating effects of post traumatic stress, the 'King of Limbs' arrived. The song 'Codex' encapsulated a mountain of inner turmoil and still raw regrets inside a 10 second segment: "No one gets hurt. You've done nothing wrong." Like driving over a speedbump or hitting the same huge pothole over and over, you could not hear those lyrics without sobbing uncontrollably. No matter what else you were focused on before that melody came up on the 8000 song shuffle. This phrase seemed to drop an emotionally devastating atom bomb every time it came on and blew all else away. Standing still. Separated and wailing. But slightly more fascinated by the mind's ability to catalog and contain such an irrational magnitude of gnawing desolation within one short and specific musical refrain. Then you'd pick up where you left off again. Patch the leak. Do more lines. Renumb the brain. Continue selling everything on ebay.

Nothing is easy. But dealing with shit would be impossible without music. It's where all of our true colors thrive. Despite the trend you noticed of anti-emo Californians trying to emulate cold calculating machines cuz they seemed to be so ashamed of being human beings. As if they couldn't spare the time. Or maybe they were just like you, only capable of temporarily relieving their grief when left alone with chemical substances in private. Subsiding on the inside, not out there in real life.

One thing was for sure, you were now surrounded by droves of bland khaki fucktards who were fond of using the phrases "win/win situation" and "get in on the ground floor" sans irony. Not while nonchalantly strolling down oh-so shabby chic Valencia Street, but just beyond your bathroom window. While taking a shit, you'd overhear your new cherry-faced neighbors upselling to their clients over the phone on the weekends. And no one else within a thousand feet of your room ever played or listened to music anymore.

During one of the last free noise & doom shows at bleakhaus, prior to being shut down amidst threats of eviction, you were alone naked and drunk in the bathroom, lights off, door closed. Soft warm tones echoed from down the hall where Black Thread was performing a bittersweet analogue tape looping set to an intimate crowd through the solid state PA in the front room. Crawling into the clawfoot tub, submerged in hot water, you quietly cried, knowing it would all be over soon. Knowing the time had come to leave the Mission. Forevermore. Just as you were finally figuring out how to appreciate the small glimmers of joy discovered there, after wasting so many years ignorantly overlooking them before.

Bukowski once said the most beautiful roses can only grow in the grossest of gutters, and there was nothing subversive or down to earth or close to the bone left in that town anymore. The fact that a bigger crowd showed up to burn trash cans and stop traffic in celebration of a baseball game rather than to protest the deadly police brutality occurrances in Oakland and Ferguson and Chicago and Baltimore every other day was proof enough of San Francisco's completely diluted whitewashed droll. The city's historically class-conscious backbone had collapsed under the weight of a massive bankrolled jellyfish. Now this town was all about priviledged fratboys spattering in your face, "YUH!! GIANTS!!" Unamused, you retorted, "DWARVES!!"

But the city's spirit did not go down without a fight, without sounding out a clarion howl of every civilization's repetitive cyclic self-importance destroying truth: Depression creates necessity creates creativity creates vitality creates media attention creates corporate ascension creates proprietary greed creates hyper speculation creates overpopulation creates migration moving out creates mutation blending in creates stagnation creates irrelevance creates apathy and sinking down and bleeding out until it again creates depression.

And so, in the summer of 2015, 'Truth Ray' spent a lot of time behind the wheel of Haustruk, driving with you those thousands of miles away. No specific gps coordinates to call home so that you'd never have to go through feeling raped again.

Oftentimes, 'A Moon Shaped Pool' will discreetly bathe with the cleaner simpler version of you that now lives with your beloved piano in 100 square feet of solitude. No electricity, air-conditioning, wifi or plumbing but thinly subsisting on the non-detrimental freedoms of Less. Tweeting more to the birds with a handful of seeds than to a Twitter feed. Making plans only as grand as the distance from your face to your hand. Singing to yourself in the trees while chem trails streak criss crossing clouds across the sky. Sitting by the fire. Reading books like they're going out of style. Listening to shows on the short airwaves. Drinking hot sweet milky tea. And however hungry you may get, nothing feels as fulfilling as being able to fall asleep to the sounds of crickets, wound up in a sheet like the peacefully resting dead. Leaving a smaller carbon footprint on anyone else's unsuspecting Radiohead.

*u can call me ph!*


13% [chapter 20]


On November 27th, 2009, you were still stuck on that merry-go-round of cyclical depressive low tides, all Eeyore-like. No Tigger, no Piglet, no Winnie-the-Pooh moods in sight.

But you could not quite bring yourself to subscribe to the ever-growing myriad of socially sanctified psychotropic solutions that every doctor tried to religiously prescribe. You couldn't trust these new anti-depressants that kept clogging up the lives of everyone you once liked. Chopin might not have composed anything if he were all hopped up on Zoloft or Xanax back in 1839.

Something seemed very untoward about hallucinating while coming OFF a daily chemical regime. Or the steady loss of all humor while increasing the tendencies this monkey-wrenching medicine was purporting to reduce. Just to feel more confident in group settings where you'd be all cotton-mouthed and farting? Or mindlessly gambling away your hard earned savings on glittery slot machines while internally bleeding? Or succumbing to early-onset Alzheimer's at 50, barely able to remember anything?

At least with regular cheap street drugs, you knew exactly how and why you'd end up in a gutter, forlorn lost and crying.Because of the droning loneliness, the specious doubt, the prickling dread. Crying because of global warming. Because of your unfathomable debts. Because of gentrification's big boot of disdain for the poor, trampling around San Francisco, crunching ever closer to the sitting duck of your dilapidated Mission district victorian flophouse. All of your trenchant attempts to Get Somewhere in life seemed to be Going Nowhere effortlessly. Like a sad dead girl's polyester dress on sale for way too much money at Thrift Town.

Usually, these cycles of depression could be managed by eating more fruits and vegetables and vigorously sweating out the animosity and heartache. But you couldn't seem to shake off this extended sticky bout.

Listening again to the Nick Drake album 'Five Leaves Left', you seriously wanted to leave the black-eyed dogs behind and join him in some imaginary afterlife. What was the point of trying so hard to stay clean when everyone you sought approval from looked at you like they knew an inside joke that you were not clued in to? Like yer some kinda shady junkie. But you weren't robbing anybody at gunpoint. You were working 2 jobs, organizing annual festivals with your own rent money and booking small free live shows in your house for their experimental noise bands monthly. Still, it seemed you'd never be rid of this scarlet letter, clinging to your unapproachable chest, all bitter sore and lumpy.

If this downward spiraling mindset was still happening under the influence of a substance-free existence, then FUCK IT. Might as well be getting high. At least then you could enjoy something. So you got some. And without questioning it, did a big fat fucking line. Take THAT, Feelings! Thus you kept yourself boxed in on meticulous coding designs inside the refreshing blue-green glow of a computer screen. Honed in on the faint comfort of an unconcerned light.

Recreationally, meth modestly recreated many a night after you got laid off from Amoeba the following spring. Once the severance check arrived, you were cloaked in a heavy indifference. Drugs didn't become just a friend or a demanding lover, they were now the holy widowmaker. Yet they kept you sucking at the teat of invigorating devastation. Like Kali-Ma. Bestowing a blistering glorious defeat, steeling you for the celebration of End Times. And you went down burning, almost happily resigned to this predictably hot demise. Victim identified.

For weeks, you sensed it approaching. On your morning bike rides to work, the trees in Panhandle Park kept screaming, "Death is Coming!" So you had already begun grieving the loss of that long held job and all the people there that you really liked. Because trees have no reason to lie. And you'd almost learned well enough to trust these psychic impressions by then, even if they spelled an inconsolable dissolution that would mould you dispirited and dry.

After the boss broke the news to you in the office, she leaned back in her chair, expecting to reach for the tissue box and feign compassion while watching another peon cry. But you just said, "Yeah. Ok. Bye." She was disappointed that you weren't more moved by this deliberate shock. "I knew this was coming," you stated flatly and calmly left the office while her face went all awry. That creeped her out sufficiently.

Back in the good ol' days, when people left this tightly knit job, a going away party of sorts would occur. But not this time. Not for you or any of the other dozen or so laid-off yobs. So, you picked up the intercom, said goodbye to everyone storewide and demanded to know, "Hey! Where's My Fucking Cake?!" Giggles cascaded from behind the counters as you glided by, your middle fingers guiding you out the front door for the last time.

And that was the end of a good long while in your life When Things Were Actually OK.

This led you to looking upon every sweet hell you are going through with some degree of precious delight. A little less obsessively drenched in beleaguered complaints of all things petty and/or trite.

Spending too much time at a local dive bar called Benders, the smoker's back patio started to feel like the Day Room in a mental ward. It takes a special mix of people to show up every weekday afternoon to liquify their unemployment checks, to taunt laugh and brood together. As if this silly drunk social outlet might be a good thing to stick your emotionally detached finger into. Marbles up the arm. Something to do. This was where you ran into Del after not seeing him for 15 years. He looked pretty much the same. Gone were the black leathers and motorcycles, replaced by a sauntering hobble, a cheesy fedora hat and an old man's pipe.

He seemed happy to see you again, but he was so drunk that you turned down his offer to come home with you that night. 8 days later, he was snoring in your bed and had practically moved in. Taking total possession of your space, he referred to it as "his place" when talking to the other drunks in the Day Room. Arrogantly, he graced you with his presence by eating all of your foodstamp rations, drinking all of your booze and fucking you loudly for hours as if he had nothing else better to do. After several years of being single, this seemed like an appropriate distraction; one you had fantasized about since 1997, so you were blissfully happy being Del's semi-girlfriend for a week or two.

Finally, you gushed, love had found you! And from the one and only person you ever felt any sort of nursey feelings for all those long years ago. Was this karmic justice for having been there for him in that hospital room? Or retribution for having gone through so many dysfunctional relationships? Was this not another Boy, but an actual Man that was sticking it to you? With a chipmunky grin, you wished for the frilliest best since you had some pretty massive yearnings for a 40 year old unemployed dope that wanted to feel close to someone else once again.

But nope.

Loneliness and hope had snared you down another dead end. One that broke you off better than all of the rest. With an aplomb and a flair that became almost iconic. And a bit disturbingly entertaining to witness. Ask any one of your former friends.

Del had recently received a court settlement check in the sum of $27,000. More money than you had ever seen in one place at any one time. You asked if he could help you pay the $323 rent since he was now living in your room. He said, "Let's go out and celebrate instead."

So there you were, at a strip club in North Beach. All dolled up with your fabulous new boyfriend. He threw handfuls of dollar bills into the air, raining down more than enough to pay the rent into the stripper's lair. She seemed amused that you were there too, sitting so close to the stage, eyeballing all that cash, feeling dejected and fucked over again. So she took your glasses off, rubbed them along her crotch and put them back on your face. Half a dozen dirty martinis in, it was hard to see anything clearly through the glazed smudge of pussy juice and this sad state of unfair affairs exhibiting themselves so brilliantly.

At one point, Del handed you $20 to go get the next round of drinks from the bar. Another stripper grabbed your arm in the dark. She asked if you wanted to join her in a private
room. But you were too pissed by then. You gave her the twenty bucks and said, "No, i just wanna get away from that asshole i came in here with." So she showed you to the exit. Wobbling around outside, you were so drunk that you knew you could walk all the way home and not remember most of the miles you'd have to hike. But you didn't care. You were finally alone with one of your truest loves, The Cold Night Air.

Coming from behind, Del tackled you, hailed a cab and shoved your ass inside, yelling that you had ruined his whole night. You pleaded with him, since he had all this crazy money, couldn't he at least help you pay the bills?! He responded by punching you in the chest. You caught the cabbie looking at you pathetically in the rear view mirror and turned your head. The rest of the ride home was spent in silence, staring out at the rushing river of blurry streetlights.

Looking down, you felt extraordinarily uncomfortable in how you were dressed. Heels. A revealing dress. Lipstick that made your face go two-dimensional. Ugh. All this to please Del because he hated that you were "too much like a dude" in the way that you looked, acted, spoke out loud, built a fire, trudged around. "DO something about those brows! Yer fingernails are a MESS!" Later he suggested you get fatter, assuming that all the added weight would go straight to your measly A cup breasts.

It didn't take long before you began to feel truly sorry the woman that was his wife. You wondered how the fuck she managed to put up with his greedy selfish bullshit for so many years. One thing you did notice from the photos he showed you was that she'd gained about 100 pounds of extra flesh. Probably to physically please him and to psychologically protect herself.

Del was very proud of having quit speed for a couple years, so he warned you that if you ever did drugs in front of him, he'd leave. Tough Love? Maybe this will help straighten you out. Think again. You WANTED him to leave after the first few weeks but he wouldn't budge. He just started taking your drugs instead. Flicking the tiny bag, he complained observantly, "This ain't even enough for ME!"

You quipped, "Then go buy your own drugs, bitch!"

Comments like that warranted a jarring shove and a chokehold that was in no way romantic or exciting. It just sucked. You soon became a prisoner in the same space that was once your creative sanctuary. Now it was a torture chamber that held in the reek of sweaty tooled sex, stale alcohol, dirty clothes and chain-smoked cigarettes. Those wiped up squirting pools of Unicorn Juice turned into Donkey Town after the good times rolled to a halt. An ionized unprotected miasma of debasing stress descended. And you were the slug writhing under salt.

If sex happened when you weren't in the mood, the quakes of blinding pain it caused would induce dizziness, fainting spells and vomiting. Many whited out moments were spent running water over your hands and head. Curling up wet on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor. Closing down with each shallow breath. Apparently, your cervix didn't want company so it never moved out of the way to accomodate Del's invasive kidney-infection-causing big thick filthy dick.

Sage burning started stepping in more frequently to clear the air of his constant oppressive unmitigated BLECH. And it successfully swept him away each time, giving you just enough space to not completely lose your mind. With respect, this taught you to burn it every single day hence.

Slowly, over the next few months Del tried isolating you from your old coworkers slash friends who were falling away at a steady pace on their own anyway. No one wanted to know. And you couldn't blame them for that. The only person you held responsible for opening the door and letting the devil in was you. Subconsciously, you WISHED he'd off you. So sick of all the disillusions you'd discovered by then.

No longer playing your beloved piano daily because Del always occupied that seat in the room, the Beethoven, Satie and Rachmaninoff pieces you'd learned by heart began slipping away. Each day that you did not practice in solace, you lost 1000 hours of muscle memory to his increasing mammoth sized demands and unruly psychotic needs. He wanted to learn how to play, so you tried to teach him Scott Joplin's "Long Slow Drag"; thinking maybe this would help him channel his rage from his own traumatic experiences of child abuse. Maybe it would help him heal that broken part of his soul that was forced to sit in a corner of an old basement. Chained to a pole. With a sign hung around his neck that read in scrawled letters "ASSHOLE".

God only knows what else was done to him as a kid. Or if this story was even true. You could quite easily see how this tale may have been told for the benefit of manipulating you. In the same way he whipped up pity from those around him at every bar or party, enabling him with more free booze. The same way he tried to stop you from giving gas money to your friend who was driving you home from a show you played in Oakland. Holding back the $5 clutched in your fist, he whispered, "No...pretend we're broke so we can get a free ride." But you were well aware of the huge roll of $50's in his pocket at that very moment. A wave of disgust washed over you and left a rancid residue of distrust as you handed the driver your 5 bux.

Whenever Del crossed some crazy line in his head, his eyes would flash brightly and the violent attacks would begin. Even though he acted like a soft cuddly big brown bunny every second of the day up until then. It came out of nowhere, as if he were suddenly possessed. Toward the end, all yellow-eyed and grimacing, he hovered over your piano with a hammer and a can of lighter fluid, threatening to destroy the one thing you love more than him or any other person on the planet. The caterwaul that came soaring outta you scared him half to death. He immediately stopped what he was doing. As if coming to, he begged for forgiveness, pleading that you hit him, give him his deserved punishment.You resolutely refused. And he, at last, left the room. Only to return too soon. From June until February, this ludicrous bullshit continued.

Every day, it was the same routine:

He'd sit up, take a gulp off a bottle and watch straight porn on his fancy new laptop. Jerking off, you'd wake up to the jiggling motion of your bed. Then he'd yell at you to get up and go take a shower so that he could covertly jerk off some more to gay porn. When you came back in dripping wet, he'd shove his cock down your throat. Gagging, tears that were neither happy nor sad sank down your breathless face, reddening.

Some submissive part of you got aroused by his dominating sexual thirst. This was so often missing in other men who always whined for you to be The Top and do all the work. But sex was the one area in which you wanted to NOT be in control. It's really too bad that no man ever seemed to understand that there is a huge difference in how you enjoyed the performance of sex and how you wanted to be treated in all other aspects of life. As if, to him, there was no difference between Sex and Everything Else. This might be why lots of complicated uninhibited women end up with total unsubtle meatheads who treat them like shit in public. He just doesn't Get It. And she has braced herself to Put Up With It. All for the sake of dick. As if it's the holy grail of social prerequisites. Yup, you too, fell for it.

So you'd submit and get aggressively fucked from behind for a good long hair-pulling while. Then shower again, making yourself climax finally. Safe and alone, under the pelting waves of hot water streaming down your neck, in between those once sensible breasts. Afterward, you'd gently suggest that he go somewhere else for the day so that you could work on art or music. And he'd say, "Ok, I will soon..." from about 10AM til 4PM while binge watching something, logged into your account on Netflix.

Just before dusk, he'd suggest you both go to Benders, order greasy food and get drunk again. Cursing yourself for giving him, so quickly, that extra set of your keys, you discovered too easily that if you didn't go with him to the bar, he'd just fuck someone else conspicuously and come crawling back into your bed, repulsive and stinking. So you'd surrender to an eye-rolling listless defeat and murmur, "Yeah, ok." Half expecting that there'd be another unsurprising bourbon fueled fight over nothing substantial that night, especially if you won a game of pool against him. Back home under the spinning ceiling, your throat would turn sore from all the screaming and cocksucking. And you'd lay down, carressing a new invisible wound forming beneath your irascibly thin skin.

You'd stay still until he passed out and started snoring. Almost motionlessly, you'd slip out from under the covers where you were stuck between the wall and the stench of his 6 foot bodily menace. Down and out through the bottom of the bed. Secretly snorting some saviour-shaped lines, you painted little pictures in the small splinters of peace that you could find there on your hardwood floor at 3 AM. Wrapped in a thin blue blanket. Floating in a despicable gloaming sea of decrepit weakness. Bloated with disobedience. Those quiet moments held you close, stroking your disheveled head, shhushing your returning whimpers of wishing you were dead. At dawn, you'd sliver back up through the foot of your bed with your jaw aching from the speed driven grinding of teeth. Looking over at those new cherished paintings, a little less abhorred, you'd eventually fall asleep.

Wake up to the jiggling bed a couple hours later and repeat.

It was going to be difficult, getting Del outta your life. He made sure to remind you then that he owned a gun and was a trained locksmith. "So if you ever try to throw me out, I will break in here and SHOOT YOU IN THE FUCKIN FACE!" Later, he proudly announced with a sickening grin, that 9 of his ex-girlfriends were no longer living. But no amount of intimidation was gonna convince you to lie down and become number 10. So you went to the police station and got a restaining order, but when you returned home that afternoon, he stood at the stairway landing, laughing at you. "The cops can't serve me a restraining order because I have no home address, you stupid bitch. HA HA!"

And as any assaulted woman knows, you don't angrily eject a gun-toting psycho from your house because that will injure his ego enough to ensure that he will return and terrorize you worse. Your survival depends on him making
the decision to leave, assuming that he hasn't already strangled your ass. Apparently, this is the same approach the authorities take on domestic violence. "Since he's your boyfriend, and he lives in your house, we can't forcibly remove him unless he actually kills you."

To serve and protect. Yeah. It's no wonder women have to be such sneaky self-defending bitches if they wanna live.

Writing all of this felt like getting repunched in the gut. The jittery nausea from retreading this difficult grueling period, hurled up a fierceness you weirdly missed. Because of your heightened awareness while struggling through that vile crevice. Because of your addiction to crisis. It blows to admit that, but you felt at your best when problem solving your way through chaos. And if there was nothing to grapple with, you'd make a mountain out of a molehill just to feel a little triumphant bliss from overcoming some new form of abusive shit. But there it is. In all of its cataclysmic and overly dramatic rhapsody. It isn't what it is.

Despite this rationality, even though you are now 5 years and 3000 miles away from Del's stomping ground, you still flinch a bit and reach for that straight-razor that hides in your boot whenever you see the shadow of a man wearing a fedora hat. That supposedly solid wall of self-confidence and psychological healing that took so long to construct after all those kiddy hitting and fiddling bricks had been mortared into place, came crumbling down so fast in the wake of this last attempt to intimately converge. In terrific disbelief, here you were again. Back in that fearless gap where you were born. Uncured.

Hating yourself for being so desperate for affection that you'd allow your life to be put on the line, you stuck to doing drugs until that Dumb Girl inside you shut up with her sniveling. Until her simpering needs stopped sabotaging everything you did, there'd be no sleeping, no dreaming, no spending time with anyone. You could barely leave your room at all. Except to go to work.

A couple weeks after you thought it was over with Del, he DID actually break into your house. You stood frozen behind your bolted bedroom door, your heart throbbing loudly as you held your breath. Waiting. He wandered around in the hall, stole something uselessly stupid and left. After that, every time one of your 5 roommates came or went, the sound of the front door opening or closing jolted you out of any form of rest. On edge, with or without meth. And yet, you were not afraid of death. "Go ahead, Kill Me!" you croaked the last time Del put his hands around your neck. "PLEASE, PUT ME OUTTA MY FUCKIN MISERY!!" But he went limp and ran away instead.

It was some kind of dismal poetic justice to find yourself at SF General again after coming back into contact with Del. You had finally arrived at the end of this little romantic crackdown while involuntarily housed for 13 hours in the Psychiatric Ward. Sitting there, barely able to breathe without the pangs of a possibly fractured rib poking into your right lung, the bent in end of your left ring finger turning pale blue and numb. Going crazy and spun up as fuck, but not enough to say anything incriminating to any guinea pig recruiters for the Pfizer corporation, trying to bank another billion.

"Are you depressed? Or feeling suicidal?" This question only made you laugh. Too much. That's like asking if there's a black hole in the center of the galaxy. You kept insisting that instead of speaking to a therapist, you just wanted to get an x-ray done.

But you never got the results of that lead blanket's internal inspection. While waiting patiently and smoking a butt outside the hospital, a k-holed raver kid came barrelling past you. Stopping suddenly, he tried to bum a cigarette. But you only had one left. So he shrewdly snagged your pack from the stone wall behind you and ran around in circles, teasing you with his successful theft.

"Aww for fuckssake," you sighed wearily, leaning over and gingerly holding your innards, "i can't run...my fuckin boyfriend beat the shit outta me...just gimme my last smoke back, please." But the kid had no empathy. Jeering, "I hope the next time he beats you up HE FUCKING KILLS YOU, BITCH!!" He spat in your face and ran through the parking lot, laughing maniacally. Wiping his saliva off,  you expounded, "So do I!" And that was the last feather.

All the final threads of strength holding you up drained out of your legs and you collapsed right where you stood. Bawling onto the gritty gray cement. A good solid reliable friend. This whole experience reduced you down into the cracks between those concrete slabs, where little black ants were trailing a totally different chemical scent, living by an entirely different set of battle circumstances and social rules, narrowly avoiding the groaning waterfall pouring out of a towering monstrous fool. When that was done, you got up and walked home to go deal with the ache of things broken on your own. Before this sick joke got any funnier or more grotesque or hideously strange. Whereupon, you likely inhaled another round of fat rails to recalibrate your bursting brain into feeling nothing again.

Those injuries morphed into symbols and healed much quicker after they spoke their truth to the now-listening you. That particular finger was never going to have a ring on it. Get used to it. Stop grasping in desperation for something you don't believe would bring you any happiness anyway. To widen your cage and breathe freely again, stay in your own small space. And stop giving yourself away to fucked up people that, instinctively, you knew would never stick around long enough to force you into becomming a soccer mom or be someone you might have to rely upon some day. Autonomy. Give yourself a break.

Doomed relationships were just status quo distractions from the creativity that never betrayed. Every ounce of mainstream media had fed you the syrupy moral that life is only good for people who had other people to belong to. To breed with. To call their own. But this started to feel like an axiom written by a historic stream of lonely guys with womb-envy. Thusfar, the only things sex brought you were suffering and pain. And you were DONE.

So, you took out the new tattoo machine you'd purchased with your last unemployment check, turned it on and started carving oaths into your skin on that night of Del's break-in. Consumed by a destructive seething rage, the wincing agony of tattooing yourself felt great. A needed change of pace from the other self-mutilating activities you usually engaged in when you were this infuriated. It cathartically reshaped those reactive feelings, memorializing a world of wrath into a transcendental mesmerising passage: "Speak To Me Not Of Justice For None Have I Ever Seen." In Old English script, these words redecorated the teenage cutting scars buried in your forearm.

A triple-spiral around your broken ring finger announced the lifelong commitment you then made to marry and live happily ever after with yourself. For better or for worse. For richer or for poorer. In sickness and in health. Til death do us part.

You said, "I Do."

And I did, too.

*u can call me ph!*