I can write a song, but not a story

By Joshua Blake

Hi. I can’t recall when I last wrote an entry on this blog, and I’m not intrigued to find out, either.

I start my second-to-last semester of college tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Yeah, that’s not a typo or anything. My Monday morning’s for college this semester start at 1:00 p.m.

That’ll be the only time in my life where I’ll start my week off in the afternoon – though knowing me, who the hell knows.

I’ve been attempting – and when I say ‘attempting,’ I really mean thinking about how – to go on writing this story I thought of last November.

I can write a song, intricately describing what ails me, but not a story.

It’s a damned nightmare. I have a basic idea down, along with a plot and characters. I think it’s a pretty neat take on the tried tropes of sci-fi dramas – if that even is a category – but I’m stuck.

Why am I stuck? I haven’t got a clue. Apprehension? Depression? Subjugation from my own thoughts? Sounds rather bleak, doesn’t it?

And that’s the thing about the characters in this world I’ve imagined: they’re a reflection of my apprehension, of my depression, of my will to keep fighting on, too.

I don’t understand how to isolate my emotions to focus on driving the narrative. Maybe that’s what makes it so hard for me to know how to continue on with my story.

Or perhaps I dont understand how to channel my emotions into my characters, and that’s why my narrative is progressing at a snail’s pace.

Then there’s the part of me that says “this [my story] is meaningless in the grand scheme of things, like life. But then there’s the other side of my thoughts that say “Yeah, but maybe not.”

Do you see my problem, dear reader? Yes? No?

I believe it’s natural to wonder if what we do in life really equates to anything of substance, of impact – not just in our lives – but others.

Everyone wants to have a role to play in this game called Life. But you can’t always play the role you want – and not only with the way we push 17 and 18-year-olds to get a post-secondary education – but how we push college students into this mindset that their degree is “worth it,” borrowing tens-of-thousands in student loans, only to end up paying them back years after graduation, and maybe not holding a job in the field of their degree anyway.

That’s worth all of the stress of graduating college – especially in America? Every adult I know who’s graduated college and has a job has told me a variant of the phrase “not what I started doing.”

My therapist studied to become an English teacher before finding psychology. Hell, my previous college advisor switched majors four times before sticking with journalism…my current major of the last six-and-a-half years.

Is it wrong to tell teenagers “think of a subject you wanna major in at whatever college, cause that’s gonna be your job one day?”

Of course, for some students this becomes their reality, but just because the S.T.E.M. field pays well, doesn’t mean every major in that field is going to have a S.T.E.M. focused career. It’s not sustainable economically.

People used to bash Liberal Arts majors, but at least those students have some versatility in their skill sets, unlike hyper-focused majors.

Johnny Awesome could know all about bio-engineering, or Quantum Theory, but not a damn thing about landscaping, construction, or writing.

And that’s okay. Not everyone needs to know how to do everything.

But we can’t limit ourselves to one-dimensional task-performers, either. That’s just boring. And more importantly, kind of sad.

I wanna be a good writer one day. I want my writing to impact people – whether that be in a good or bad way.

But I don’t wanna just be “a writer,” or “a journalist.” Those terms are subjective anyway. What kind of journalist and writer do I want to be?

I don’t think I’m supposed to know the answer until I get there. But, I do have a couple of aspirations, that maybe with a pinch of luck – and the good fortune of knowing some people – could get me there.

If I could be a columnist, I’d be content. If I finish my book and get it published, I’d be content. If I could play music out on the side once my career’s goin’, I’d be content.

As long as I have friends and family around me, and live with the love of my life for all of my life, I’ll be happy.

And I think this is the problem with people who feel stuck in this world: they think being content will make them happy.

Myself included.

I was talking to my dad yesterday about physical therapy and we both agreed: I should at least do something for my physical health. Having Cerebral Palsy is a huge detriment to every physical and mental aspect of human life.

But I told him that it’s hard for me to encourage myself to better myself physically.

“Cause it’s work,” he told me.

And while I agreed, there’s more to it than that.

“Yes, but does it matter?” I wondered.

I know my depression plays a role in these “does- this-really-matter” scenarios, but I also think it goes back to this idea of being content equals happiness.

Yeah, if I exercised, I’d feel better – even a little bit mentally. I’d be content, but not happier.

And that’s my point. Happiness doesn’t have a price. Not a tangible price, anyway. Robin Williams was an amazingly talented, funny, charismatic actor. But he was depressed and took his own life, because his happiness couldn’t be bought. Chester Bennington was a talented singer, he took his own life, because his happiness couldn’t be bought with his talent or all of the money he made.

Happiness is a desire based out of necessity.

So much of our focus on life is on physical attributes and assets, that we often forget about the mental side of it. It’s just as – if not even more – important.

If you’re just content with life, how can you ever enjoy it? A long time ago, I wrote about how emotions like happiness are finite – they can’t last indefinitely. So, it’d make more sense to strive towards being content – cause that’s more realistic.

How wrong I was.

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Hello, Is This Thing On?

By Joshua Blake

Hi, friends! What’s new?

I’ve been trying to think of something to write – anything that’ll fill my time lately. But I can’t think of the words.

Any writers out there that know what I mean?

No? Damn. So, what’s been happening in my world of music? The bar my grandmother and I started to perform open mics at every other week shut down the musical-ness that was ensuing there.

Bummer. I think it’s been a month. The dudes that set up this little music jam were some cool, talented musicians, too.

This past Monday, my parents went into the City – that’s New York City for any of you non-New Yorkers – and my grandmother came by to help me watch my dog, Charlie.

“You wanna bring your geetar,” I asked her in a text.

We hadn’t played music together since maybe late April or early May. I can’t remember for sure.

Once she arrived, she had her music stand, guitar, and music folder in hand.

“When I saw your text I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bring it over,” she said. “But then I said ‘Yeah! Why not?”

I didn’t care what we played. I just needed to play something so I wouldn’t go crazy.

Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and countless other artists filled the next two hours up for us.

Oh, yeah. We played Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Hurt,” too.

It was a fun time. It was a simple time. And sometimes that’s all anyone really needs.

A way to relax.

What’s in a song?

What’s your take on Meg Myers new single? Watch and listen below

Meg Myers NUMB

By Joshua Blake

Meg Myers dropped a new single titled “Numb,” and it shows the singer at her most vulnerable, while remaining honest in her thoughts. This creates a visual masterpiece in the music video, as you witness Myers struggle with pressure from the outside and from within.

“You think you want the best for me?” Myers asks, angry and teary-eyed. Nothing really matters, cause “if you force it, it won’t come.”

The song can be interpreted to be about depression, anxiety or any other mental illness. Or maybe it’s about being an artist, too. Still, it leaves you captivated and uncomfortable – Myers is poked, pulled and touched by numerous strangers as she tells them “I guess I’m feeling numb.”

The video appears to imply that despite her attempts, people aren’t listening, and she can’t deal with the pressure she’s been dealt. “I don’t wanna grow up/ la, la, la, la, la, la, la,”

The simplicity is what makes this song so complex. Myers is telling the viewer how she’s feeling, how she wants to fight it, and that’s what makes it so complex. Is she angry? Sad? Disappointed? Anyone who’s questioned their decisions will find refuge in her lyrics – especially if you can’t pinpoint how you’re feeling.

Maybe, like Meg Myers, we all feel numb sometimes. Or maybe it’s all the time and we try so hard to pretend we’re not.

So…

Let’s discuss some of my favorite lyrics from my favorite singer.

By Joshua Blake

So, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I haven’t posted anything since Dec. 17. But, I’ve been on a huge music kick recently – aside from the demands of being a journalism major – and I wanted to highlight some lyrics from the guy above.

“I’ve made excuses for a million lies/ But all I got was humble kidney pie, so what? So what?”

This little gem named “Tumble In The Rough,” comes off of Stone Temple Pilots’ third studio album Tiny Music… Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop.

“I’m lookin’ for a new stimulation/ Quite bored of those inflatable ties/ I’m lookin’ for a new rock sensation/ Dead fish don’t swim around in jealous tides.”

It’s hard to know exactly what Scott was trying to convey with these lyrics, except the inflection in his vocals were a dead giveaway that he’s talking about his personal strife in ways I’ve never heard anyone do since.

“She turned away what was she lookin’ at?/ She was a sour girl the day that she met me/ Hey, what are you lookin’ at?/ She was a happy girl the day that she left me.”

“What would you do?/ What would you do if I followed you?”

“Sour Girl,”  off of STP’s fourth album No.4, is a great take on love and loss, and it’s phrasing is so personal, so far from cliché, you can’t help but be compelled to listen to this fairytale of supposed truth.

Scott Weiland is a name I hadn’t known until 2007 when he was the frontman of arguably the last rock band of the 2000’s, Velvet Revolver.

Then ex- Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland along with Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum of the 90’s incarnation of Guns N’ Roses formed a band born out of rebellion. Scott Weiland was kicked out of STP for his persistent issues with drug use and addiction in 2001. Slash and the other guys from Guns were seeking out a frontman for about a year until Scott joined in ’03.

Weiland proved he didn’t need his Stone Temple counterparts, while the former Gunners showed they could write great music without the vicseral Axl Rose as their bands voice.

“Hope I teach my son how to be a man/ Not before he hits 35/ Comic book lives don’t really happen in real life, do they now?”

“Big Machine” is a powerhouse of a rock song from Velvet Revolver.

“We’re all slaves to a big machine,” Weiland says. “I got houses, got cars, I got a wife, I got kids,  got money in the bank.” Sounds like the rock n’ roll life ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, huh?

“When you look, you see right through me,” Weiland opens on the 2003 hit single “Slither.” “Cut the rope I fell to my knees/ Born and broken every single time/ Always keep me under finger/ That’s the spot where you run to me/ Might see some type of pleasure in my mind.”

I’ve listened to this track for years, and it’s my personal favorite from Weiland or any other band. But since his death in December of 2015 after an accidental drug overdose, I think I’ve finally understood what this song is about: trying to fight your demons away.

Or maybe it’s just about fighting the one demon away – that side of you that says you’ll never be when you desperately search for a way to get free.

Scott couldn’t beat his demon, but his voice has helped me conquer mine for the last decade. That’s what makes his death so harrowing for me to deal with even after all this time.

However, there’s other artists that I wanna talk about – some amazing lyricists, both old and new, that have really amazed me.

So, until next time…enjoy some music.

Irony

By Joshua Blake

It’s funny how people talk about new year’s resolutions. We post pictures online, type status updates, or vlog about how we’re gonna make this coming year a better one. 

Is that because we know we’re capable of better, or is it because we want to appear capable?

A Band I Grew Up On

By Joshua Blake

There’s something about a band discovered during childhood that trumps all others before or after.

 I’m left pondering if I’ll ever get to see the one I grew up on live. They’re known as blink-182. 

Despite an album released in 2016, and an ensuing tour, founding member and guitarist, Tom Delonge, left before production to search for UFO’s. 

Delonge’s left before in the past on an ’04 tour before an unimaginable reunion in 2009. I still have trouble understanding that I missed seeing them in concert all these years. My dream of a reunion came true, yet I never saw them.

I’m left wondering why. I’m left asking “how?”

I’ll never forget being six-years-old, watching MTV, and seeing the music video for “All The Small Things.”

https://youtu.be/9Ht5RZpzPqw

The parody of the biggest music videos of the time were just the start of what makes this video a visual masterpiece. 

The “na, na, na, na, na” during this hypnotic chorus is possibly the catchiest tune of all time. Eighteen years later, I still sing along to every word. 

But it didn’t end there. Enema of the State was full of hits. “Adam’s Song,” “What’s My Age Again?” “Aliens Exist,” “Going Away To College,” and “Wendy Clear,” were a showcase of what were to follow in concurrent albums. 

 Then this happened:

https://youtu.be/vVy9Lgpg1m8
“First Date” drops and remains at the number six spot on Billboard for 25 weeks

“Stay Together For The Kids” piles up at the number seven slot not long after. But it didn’t end there.
The trio drops a bombshell of an album. A self titled piece of work that was at the pinochle of their success. 

“Feeling This” peaks at number two on Billboard, and remains on the charts for 26 weeks. 

Up until this point, blink-182 had one number one hit in “All The Small Things” back in ’99. This was their second and only in 2004 

https://youtu.be/s1tAYmMjLdY
“I Miss You” was an instant classic, a timeless tune. 

And like the chorus asks “Don’t waste your time on me/You’re already the voice inside my head,” a six-year-old boy wonders when he’ll see his music heros. 

Me Too?

By Joshua Blake

DSC_0299

In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and assault allegations by the likes of Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette and Gwyneth Paltrow and numerous other women, a firestorm of stories about other’s experiences in their own lives has surfaced with the hashtag MeToo

 

Weinstein admits he has a problem and that he wants to better himself – yet it seems that his willful ignorance was the only thing keeping him from making such a statement in the first place.

 

There’s been reports of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon knowing of Weinstein’s behaviour and keeping it hush-hush. There’s been people questioning why these Hollywood actresses waited so long to speak up. There’s political pundits asking what will the Democrats do about their relationship to Harvey Weinstein.

 

These are talking points that miss the actual talking point – or lack thereof. Sexual assault and harassment are difficult to talk about, and they should be difficult to talk about.

 

I saw tens-of-thousands of tweets and posts carrying the #MeToo banner, and I had this knee-jerk reaction against it. Not because of others will power, but of my own.

 

At the same time, I felt an amazing amount of pride and safety knowing that others are brave enough to share those two words. Not strong enough, but brave enough. Something like this isn’t about strength because heinous acts like these rob you of your strength.

 

However, that having been said, I have a story of my own. It’s a story that seems like something the best fiction writers come up with.

 

I’ve been afraid to talk about this for the fear it will cause those closest to me immeasurable pain, anger and sadness. Although this may also affect those farthest from me, and for that, I’m sorry.

 

I also feel like my experience isn’t worthy of such a title. Me too? How so? I always thought of sexual assault or harassment as physically violent – I never knew it could be so subtle-y applied to any situation.

 

And because of that, I still have problems identifying what happened to me. I don’t know how to speak up about it to this day. I’m no longer plagued by nightmares or pondering why this happened, but it’s left a scar since.

 

_____

 

I recall what happened nearly three years ago as vividly as I recall what happened last night. I was at a party and I sat down with a girl, a silver-tongued devil.

We were talking about music – the Australian band Tonight Alive released their second album – and I mentioned a song that made me reminisce about a time long gone. Little did I know that I opened myself up to a sharp bite I wouldn’t be able to escape from.

Now that I let my guard down, this silver-tongued soothsayer knew exactly how to play me, catering to my apparent need for a closeness to intimacy. I knew then there’s no intimacy to casual sex, but I didn’t realize how fooled I was until after our physical act of righteousness.

 

Well, for her it was righteous.

 

When you seduce the broken spirit of a depressed, anxiety ridden 20-year-old at what could go wrong?

 

At the time, my friends didn’t even know how to respond to the benign scenario. Some told me to accept it and move on. Others thought it seemed enjoyable. What followed the months after that night were feelings of guilt and sorrow, pain and suffering, insanity and malice.

I’d cry myself to sleep numerous times a week wishing for someone to save me, while having flashbacks of her legs around my waist, her breathing – her hands pulling the hair on the back of my head – that kiss on my neck that overtook my fears at that moment and turned it into blind passion.

I whispered for her to follow me to which we found ourselves at a point of no return. I asked if she was clean, to which she nodded in confirmation. I didn’t have protection, and I didn’t bother to ask. I didn’t know how to say no, or even ask if she had any, so I let her straddle herself atop my lap as she thrusted her hips and removed her shirt.

And to think that this moment started hours earlier with her sitting inches from me giggling at every word I spoke.  Although I know one thing’s for certain: you never forget your first.

It all still feels like as if it were a dream – a concoction of a teenage boy’s ultimate fantasy – only to be acted out in reality, without all of the “accomplished feelings” and high-fives from your bros. I think I always knew something was going to happen that night – she was flirting like a high-school girl with an engorged crush on the dark, mysterious guy who always sat alone at lunch. Only, she was no school girl, and I don’t eat lunch.

She brought out my fears and hopes all in an equal fashion. She enveloped my desire to feel normal – and normal I had felt – up until the point where my sudden attack of conscious decided to guilt me into fault for what ensued between two morbidly, sad lovers.

 

So, as any story goes, now what?

 

I managed to graduate from my community college and ended up at my state university four months later – to which I withdrew medically from my only semester.

I met with a counselor named Lisa for every week during that semester. The Devil was the source of my fear, my worries. Walking around campus feeling isolated from society, from friends and family and having no self worth, make life pretty unlivable. I hated her. She took something from me I still can’t get back: losing myself to someone whom I love for the first time.

I felt unwanted by everyone and everything. I felt like a freak undeserving of love and affection because of my disability. One day, Lisa asked me if I were a woman if that succubus were a man, would that change the meaning of what happened between us. I said maybe, but I really meant yes. I went through with my actions that night because I was too afraid to say “No.” I thought she’d judge me, too, if I didn’t give in to her advances.

In an odd twist of fate however, that night’s allowed me to reconnect with others and with myself. Fast forward a year after I withdrew, and I met a girl online named Anette. Psychiatry has become my best friend, and I understand my importance to others now. Anette has become my saving grace and without her love, I’d be a body with no shadow.

Anette helped convince me to return to school, and I’ve been back for almost a year-and-a-half. After this current semester, I’ll have been back for two years.

I felt like the most useless life form on this planet for nearly two years, and if I hadn’t met Anette, I don’t like to imagine where I’d be. That scares me too much.

But things do get better – eventually. It just a matter of when and how, not one or the other.