Thursday, December 20, 2007

No Haten' '08

By Nicholas Allanach

2007 was, for some of us, a fast year of swift change: love, life and fortunes were either lost and/or gained in the blink of an eye; for others time slowly lumbered on making this moment in history seem static. Ultimately, no matter what we experienced, it all came down to how such moments were perceived and then processed for our future efforts. Will we take the lessons of this year’s mistakes to heart so as to prevent them in the New Year, or will we continue to stumble along stupidly making the same blunders as before? Can we acknowledge our successes or merely take them for granted by squandering them away on further greed and gluttony?
Looking back on the whirlwind of my own 2007 it seems so hard to believe it’s already here and gone before I knew it. I suppose life speeding up is something I’ll need to get used to -no rest for the wicked; especially in a city that doesn’t sleep. Despite the many ups and few inevitable downs of my year, I’ve found a simple lyric (eloquently expressed by Mary J. Blige) to keep me on track through the tribulations of this and any future year – “Hate it or love it.”

There were moments of 2007 where I wanted to “hate it.” Certainly such instances were few and far in between, but when they came, they came on strong. There’s nothing more depressing than to accept the rat race of this clockwork world: the dull ache of recognizing you’re not special, you’re growing old alone in a small apartment with no windows and that 75% of your day is spent communicating with people through the medium of a screen or text. Not enough love can keep anyone down. Recognizing your ego is as fragile as any other part of this body is enough to turn any trip into a bad comedown.

On the other hand, there were far too many wonderful moments to count that made this year the best I’ve ever had. This year, I learned to be more patient, to recognize the importance of friends, and that to find love I must be love. I learned to welcome those who are here and to not follow anyone when they leave. Thus, I learned I don’t need to give one iota of my valuable energy to any emotional vampires who cannot find that energy in themselves. With this lesson, I learned that power is important and anyone who resists it is either weak or na├»ve to its function; accordingly, I also recognized that with this “power comes great responsibility.”

Some lessons are easier to learn than others and of course, most are only able to be learned through the experiences we have (more often than not) with others. I didn’t recognize these things alone in fact, if it wasn’t for my friends and family I’d likely be still insanely bitter about all those sour tasting lessons others taught me. I could go on-and-on with this rant on lessons learned and my thoughts on the year that has passed, but time is too short. I have things to do before this day and year is done. Besides, there is too many demands today. This blog has become too narcissistic. Thus, I want to take a moment to –in no particular order- thank my peeps for all the positive things they’ve taught me this year…

Nate and Chrissy: thanks for helping me through the tough times, so glad we’ve made it through to the good ones! Allanach’s represent -taking this rotten apple by storm! Dad and Ben: not enough words to express my gratitude. Your life and love is an inspiration to so many. Thank you for teaching me that survival is not only possible it’s necessary – as is happiness. Ethan: for making me still care about the future. Kristi: thanks for being there to cheer me up when I was down and to advise me on keeping my game face on. It’s been a wild year and the next is going to be even better and crazier! Jesse: thanks for keeping me honest. You’re a great friend and Goodfella’, let’s hope this year will be the one we finally get made so we can finally take on the real gangstas! Mark: thank-you for not smiling; and thanks for smiling when you do – at least I know it’s for real. Nadir: splendid spending this good year with you Lord, cheers to filling our diary’s with many more games of cards, harpsichord recitals, and brandy! Denise: #1 mom in el barrio or any hood -represent! Thanks for the rambles, inspiration, and interpretation when this boy is trying to get his game on. Ben: for being so caring, fabulous, and the only shoulder strong enough for me to cry on. Rigo and Tom: for spreading the love and light at every party and get together, you guy’s rock! Mad love to you both in the New Year and to many more! Jill: for staying sane inside insanity when everyone else is drowning in drama. Chastity: for being super sexy, smart, savvy and patient enough to not take a jealous old man too seriously! Dan: for keeping me on track, cheers to our “Country” -this year will be the year for us to reclaim it! Sung: thanks for breaking the spell, listening, and being so damn cute. Ava: for the best advice I received all year; one word – butterflies! Steven and Wayne: for letting me know that it’s always ok to have a good time and enjoy life as well as for our many important rambles in Vancouver. Jays, Jeff, and Ming: thanks for showing this straight boy a gay time in Vancouver, you guys rule, keep my pops young, and get your asses to New York! Camaradas: for not only being the best damn bar in New York, but always there for a stupid drunk who likes to rant. Bianca: for teaching me love is beyond words, that our feelings are always universal, I look forward to ’08 (for whatever magic it brings to us both).

Salut’ peeps! Mad love and no hate n’ ’08!



Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Inevitabilities


by Nicholas Allanach

Get out of my way you fuckers!” Jim yells out at four gridlocked lanes of traffic through clenched teeth holding a cigarette. “I can’t believe this…learn how to drive! Speed up!” Jim swerves, accelerates and merges back again, barely missing a large truck from smashing into the back of our car.

“You still got that one-hitter?” Jim asks while fumbling through his CD collection. “Sure do, let me ah pack it for ya’.” I respond while he replaces Guns-n-Roses’ Appetite for Destruction with the White Stripes’ Icky Thump. I hand Jim my one-hitter, he inhales, and accelerates. The Volkswagon lunges ahead as we swerve left, then right, and then back again. Jim is a crazed impatient driver, the type who cannot tolerate having anyone in front of him and who’ll do anything—traffic be damned—to keep moving and ahead of everyone else. I’ve always loved speed, but also love life too much to die in some stupid accident on the Mass Turnpike. “You bastard!” I curse as he barely misses another merging automobile; nevertheless, I make no more objections to his reckless behavior; after all, this is his car and he’s in the driver’s seat. Besides, if this is how I’m supposed to go out, who am I to stand in the way of inevitability?
Admittedly, my mind was busy chewing on other inevitabilities as we made our way up I-95 from New York. In many ways, the threat of impending death seemed appropriate. I take another hit off my one-hitter and realize - Fuck!…It’s almost been a year since I’d visited Maine. This time, we were going to attend our close friends Inge and Ian’s wedding in Wiscasset, which would predictably be a delightful freak show full of flame juggling, fencing, bon fires, and loud industrial music that would thump on late into the night beside bongo drums.
Unfortunately, this same event would also be attended by people I’d been ignoring and avoiding since my last visit. But, if it was inevitable for me to run into such folks –so be it. My memory is too faded to remember what we were fighting about and I love what’s left of my life too much to fight about such bullshit anymore.
“God damn it!” Jim scoffs as our car comes to a halt. Ahead of us, a few miles of traffic grumbled and lurched at an agonizing slow pace. We’re not far outside Boston. It’s 5:30pm. The expected rush hour commute had most certainly taken the wind out of our sails. “Alright let’s get out of this bull shit and find ourselves some kind of jupe joint!” Jim inches his way into the right lane toward the Waltham exit.
We roll through the small town in search of a bar, to ultimately, settle on some rundown sports pub, where I have a beer and Jim a shot of whiskey and two beers. After a few cold looks from some Red Sox fans sitting in the smoking section, we decide to get back on the road. Besides, it’s getting dark; fortunately, the traffic had cleared. Jim guns the engine and we’re off. Nothing ahead now but open road. We roll down the windows and take-in the fresh country air. Our music blasts out into the night.
Ca-ah-on-quest!!! He’s was out to make a conquest!

Two hours later, we pull into Portland, Maine with luck on our side. Not only did we make it here alive; but, surprisingly, never got pulled over by the police. What a wretched scene it would have been explaining away the obvious cloud of marijuana smoke and empty Budweiser cans strewn all over the floor to some hard-nosed highway patrolmen and with good reason –who were we to get away with such reckless behavior? Admittedly, we were arrogantly testing the limits of acceptability; but when you’ve traveled this far on one journey there’s no sense going back.

Although the long drive had exhausted our adventurous spirit. We smoked some more, had a few cool drinks, and watched the end of a documentary about Diego Rivera on the hotel TV. The next morning, I wake up well rested, eat breakfast with my grandmother at the “Wake and Bakery”, and then rush back to the hotel where Jim and I barricade our selves into our room for what promised to be a long day spent pissing-off the hotel management (which is an easy thing to do when playing an electric guitar, drum machine, up-right bass, and keyboard). Despite the noise ordinance and complaints we persist; after all, we needed to compose some kind of musical toast/performance piece for the wedding. After only three interruptions from the hotel staff (and a lot of distractions from ourselves wanting to take shots) we eventually settle on our set. It would be a magnum opus, starting with some standard beatnik-esque spoken word, then a transition into a Southern Baptist-esque preacher type revival, and then conclude with a trash metal climax –a true operatic in every sense of the genre.
Of course this creation would not come forth without an inevitable cost. By the end of the day, our room was a chaotic jumble of wires, ripped-out pieces of notebook paper, and empty beer cans filled with cigarette butts. Nevertheless, our operatic was complete and ready for the wedding. Jim drove me back into Portland, where I spent the evening bunkered down at Zenfield’s place on Munjoy Hill to watch episodes of The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm. I would most certainly need my rest for the wedding manana.

The next day, a cool fog hovered low over the Coastal Maine countryside. A spot in a large field on top of a rolling hill had been cleared of dead grass for the ceremony. As the guests (90% clad in gothic black, one man even wearing a snake) arrived (one party rolled-up in a hearse) the setting began to take on more of the characteristics of a Renaissance fair and/or Burning Man festival than a wedding. A truly beautiful ceremony indeed! The groom even walked down the aisle to the “Imperial Death March”. As soon as the ceremony concluded, the bar was set-up and the raucous crowd began taking to drink and dancing with Dionysus. After the booze had been cracked, Jim and I gave our toast/performance to an icy and sparse audience. Understandably, the crowd was more concerned with the bar and conversation than to pay any attention to our screaming and crazed creation; whatever the case, it felt good to be done with our performance and able to now only think about drink and continue avoiding those I’ve avoided.

However, avoidance can only last for so long. Invariably, we must eventually confront what we try so hard sometimes to ignore. Thus, while sitting along the outskirts of the field drinking beer, smoking, and talking philosophy with some redneck I befriended named “John-Boy”; my evasion (as it always does) proves futile. Inevitably, the person I’d dodged for a year (and admittedly, the one who dodged me) approached to engage in conversation. After a few uncomfortable laughs and a lot of nervous chain-smoking we arrive at our inevitable destination –acceptance. It is nice to clear the air and confront that which we’d circumvented for so long.

We go to the bar, have a shot. “Salut’! …To this moment!” And part ways.

After a few energized dance sets, the sky over the field explodes with fireworks. I drink some more and run out into the field howling and hollering up at the beautiful display unfolding in the sky above. A sense of liberation washes through me and everything -for at least this moment- seems centered and balanced. Tomorrow, I’ll return home to New York. But, for now, there were more drinks to have and celebration to take part in –who was I to stand in the way of such inevitabilities?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Letter From the Border

By Nicholas Allanach

My flight was great; despite some lady from the United Nations –who had come down with a case of diarrhea—taking the assigned seat next to my father. So, Sven, the flight attendant, attempted to “bump-me-up” to the all-coveted “business class”; where, regrettably, there were "no more spots." Thus, I agreed to “Take whatever you can give me Sven, as long as you don’t forget about my cooperation when the drinks start going around.” Sven didn’t. In fact, I settled into my reassigned seat nicely sipping on two free whiskeys and taking-in the beautiful eye-candy from young, smartly-dressed, Asian flight attendants. I was on my way to conclude this amazing and frenetic summer of 2007, by spending two-and-a-half-weeks in Vancouver, Canada.

It had been one year since I visited; much had changed, both for myself and in the overall make-up of Vancouver’s skyline. Wow! One year…amazing. Time really has a nasty and unfortunate habit of passing us by so quickly. My summer was—as predicted—a glorious celebration of passion, adventure, and stupid hell raising antics. And after all was said and done –I am still a malcontent, but am at least, now, partially sated; especially knowing the summer is behind me and –one year later—the autumn is here to experience again. In many ways, I chose to return to Vancouver—not only to visit my father and Ben—but for personal reasons –to reflect, look back, and see myself, again, in the same place one year later. Had I changed and what had stayed the same?

We land in Vancouver at 3am. Our friend, Ming, speeds us to pop’s condo in New Westminster (a borough of the Vancouver metropolitan area), where I rest-up for seventeen-hours. The only energy I expend is to work briefly on the screenplay, watch TV, and visit with pop’s friend’s, Tim and Calvin, three blocks away. Best to charge-up for the annual wrap-up parties of Vancouver’s Pride Week.

Saturday night, the festivities commence. We begin with martinis (fruity for the boys, dirty for me) at Jay’s and Jeff’s place on Davie Village in Vancouver’s West-End. Davie Village houses most of Vancouver’s gay clubs, bars, and sex-shops.

At this point, I feel compelled to redundantly point-out for those who cringe at such locations and/or still foolishly define love as a “sin” that Davie’s Street is less a “red-light” district than it is any other commercialized neighborhood (complete with the proverbial baby carriage, shoppers, and puppies), but what makes this one “different” is that it is adorned with rainbow flags. Of course, such “differences” are not that out-of-the-ordinary; but can be –especially for those still unable to acknowledge (let alone accept) a gay community. Vancouver, on the other hand, has become a model of tolerance. Accordingly, homosexuality is not only respected in Vancouver, but celebrated. And why not? After all, Vancouver relies on its vibrant gay community and other places would be foolish to not do the same.

Of course, Vancouver also relies on its property prices, which are predictably, developing at an amazing (and, arguably, unsustainable) rate. The skyline is filled with cranes, many building residential skyscrapers full of high-priced condos and casinos. The rapid development here seems to be racing against the seconds on the Olympic Clock, that is, subsequently, also counting down to 2010. Yes, as with all Olympic host cities a reconfiguration of the area’s overall make-up is bound to occur. In fact, there is also a five lane highway being built on the ride to Whistler -yet another, Aspen like resort community (where I had the fortune of spending a weekend with my great partying friends Steven and Wayne -another account entirely).

* * *

It was great to see Jays and Jeff again, who were (as always) great hosts. They introduced me to their many friends and ensured my martini glass was never empty. Their apartment’s deck also provided the perfect view to watch the sunset over English Bay -where boats below gathered for the annual “Symphony of Fire” international fireworks competition that would start in a few hours. Admittedly, my initial response to fireworks is always jaded. After all, when you’ve seen one –you’ve seen ‘em all. Perhaps it was the few bong rips I took, or the good company? Nevertheless, as the music started and the fireworks began, I begrudgingly had to admit –Vancouver hosts a great fireworks competition!

After the smoke cleared, we had another “session” on deck (to create more smoke), another round of martinis, and watched as large crowds filtered out of the West End, below. Unlike New York, I didn’t notice many police –an interesting phenomenon. Vancouver does have police and –like any metropolitan city— there is, of course, crime (in fact, during my two weeks there, I read about two gang shootings in Chinese restaurants, which; subsequently, caused most of the aforesaid establishments to lose a ton of business from diners who feared getting caught in any retaliatory crossfire). Anyway, what’s interesting about the police force is that it is not everywhere constantly and aggressively watching our every move.

Of course, one surprising place to see the police (and fire department) was marching in Vancouver’s annual Pride Parade. In fact, I saw the Vancouver Chief of Police passing-out beaded necklaces to people along the route while the Fire Department provoked water balloon fights from the crowd. The stupid anxieties preventing such spectacles from occurring in New York’s Pride Parade (to say nothing of the annual St. Patrick’s Day fiasco) are non-existent here. Unlike America, Canada’s gay community is not treated like second-class citizens.

The Pride Parade was great –lots of dancing, interesting floats, and an opportunity for the community to celebrate. Even churches marched (not in protest —but in solidarity) alongside nudist groups (that were most certainly naked) and activist contingents (little irritating to see the 9/11 conspiracy nuts, but that’s another ramble entirely). After the parade, we walked down to the Second Beach park where a large crowd moved through a causeway filled with tents and stages (most complimenting the 140 “floats” from the parade). While making my way through the festival I glanced back at the skyline along the shore of English Bay and could saw hundreds on their decks partying.

Respectively, our growing entourage decided it was also high-time to celebrate with refreshments. So we marched to an outdoor beer garden along Davies Street where spill-over from the parade was also tying-on an afternoon buzz. After a few rounds, we were off again to Jay’s and Jeff’s for another “session” and round of martinis. As the libations flowed, inhibitions inevitably dropped (of course, inhibition is the last experience you’ll have around a group of gay men on Pride Weekend). What also dropped was my pants, since I took on the dare to “moon” two blonde lesbian girls—wearing matching plaid skirts—putting on a show of their own on one of the decks in the building across the street.

Eventually, the girls yelled “Come on over! …We’re in apartment 405!” So, Jays and I walked over to invite them back to his place for drinks. They agreed, we danced and drank some more. After a few rounds, and mindless conversation, the girls decide to leave; however, while out on deck, later on, I noticed one of them hunched-over and crying in the parking lot below. Jays and I decide to see if the –obviously underage- drunk girl was ok. She wasn’t, and judging by the look in her eyes, this crazy chick was tripping.

Even worse, tripping girl had somehow gotten it into her head that “One of you guys stole my white purse!” Of which, we knew was untrue; nevertheless, we agreed to let her back into the apartment and give the place a sweep. She found nothing, but still made a lot of noise. On top of the white purse accusations, she began crying and freaking-out because her friend wasn’t letting her back into the apartment. Jays and I escorted her back to her building and immediately left after she stumbled her way in through the lobby doors. There was no use following that kind of trouble anywhere –dangerous!

Fortunately, my libido subsides and the munchies take hold. We decide on fried chicken. When we get back from our journey for food, the crazy white girl is also back; but this time, in Jay’s building, wandering around the hallways screaming for her “white purse.” We again, escort her outside; eventually, things grow quiet and we try to sneak-in a quick nap before going out to an all-night dance party in some warehouse on Victoria Drive (i.e. “Boys Night Out Events Presents – “Freedom” with D.J. Manny Lehman”). Meaning –super gay!

I wasn’t able to get any shut-eye, before the party, my mind was racing –too much to drink and no desire to rest. Eventually, my friend Steven arrived. We drove to pick-up some more of his friends and, at some point, someone in the car started passing out “beans”, which we could “use at our own discretion.” This was turning more-and-more into another one of my “Lindsay Lohan evenings”! I pocketed my “bean”, knowing the effects would not be conducive to my present state of mind. Besides, the fried chicken and drinks from earlier were doing a number on my lower bowels. Perhaps John Waters was right? “Any drug that makes me love everyone -sounds like hell to me!”

When we arrive at the “Freedom” party, I’m a bit letdown –but not surprised; the whole place is packed with sweaty, shirtless, beefcake men. Sausage factory. Even worse, the venue has limited circulation. The air smells like a locker room. The floor is slick with sweat and spit. I keep escaping to the outside, where a stockade-like smoking section is set-up for fresh air. Steven could tell I was not feeling well. Regardless, I try to shake off the nausea and dance some more. I felt better, but the heat was just too much. So, I decided to take Steven’s keys and return to his apartment for a much-needed nap.

Ming is gracious enough to drive me back to Steven's. When I get upstairs, I’m exhausted. The silence is comforting. After a quick rinse, I lay back on the couch. A loud motorcycle goes by outside –the night, for many, still rages on, but not for me. I think back again to this summer. I feel good about where I’ve been and all I’ve seen (too much it seems to find the time to record back –even to myself); nevertheless, I take comfort in knowing –the adventure continues and one year later –who knows? Had I changed? Sure. I’m alone, but one thing remains the same –I’m still searching and this New World (despite how busy and frustrating it can sometimes get) is also still here to explore.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

CONQUEST!!!


Yesterday night, while watching The White Stripes play two heavy hour-long sets (that essentially blew the roof off Madison Square Garden), I couldn’t help but think back to how fast this summer has come and, is inevitably, almost gone. I suppose life speeds up, there are never enough hours in the day to properly report. But from out of this mad flash of bars, hours spent on a swivel chair chugging away at this stupid keyboard, or just staring off into space, daydreaming –have I learned anything?

Bugle’s death, was one loss I experienced this past year. Ultimately, each of them have affected me deeply and differently. Thankfully, each, also gave me a new found respect for the value of life’s essential immediacy. Manson was right –“Without the threat of death, there is no reason to live at all.” Admittedly, such pursuits make it difficult to really think through, chew on, and savor the taste of this moment. Thus, my writing has been reduced (when it’s not fumbling through the, soon to be complete –proverbial- screenplay) to scribbles on scraps of paper, a ridiculous inundation of emails, and hastily shot-out text messages.

Jack White rocked it best, “Everyone has got a story to tell.” Too bad, there is never enough time to properly express, render, and record it. Perhaps the emails and text are the way to do it? ...Hmmm?
To be continued…

Before New World goes on vacation for August. I would like to use this column to express my utmost admiration and pride for my brother, Nathan Allanach, who will be graduating from the FDNY Fire Academy this Tuesday.

Salut’ Nate! Dreams do come true. We are very proud of you!

With great power comes great responsibility.” –Spiderman



Wednesday, June 13, 2007

James "Bugle" Bradbury : "Kick it hard, then kick it again!"


By Nicholas Allanach


Yesterday, one of my closest and dearest friend’s, James “Bugle” Bradbury, died in a car accident. Although initially saddened by the news, I was at least thankful to have had the chance to recently speak with him over the phone while standing outside Yankee’s Stadium. During our conversation, Bugle was eager to recount—in his always energetic, quick-witted, and charismatic way—his recent trip to Australia, where he explored the outback by day and reveled with the local Aussies by night (both fitting places, for a wild man like James “Bugle” Bradbury to find himself at the end of his life). Accordingly, now that Bugle has moved on, I can only blast the “30 Dirty Shits” Zeke CD he burned for me while raising this Pabst Blue Ribbon in his honor and the many memories and adventures we shared.

I first met James seven years ago while he was living in Portland, Maine with his wife Jill. My first impressions were that he was “too honest” and “too nice” to be for real. I remember thinking, “why is this guy smiling so much? …He must have some kind of an agenda?” Of course, much to my surprise, Bugle was “for real”; in fact, Bugle was more honest, genuine, and “for real” than a lot of the miserable bastards taking each and every day of their lives for granted. Furthermore, James also didn’t have any agendas; unless, of course, you consider someone who treated every person he met with the same warming smile and confident handshake someone with an agenda?

No, James was made of a different metal. A few of the most striking things about him was the way he looked you right in the eyes when he talked to you. But James wasn’t only a good listener he was also a great storyteller (of which he had many). I recall the way James treated every person (rich, poor, young, old, goth, punk, intellectual, idiot -whatever) the same. James never gossiped or talked bad behind people’s backs. He was one of the most honest people I ever met. I also remember the many dinners I ate with him and can recall that he was always the last one to clear his plate; sometimes, because he’d have a second (and possibly even third) helping of food, but mostly because James took his time to savor the flavor of each bite while relaxing in the company of friends.

I believe James was well aware of his own mortality and respected each and every moment for what it was meant for –to live it and embrace it to the fullest. He also valued the significance of his friends and family. James always made other people feel welcomed and accepted into his circle. Nobody was ever turned away at any of his many parties. He was also always one who brought out the best in people; instead of focusing on someone’s faults, James managed to glean something beautiful from everyone (alright…well, maybe not George Bush!).

Speaking of “faults”, James did not have many. Sure, some may scoff at his well-worn army boots or raise an eye to his audacious sense of humor and, admittedly, the more prudish may have found his constant farting less amusing than he did! But all of this didn’t matter to Bugle; you either accepted him for what he was or piss off. James never concerned himself with fashion because he was already comfortable in whatever situation he found himself in and woe to those who were not comfortable around him; in fact, James had a knack for sniffing out shallowness and avoiding it at all cost.

Although James was never concerned with fashion or about what people thought about him, is not to say Bugle didn’t influence his environment and community. In fact, Bugle was funny, creative, and more-often than not the life of the party. There were never any dull moments hanging with Bugle. Whether he was tearing it up at a punk show, snowboarding, hiking, throwing gasoline on a bonfire in his backyard, or sneaking an inflatable sheep into a strip club -there was just no stopping him- Bugle’s energy was tireless. Even after the party was over, he soldiered on.

Bugle was one of the most outrageous, hilarious, and insane fuckers I’ll ever have the honor to stand beside and be proud to call a friend. But he wasn’t just a partier; he was also responsible and reliable. James may have been a punk but he was also an Army veteran. He may have always worn the same clothes, but you never knew what strange and out of the ordinary adventure you could expect to go on with him. While in Maine, he’d wake up at 5am to work long days as an engineer but still managed to muster-up the energy to shoot strange skits for our “N2” TV show while then entertaining guests for dinner and drinks late into nights speckled with heady discussions and strong laughter.

The last time I saw Bugle in person was in Portland, Oregon where he had recently purchased a farm and was training for his pilot’s license. I was planning on visiting him there again this August. Although I will not be able to do this now since Bugle’s life has come to an unfortunate end, I can at least find solace in knowing he not only lived his life to its fullest, but that he gave me hope in knowing not everyone is shallow, boring, and lazy. The legacy James left us is one of embracing life as the great and ambitious adventure it can be.

Salut'! …This Pabst Blue Ribbon is for James “Bugle” Bradbury!

I would like to say I’ll see ya’ on the other side. But I don’t believe in that sort of thing. I will however say thank you for your inspiration and that although I will miss you terribly my friend, I still feel a part of you will be hiking beside me as we blaze those Canadian trails “together” next month.

“Kick it hard, then kick it again!” – James “Bugle” Bradbury

Friday, May 18, 2007

God is NOT Great - God IS Dictatorial


My close friend often advises me to “not talk about religion or politics” with others. Usually, I laugh at his silly advice, knowing it's near impossible for me to not ramble about these two subjects I enjoy discussing the most; nevertheless, after numerous verbal skirmishes and debates with family, friends, and acquaintances throughout my years as an atheist, I think I can at least respect the good intention of his advice; besides, one cannot reason with the unreasonable. Moreover, when one is only able to talk about one subject, they accordingly become just as fundamentally narrow as those they wish to distinguish themselves from.

Admittedly, this doesn’t mean I’ll cease conversing about how I believe religion does more harm than it ever has any good; but now, I choose my battles wisely. Thus, instead of provoking others into such discussions, I instead calmly present my view when asked and, of course, place my position onto the page for anyone interested. There is no reason to lose control –let us reserve such immature fits and violent tantrums of religious zealotry to the childish convictions of the “moral majority”.

Christopher Hitchens writes in his most recent book, “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”, that “Our belief is not a belief”; meaning, unlike the faithful, atheists do not adhere to dogmatic persuasions but instead respect “free inquiry, open-mindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.” Of course, this does not mean Hitchens renounces the rabble-rousing fairy tales of other’s personal faith, he’d just prefer they remain that –personal. A sensible request in a world plagued with fundamentalism, theocratic dictatorships, and the erasing of an increasingly disappearing boundary between church and state. In fact, although Hitchens stated at last week’s debate in the New York Public Library against Al Sharpton (which I’m pleased to say I attended) “religion’s time has past”; he also claims he has “nothing against other’s personal faith.” Rightfully, his concern is that others just keep this faith to themselves –“Don’t bring your toys into my house.”

Regrettably, such a request is not so easy for the devout to respect. We have all likely run into the crazy Jesus freaks who interrupt the peace of our morning commutes on the train and even more conscious of those who –animated by faith and economic injustice (but that’s another ramble)—decide to fly jumbo jets into the side of buildings. Yes the zealots of the world have not gone away and they will likely continue to expend much energy on not only trying to convince others their belief is the one “true” belief but are so obsessed with legitimizing this “truth” that they will even go so far as to kill the unbelievers. Unlike other recent publications against religious fundamentalism, Hitchens does not shy away from pointing the finger directly at the source –the belief in god.

Hitchens's argument is that the idea of god itself is “dictatorial.” All religion is founded on the idea of an all-knowing-all-seeing being, in which personal “guilt” perpetuates and solidifies such social stratifications. Many will, obviously, reject Hitchens's claims and argue religion has done many “positive” things for humanity. Not so. In fact, without religion, Hitchens argues, humanity—left to it’s own volition—would still manage to make morally just decisions. The idea of god, as it is attached to organized religion, only gets in the way of absolute enlightenment. He states, “No supernatural deity is necessary to see what is right” and that, if anything, “religion makes good people wicked.”

This week, one of America’s most revered bigots died. Jerry Falwell was not a great man (and I am offended by the federal government’s order for flags to be flown at half-mast for this “national hero”). The only thing Falwell should be remembered for was his racist, homophobic, and ridiculously ignorant views, which not only turned the clock of human progress back centuries in this country, but subsequently assisted in setting the stage for the fools controlling it today. Jerry Falwell also perfectly illustrates how “Religion is only used by those in temporal charge to invest themselves with authority.” Without religion, such depraved figures would be singled-out for the illusionists they are.

One of the most convincing arguments Hitchens makes against religion is the threat it represents to our physical and psychological health. Admittedly, his arguments against circumcision will likely be scoffed at by health professionals, but nevertheless his statements against the Christian Right (specifically the Bush administration) and Catholicism's renouncement of sex education (which it instead assumes to replace with the ridiculous idea of “abstinence”) and its crusade to prevent the distribution of condoms in AIDS plagued regions is nothing less than evil. Of course, this should come as no surprise; after all, “the relationship between physical health and mental health is well understood to have a strong connection to the sexual function, or dysfunction. Can it be a coincidence then, that all religions claim the right to legislate in matters of sex?”

Religion is a plague on intellectual inquiry, self-expression, love, and freedom –religion is dictatorial. Humans fear death and the uncertainty of this strange and, admittedly, volatile (unintelligently-designed) universe; thus, humans need to create some rubric to deal with this uncertainty (such as the Egyptians and Greeks needed their pantheon). Fortunately, chemistry replaced alchemy, astrology - astronomy, and religion shall one day be replaced with reason. Hitchens notes, “Religion comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs).”

“Religion has run out of justifications.” It is long past time for this child to grow-up and replace its juvenile (and often horribly destructive) “toys” with pragmatic ideals. I guess I give more credit to humanity than the devout, who are often ridden with so much guilt, they are unable to see the beauty and morality that has always been with them and that would still be there without the totalitarian illusion of god.

Hitchens closes his book by stating, “To clear the mind for this project, it has become necessary to know the enemy, and to prepare to fight it.” I presume this means I will have to not only ignore my friend’s advice, but will need to further prepare to trade barbs with anyone thinking they can drag me back into the darkness of their weak and misguided ignorance. No worries, I shall continue to choose my battles wisely, but make no mistake…

In reason we trust.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Grounded at GRINDHOUSE

By Nicholas Allanach

Is it possible for a group of stupid hell-raisers to have a fun night out at the flicks? Likely not; after all, we’re all familiar with the standard procedure of reserving your ticket online three days in advance, patiently watching forty minutes of credit card and Coke commercials, to ultimately sit through two dry hours with no booze or smokes. Sure, one movie-goer’s idea of fun may be another’s irritation. So as to avoid such conflicts, the timid and bland masses of our consumer culture won; by successfully managing to turn a night-out at the movies into one more lifeless drab experience. In fact, after following so many rules and regulations, one should welcome the occasional digression from such rigid formalities; especially, if the film viewed is intended to celebrate the depravity of the bygone “grindhouse” era.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a “grindhouse” was the name given to movie theatres that showed cheap and often badly executed films. Most were violent and exploitative, but subversively –a blast. The “grindhouse” films weren’t intended to be serious, intellectual, or at all good. If anything the “grindhouse” specialized in being bad. Thus, such movies were nothing like contemporary big-budget blockbusters. Accordingly, the “grindhouse” itself was much different from the “Happy Feat” friendly Cineplexes we’ve been reduced to.

Thus this past Friday, a team of us decided to go see Grindhouse with the intent of bringing back some much-needed vitality to an otherwise sleeping cinematic audience. Our plan: rendezvous at the Key Bar for drinks, acquire the necessary fried chicken, and booze to sneak into the theatre (no sense in spending $7 on popcorn; moreover, none of us were in any state to sit through a movie for three hours without some kind of stimulation). Unfortunately our problems started at the fried chicken joint, which was closed. “Somebody must have tipped-off Popeye’s to sabotage the mission.” Jesse said. Of course, the time was also, as Jen pointed out, “against us” and that “at this point, the theatre would most certainly be full.” But we still needed booze, which we successfully acquired along the way.

Once at the cinema, we walked into the auditorium just as Grindhouse started, which I, at first, considered to be a great thing (since it meant we avoided all the commercials and previews) but soon I realized we were fucked –no seats. Our group moved to the front of the theatre looking back at a packed house. There was no place for us all to sit together. We foolishly tried to salvage some seats along the periphery –nothing. Our only alternative was to go back near the entrance where our comrade Noah had safely secured one lone seat beside the wheel chair section.

At first I was totally ready to set-up camp on the floor and watch the movie. But, as Sung soon brought to my attention, “We’re not going to be able to sit here on the floor for three hours.” I didn’t want to admit it, but she was right. Despite the fact Stefanie and Jesse were already mixing-up our first round of Jack and Cokes, I knew we’d soon overstay our welcome. So I patiently sipped my drink, watched Rose McGowan dance through the opening sequence and waited for the inevitable.

Fifteen minutes into the film (and one “Shissshhh!” from a prudish bitch in front of us) the man with the flashlight was behind us holding some paperwork saying “you all need to leave.”

After a couple bad comments and some grumpy-kid-heat from me, we left the theatre. Sure the bastards at the Cineplex may have won this battle, but they’re fools to believe they have won the war! Thus, this Wed. at 9pm for all looking to reclaim the Cineplex back to its true “grindhouse” roots, then please join us. We’ll again start at a bar, but, this time, will mostly certainly be settled into our seats before the previews, with our bags full of booze and fried chicken, and to hell with any “shoooshers!” who make the foolish mistake to see Grindhouse on the same night.

Let the reels of Grindhouse roll on! Debaucherous to the core.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This week: Racism and School Shootings



By Nicholas Allanach

Despite the lies we tell ourselves, America is not kind, compassionate, rich, or free –perhaps, it could be. But for now, America is incapable of becoming the manicured image it imagines itself as; moreover, America is ineffective at sustaining any semblance of legitimacy on the world stage. Certainly America will continue to frantically and hastily sustain its influence through military might but this is not a solution, this only prolongs the inevitable –America is failing and will continue to do so until it honestly (and without guilt) acknowledges it’s own (present and historical) criminal actions, removes the poisonous influence of a rising theocracy, and then –like Imus—“apologizes” to itself and the world. Such scenarios will likely never unfold. After all, America’s strongest defense is to stubbornly resist self-reflection, let alone change.

Now that I’ve vented this vague and, admittedly, bleak assessment of the “state of the union” let us turn to this week’s grim headlines …

Imus:
Racism can be a slippery subject, or not; after all, you’re either a racist or not. Admittedly, one can get lost in distinguishing latent vs. implied racism; but ultimately, what racism comes down to is whether one truly believes racial differences produce an inherent superiority of one race over another and whether one expresses this belief through their words and actions. Of course, what could arguably be a more messy subject is what we’re willing to consider and accept as offensive.

Don Imus has said his share of offensive things, some more tasteless than other’s, such as back in February when Imus suggested, “It might be good to start with somebody who is willing to take three big ones [bombs] and drop one on Mecca, one on Jedda and one on Saudi –one on Riyadh.” No doubt, Imus had it coming for sometime. I’m not surprised Imus called anyone a “nappy-headed ho.” In fact, I expect Don Imus to speak more sanity from out his ass than his mouth, just as I also anticipate Pat Robertson to continue being bigoted against homosexuals and Lou Dobbs xenophobic and racist to Mexicans.

Sure, as much as I loath these fuckers, I guess I take a certain solace in knowing they’re given an opportunity to speak whatever bullshit they have on their mind; after all, it’s up to the audience to decide whether or not to listen or take such speakers seriously. Thus, if we’re offended by someone in the media, it is our choice to turn them off. What is troubling about the Imus debacle is not only the racism/sexism, but the way it illustrates market fascism –the advertisers called the shots, if companies didn’t pull their support, then Imus would still be on the radio. Thus, people speak through products.

Whereas, I’m delighted that that ignorant redneck Imus has been yanked off the air, I’m afraid the reaction to this event will only fuel those already eager to further their “standards of decency.” After all, if Imus isn’t allowed to say “ho”, does this mean the new Jay-Z album should be without such lyrics as well? Obviously, as Snoop Dogg pointed out, "It's a completely different scenario... [rappers] are not talking about collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing shit."

Nevertheless, I'm leery of suggestions such as those made by the Reverend Al Sharpton who has stood at the head of an initiative to convince rappers and hip-hop artists to cease their usage of insulting and derogatory comments (specifically towards women). Admittedly, Sharpton’s request is reasonable, but my feeling is that it is risky to even entertain such censorship games. Sure, I’m not offended by a rapper calling a girl a “ho”, but that's because (as Snoop pointed out) some women are hos! Just as some men are “dogz”. Moreover, I understand that rappers are often being ironic. Sure, Imus wasn’t being ironic and, thankfully, his comments were caught. But what about all his other offensive comments? What about all those crass comments from others? We could get into a real back-and-forth witch hunt here if we wanted to, and nobody would be safe. You see, whereas I’m glad another racist has been exposed and brought down, I’m leery of supporting any initiatives that ban or inhibit expression.

I’d love to pull the plug on Bill O’ Reilly and just as many would like to yank Bill Maher’s. However, if society begins preventing people from expressing what they think and feel, or ban what they listen to (no matter how obscene), then how can we continue to justify the semblance of our “freedom of speech”? We cannot. Thus, please count me as standing alongside those who like their church out of their state and prefer their laws out of their art. No matter how offensive it gets, it will “never be too weird for me.”

Banning and censoring anything only gives the said offensive material more power. We must protect our ability to freely express ourselves; otherwise, this expression will develop new ways of being communicated. Besides, how will we ever figure out who the real racists are if they’re always in hiding?

Massacre at Virginia Tech:
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you inferior without your permission.”
Fuck you Eleanor! Your words may have rung true to your New Deal generation, but this is Year Zero baby and all the “loners” feel really inferior and are subsequently lashing out against a system they feel never gave them a chance to be heard. Eleanor Roosevelt never read about anyone “going postal.” But we can.

In fact, as much as I could go-off on a tangent about the Virginia Tech shooting, it seems pretty obvious –the “nobody who wanted to be somebody” couldn’t take being treated like shit anymore. It of course also comes as no surprise that the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, was “a loner” who “was very quiet and always by himself.” Duh! The person that goes postal is never popular.

I encourage you to read my good friend Mark Grueter’s review of Mark Ames’ “Going Postal” for Stop Smiling magazine which is, in my humble opinion, an important observation of this very American problem. And, if you haven't already, to watch Michael Moore's excellent documentary "Bowling for Columbine".

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Springtime in Union Square


By Nicholas Allanach


Yesterday, while standing beside the statue of Mahatma Gandhi I glanced over to Union Square’s more prominent equestrian monument of General George Washington on horseback. From where I stood, Gandhi faces one direction, while ol’ G.W. the other. This seemingly arbitrary decision in civic planning was, obviously, executed for symbolic purposes –or not. Of course, it’s difficult to read the man of peace and nonviolence facing one way and G.W. on his war horse marching the other as unintentional; especially on this historic New York intersection. Needless to say, random acts and mere coincidences are often synonymous, and no doubt, considering such subjects on this heavily traveled crossroad of commuters, students, etc. does cause one to reflect on the thousands who move through this space daily –some go one direction, others go another.
There was nothing special about the fifteen minutes I spent waiting for my comrades to meet me for drinks. Just another day in the park: people leaving work and making their way home. An attractive girl—not wearing a jacket—walks by shivering from the unexpected drop in temperature. A happy hipster couple poses out front of Gandhi for a picture. A homeless man talks to himself while sitting on a bench. Some black kids skateboard by. A man with tattoos all over his face pouts to himself. A beagle in the dog park howls. A brass band plays on the corner. Anti-war protesters hand out literature and sell t-shirts. Two girl’s walk by, “this is the worst job ever!”, they stop, throw-up a big smile and hand me a stupid postcard to some college frat bar.
Just an average day and another standard moment ticks by. How many moments have happened in this square? The mind boggles. A lifetime is made up of millions of such instances and history even more. So often we neglect to consider the significance of these moments, but every so often, when we’re away from the desk, something inspires us to see the world in a new light, and we’re able to take it all in at once. Although it’d be nice to hold on to such moments, it’s refreshing to feel them fleeting-by, all sporadic and immediate. Nothing lasts forever.

That said -New World is going on a brief hiatus to tackle more pressing projects. Till our next fleeting moment –peace. And may Congress give those bastards in the White House a run for their money!
Nothing lasts forever, not even a war.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Celebritarianism and “Saving Britney”


By Nicholas Allanach


This week’s “talk of the town”, per-se, wasn’t inspired by any frustrations over the deplorable situation unfolding on our world stage, nor was it on any hopeful ruminations on pragmatic ways to achieve social justice. Instead the chatter around the water coolers and on the cover of The Post was wasteful and reductive. Admittedly, why take any time concerning ourselves with such downers as the genocide in Darfur, fiasco in Iraq, or impending “Strangelove” scenarios with Iran when there are so many convenient uppers to consume instead? Depressing subjects are difficult to digest. We like our discussions to go down smooth like Coca-Cola; after all, there’s no easy solution to the problems of war and environmental destruction; subsequently, it’s easy to avoid that which makes us feel powerless.

Thankfully, I don’t read celebrity magazines (save that wasteful habit for lonely women). Unfortunately, even though I choose to opt-out of this irritating barrage of useless information, I’m still inundated with it daily from various media conglomerates who vie for my valuable time with their incessant chatter. Thus, this week I had the misfortune of watching Anna Nicole Smith’s white trash mom weeping on CNN over the fate of an ex-Playboy bunny’s dead body and Britney Spears “wigging out” after shaving her head (apparently from too much partying).

I’m not bothered by these pointless spectacles –I don’t care. What then compels me to draft this screed? Well, despite my reluctance to give these events any more power than they already have, I’m intrigued by the media’s reaction to such insignificant (artificially made significant) phenomena. Of course there is nothing new happening here, watching others freak-out is a social train-wreck tapping into an almost primal and archaic nostalgia for more-extreme moments of human experience. We desire intensity, yet modern life’s clockwork routine often prevents us from having such extraordinary experiences for ourselves; thus, we’re reduced to vicariously have these dreamed experiences through an Other (hence all those lonely women watching Extra or reading People). What troubles me is the desire to feel concern for such things that play no real role in our own lives while we subsequently refute and reject ever experiencing such actions for ourselves. A reluctance to take part in (or even admit to having) such experiences (i.e. drug use, freaking-out, or even shaving our heads) is primarily attributed to the curse of human existence –guilt.

Another celebrity, Marilyn Manson, has ironically utilized America’s obsession with celebrity culture by coining a phrase and artistic movement called “Celebritarianism”. Marilyn Manson (as his satiric name implies) is keenly aware of America’s fixation on celebrity culture, which he attributes to guilt that is inspired by our need to vicariously experience –voyeuristically—sex, drugs, and even death through those we place on a pedestal above us. Of course those on the pedestal will –as the Celebritarian movement’s founding credo claims— gladly “sell [their] shadow to those who stand within it.” Thus, Celebritarianism is an almost romanticized commentary on giving people what they feel guilty about wanting.

Seeing Britney go crazy, watching Anna Nicole be a gold-digger, and O.J. getting away with murder (lest we forget) are all packaged spectacles for those unable to admit they harbor such feelings themselves. Thus the guilty must vicariously experience their dreams through the media machine. Call this behavior pathetic, if you will, I know I do. Why feel guilty about it? Of course what is more pathetic is that those concerning themselves with “Saving Britney” (to say nothing of saving those who truly need it, such as the poor, abused, and subjegated peoples of the world) is that these ignorant fools are unable to save themselves. It may be redundant to explain my usage of the term “saving” as not refering to the Christian notion of becoming “born again”, but I think I must -just in case. No, instead, “saving onself” should occur through a willful process of breaking free from these shackles of guilt, accepting we’re all “dirty, dirty rock stars”, to ultimately become the true objects of our dreams and desires.

Friday, January 12, 2007

To Surge or Purge?









By Nicholas Allanach



Regrettably, President Bush’s “new strategy” (much like previous ones) is for an increased military presence in Iraq to, presumably, establish “peace and prosperity” in the region. Of course an escalation (or “surge”) of 20,000 additional troops to ascertain “peace” through violence defies logic. Then again, as anyone with an ounce of decency is already well aware, this administration is not concerned with logic, only perpetuating greater and more wide-scale conflicts to ensure profit through war as well as full control of any future “free trade” (a.k.a. “our way of life”) in the Middle East.

As waves of ethnocide continue to roll through the region between Sunni and Shiites, American soldiers continue to come home in flag-draped coffins, and resentment towards the American occupation grows, it becomes painfully clear, this “surge” to secure Baghdad will only be—as most everything else in this war—a symbolical gesture to appease the political clock. After all, (unless a withdrawal happens soon –which it won’t) this war is bound to outlast the Bush presidency and will likely be tossed onto the lap of the incoming administration. Thus, it’s easy for Bush to admit “where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me”, because his administration doesn’t intend on fixing any of them –only making them worse.

What is more astounding is that the Democratic “controlled” Congress seems to be only prepared to pay lip-service to this ruinous decision. For instance, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is set to present congress next week with a “largely symbolic” opposition to the surge; however, he is not willing to take real action by cutting off the purse strings that actually make it possible to send in additional troops. Thankfully, many senators (on both sides of the aisle) have expressed their opposition to this (as Senator Chuck Hagel appropriately labeled) “most dangerous foreign policy blunder...since Vietnam.” Admittedly, Senator Edward Kennedy has tried to present legislation to stop this irresponsible escalation; but, unfortunately, like all those who will be marching in the streets in “emergency protest” this weekend– nothing will come of it: troops will still be deployed, violence in Iraq will escalate, and war with neighboring countries (i.e. Iran) will ultimately grow all the more likely.

You might label this view pessimistic; however, this apparent pessimism may actually be more just unwelcome realism. Honestly, I’d love to be optimistic about this plan; however, I don’t see a peaceful Iraq being achieved through military aggression since it will inevitably only fuel further animosity towards the American occupation. I still strongly believe the only way for peace to be achieved is through a total troop withdrawal (something that will also never happen since there are already permanent bases throughout Iraq). The criticism I often receive to the withdrawal argument is the standard –“To step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale.” Statements like these are equivalent to the fear-mongering so often associated with Bush’s hate-filled and xenophobic rhetoric. It is unfortunate so many of us still fall for his vitriol. The other argument is of course the “pride in our country” stance, which believes we need to “finish the job we started”; of course, one begs to ask, what job is this exactly other than creating a total shit storm of chaos and suffering?

Face it, the United States cannot win a battle it has already lost. Withdrawing troops does not mean the United States should totally give-up on Iraq. After all, there is no reason peace cannot be achieved through diplomacy, total Iraqi independence, and an American investment in Iraq’s infrastructure. Obviously, Bush will never withdraw troops. (So perhaps we should withdraw Bush?) With that said, I would be willing to support the President’s decision to send in more troops, but only if there were at least some kind of a timeline established for Iraqi’s to “stand up” attached to it. But, this is not the case. What will instead be the result is more pain; regrettably, at the expense of those forced to do the bidding of fools.

I know this entry is just a rant, but –like many of us- I do not know the answers. Writing just helps me bring some kind of order to this pandemonium. More importantly, I feel compelled to inform anyone who reads this column of what side of history I firmly stand on –total and immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. I support a “purge” and believe any “surge” is despicable and bound to fail.

The President is again doubling the stakes for us all. But how long will we let him gamble away our future? Soon, the chips will be used-up and the house will no longer acknowledge our credit, at which time we will be forced to pay up.