Nervous Wreck On a Four Lane Highway

So late nights provide some of the more interesting...loosely meant, I mean, interesting programs. Loads of infomercials, random sex specials...poker after dark, which I've been watching for the past month and still know nothing about. But then there was one commercial I saw that literally shook me to my core.

I can handle humanity caving in on itself. I expect it, because people in power will always make that decision, and as long as people still see color of skin as a reason to abhor an individual. Religions, party lines, gender orientations...drugs...I understand that. Narrow mind sets encompass humanity, and bury it with futility. Futility being in that some day we honestly will no longer see these as issues to discriminate, and the only reason to dislike someone would be on there more foundation, and which that compass directs them towards in life's maze.

But the patterns of love and cruelty are nearly parallel. In such, love guides us to act on impulsions that disintegrate the thought process of normally intuitions. I'm not defending the actions, but it becomes quite apparent in most situations of Domestic issues.

But where I draw the line is when people don't know where the fuck to empty aggressions out on. Whats wrong with hitting the gym? Whats wrong with jogging, or riding the bike, or writing? Creating something out of anguish?

But then I see this commercial...I see this commercial about abused animals being kept in shelters.

Despite the horrible Sarah McLaughlin song, at the beginning when that dog is shaking in terror, and it's eyes look so terrified, it literally breaks my heart. Dogs don't deserve ever being beaten, or hurt. Cats, ferrets, any animal. If someone takes the liberty to hurt an animal...a pet...

Animals, some can be dicks, but for the most part reflect how the person who cares for them are. I couldn't ever imagine harming a pet, because they are there for comfort, for companionship. To pick up the line for wanting to give love, and receiving unconditional love.

It's hard for me to trust people, but I can respect a lot. But anyone who abuses a pet immediately loses any respect in my eyes. It's a characteristic of someone who has extremely violent tendencies.

I've went ahead and donated towards the ASPCA, which you can also do as such at www.myaspca.org.

Theres no reason a dog, or a cat or whatever animal doesn't deserve the same chance to be loved. Absolutely none. This organization is non-profit, and avoids the propaganda tactics that PETA might add. They don't have the same pizazz, or flash and backing...but, this is a way to become involved with something that actually makes a difference by nursing abused, harmed or neglected animals with shelter, food and medicine.


Humanity, I.

Humanity, I
Watched the sun set in the middle of the day.
Bathed in summer during the middle of winter
Choked to death on words I'd never say.
Humanity, I.

Humanity, I
Saw the struggles of modern man
To make life simple and complex.
Tasted freedom in the form of cam.
Humanity, I.

Humanity, I
No longer have the will to live
To stand in line
Or quell the urge to swim.
Humanity, I.

Humanity, I
Want to take the chance to dream
That humanity has more to offer
Than what mortal eyes will see.
Humanity, I
Raise my voice to sing
In empty, hollow choruses
"Let freedom ring."

Humanity, I
Felt my heart break in September
When she turned and walked away
I spent many months staring at the pacific
Wishing to drown my problems in the bay.
Humanity, I.

Humanity, I
Lost my faith
Waiting for your soul to revive
And through these Armageddons
Only the weak seemed to survive.
Humanity, I.


Charlie's Foxtrot (Putting the 'Con' in Controversy.)

The past week has been a cluster-fuck of controversy. Thats the easiest way of putting it. I've been reeling for an entire week trying to put this in a light where I could properly see what was in fact there, and what really isn't.

Before I go any further, this edition of Piss and Vinegar is dedicated to some very special people. Fat Wreck Chords, Dillinger Four, Racket Magazine, Punknews.org, Alternative Press and last, but certainly not least...Scott Heisel.

At the tail end of last week I was offered a link to Dillinger Four's epic, and utterly amazing new album, six years in the making, "C I V I L W A R". This past month has been very hard on me. All you need to do is check the more recent posts to see that. However, I don't feel in my heart that this should ever turn me bitter and jaded. In direct correlation, I saw some people I'm fond of suffering bad months as well. Jobs lost, job security in the balance, ruined relationships...and I saw a lot of people not having anything worth smiling for.

Instead of letting that fester, I attempted to bring a smile to a few peoples face, and in essence, I really did. But...that blew up in my face. Things got out of hand, and I assumed the responsibility that was dually mine. I won't get into this particular incident at length for now.

The next thing though, that I know, I'm fired from Racket and blacklisted left and right with certain people in the record industry. I felt shitty for what I'd done, and the general trust I'd abused, and still do too, to an extent. However...

When I was a kid, and I know I'm not even old now, but back then when I was a kid, punk rock was a different beast. While the internet surely existed, the advent of all it's capabilities hadn't truly been realized because most people didn't own a PC, nor did they have an internet connection (much less a T1 or Cable/DSL). But growing up in a fairly rural area the only contact we had with music was with what they told us was cool on the radio. And to be quite honest, while I still love some nostalgic 90's rock (tell me you don't fucking sing along with "Santa Monica" or "Semi Charmed Kind of Life", I dare you. You're a liar if you say you don't like those songs.) to be honest, I couldn't relate to any of that shit on the radio. I just fucking couldn't, for the most part. Sure, there was the occasional Green Day song that made it somewhat palpable for a moment being, but other than that...I mean, what did I care about Sixpence None The Richer? Does ANYONE even remember how horrible that song was? "Closing Time" just means you move it to somebody else's house, and tear the motherfucker down with less of a tab.

What we had were mixtapes, and word-of-mouth. We had the 'thank you' notes in the back of CD's. And when Green Day thanks Operation Ivy, and covers a song of theirs....you might just want to check what thats all about.

As much as I want to say a bands talents are what should be the selling point, as they rightfully should, you still need to get that word out.

And it happens when someone passionately displays love for your music, and your band. Especially when MTV and Clear Channel aren't endorsing you whatsoever. Good luck even finding table scraps.

And at the end of it all, it's people like me, who offer traveling bands a floor to crash and a plate of food. Who help book those shows, who play songs and cd's for people, who make suggestions based on other things that person likes musically. Ask anyone who's spoken to me for ten minutes, ask them how soon it becomes apparent I try and sell them on the Gaslight Anthem, or the Alkaline Trio. I've dedicated skin to three chords that I feel can fucking save lives.

One day I got a chance to write for a music magazine. Suddenly I get all this skinny, I get all these albums and bands asking me to listen to them, as if I'm important or my opinion actually matters for anything. And maybe it doesn't, but at this particular moment, I'm willing to bet it does, if even on a minuscule and minute level.

I value honesty above anything else. Integrity is important to me, so very important. And I made a mistake, my first one in nearly three years, and it cost me...or so I thought. So I thought.

I've taken time to ponder this series of events. Things hit the wall, and have become enormously blown out of proportion.

The simple fact is, at one point I was something I disliked. A critic of music. In a tangible form, on the internet. You want to read the hardest things I've ever written? Go to Racket Mag dot com. Anything that isn't an interview is me hating every ounce of myself. If I hate something, I don't mind being vocal about it, but not in written form. For the most part, these are kids who put a lot of hard work into making something they liked, and hoped other people would too. If you think it's okay to actively try to take away from them, and discredit them...then FUCK you. It isn't.

It'd be just the same as someone going into your wedding, shitting on the cake and saying the frosting was too sweet. The person shitting on the cake, you're not gonna say, "Well hot dog! I'm glad I didn't try it, I have sugar foot." No, truth is, if you're fat like me...you probably would've liked to try that cake for yourself. And even then, you might've kept your mouth shut if you didn't like it, because it isn't always about you, or us. Sometimes it's about the people who spent that much time working for something.

So why do it? Why be miserable doing something?

The truth is, I love music. In and out, up and down. I still remember the song that was playing (Jimmy Eat World's - A Praise Chorus) the first time I ever told a girl I was in love with her. I have a "Top Five" for every possible situation. I've done my time in the crowd, I've sung the words, I've shared mics, I've drunkenly danced to Hot Water Music's "220 Years" in a dead audience. Every time Fake Problems comes to town, I yell the words back extra loud and catch glances from everyone, just so people will wake up and pay attention to whats happening. With a torn medial meniscus in my right knee, I jumped on stage and sang "Walking is Still Honest" with Against Me! Music means every fucking thing to me, and without it life if but a soundless dream not fit for even the poorest of pariahs.

But even more than that, I am a writer. I write. That is my life through and through. Even if I woke up tomorrow and couldn't bare to do it again, I would. I would.

I've been writing since I was in the fourth grade. I have a need in my soul to do this, more than I do to breathe or wake up ever again. Thats the absolute truth.

So why do reviews, and interviews with assholes who thought they were the fucking Beatles and Rolling Stones all into one?

Before I started with Racket, I fell out of a relationship that nearly killed me. During, and after. And for a long time afterwards, I had no clue as to whom I was anymore. I'd become sterile and complacent. I worked a job I fucking hated, I acted in a way that isn't me. At all, and I cannot stand not to be honest with anyone, especially myself. Basically...walking dead.

I couldn't write a story to save my life. I couldn't. I had such a writers block after that break up, one that lasted over a year. But I wanted those words and ideas and thoughts and motivation and drive back in my fingertips.

And I also looked up to Lester Bangs. I still do, don't get me wrong. But I also wanted to get my name out, in case I ever wrote a book.

Fast-forward, I'm still disaffected towards a lot of writing about music on a 'professional' level, and decide to take it to the next stratosphere. I applied for a position with Alternative Press, freelancing. I'll get back to this in a second.

As far as Racket Magazine is concerned, I had my grievances. The whole time, and thats not a mystery. But I'm not, and I refuse to shit on them. Ever. They are good people, and my actions put them in a weird predicament. That said, I feel like I wasn't ever thought of in a positive light to begin with. Not that I beg for notoriety, because if I'm deserving of it, it may come one day. I just feel like the time I spent was never once appreciated. That put me in a position of complete depression with where my career was going. Writing, I mean. I just felt faceless, and for the first time I was trying hard to accomplish something. Not even just for myself, but other people around me. I have the belief that no one gave a shit, and thats fine. I'm still thankful for the awesome things I got to do.

Fat Wreck...I love your bands. I don't like NOFX, but god damn it if I don't respect Fat Mike himself. Everyone their seems solid, but this incident has lent new credence. It's a sinking ship, and I think I just realized that. They've lost their best-selling acts to major labels (Against Me! Rise Against, Anti Flag to name a few) they have almost no younger bands there to help the label re-build itself whatsoever, outside of maybe Dead to Me and the Flatliners. NOFX, Lagwagon and No Use For a Name can only go on for so much longer (as evidenced in NOFX's "Passport..." series on Fuse). American Steel are an amazing band, but they've never achieved the success they rightfully deserve. The Lawrence Arms, as much as it pains me to say this, may be coming to a close, and signing Dillinger Four...you can't build anything of merrit on that band. They'll draw well, sure, but they don't like to release new material. It's been six years since "Situationist Comedy". The biggest fumble, too, was them not doing everything in their power to bring the Gaslight Anthem aboard.

I'm sorry for whom I hurt their, but the truth is...I did my job, in a roundabout way. I got people, in a way, really hyperventilating about a band that's been dormant for nearly a decade. In the terms of underground music...that's nearly impossible, with so many bands worthy of attention falling on and off the radar nearly daily. Not that this particular band needs any help, but with years and years of taunting new releases, new music, and then shooting them down, it became a game of "band who cried album."

Punk rock is not a business, inherently. A lot of people have gotten rich off of it, because rebellion is commercially viable. But these actions weren't out of the realm of sneaking someone into a show who was under 21, and it wasn't an all ages venue. Thats the truth. Anyway you cut it, whoever has heard this album, knows for a fact how fucking good it is, and cannot wait to get this on wax, to go to the shows, to buy the merch and learn the new choruses. Plain, and very fucking simple. And with all the controversy within this album already, it's going to get a lot more attention than you initially gambled on. I'd bet the farm on it.

Now, back to Alternative Press.

I sent in my portfolio. I felt confident in my decisions for it, and I felt that I stood a decent chance. I really did. But I got the run around so very often, I got discouraged, said fuck it and decided to start my own little blog and just work diligently on my book(s). Theres some who believe in me, one in particular. And when she says she believes in me, I know I can walk through fire. I might get singed and burned, but I'll come out of it alive with a story to tell.

When this controversy became what it has generally become, the first person to come shitting on my doorstep was the same guy at Alternative Press. You, Scott Heisel. You.

The email I received from you was salt on an open wound.

Now, it isn't that so much. I've seen the depths you're willing to go to, to try and somehow become relevant with the kids again. Enough so to divulge my personal information in a very popular and public forum, to somehow further blacklisting me, because of heresay.

After I went through the trouble, on the worst day of my life, to defend your putrid, stale and egotistical ass. Saying, "This was my fault, he did nothing wrong. I'm in the wrong." you took the time to slander me. To use my full name in something that in no way is important to you. That could've hurt my future, you piece of shit. Do you even realize that? While I took time to take the hit, and tried to keep your name out of this situation, you still fucking took time further accusations, lie (and get caught in said lie).

I'm not a he said-she said person. I read what you, yourself have been saying, and I've been intensely quiet about this. But now that we're on the subject, I want you to think back to that email you sent to me. There wasn't an ounce of courtesy in that, you're too preoccupied with being a dick. Then you wonder why people don't care about what you've got to say anymore, or at least anyone who's worth an ounce of shit?

I'll explain it, then: You'll wear an Armalite shirt, grow a beard, pop up all over message boards on the internet, while bobbing on the cock of fashion oriented music. Norma Jean, Underoath, I know you like those bands, pal. And that's fine, but you're so disingenuous about the process. You'll shit all over a band in your magazine, and then plaster them all over the cover. Your ethics...are very unethical. Didn't they teach you journalistic integrity? Or did it fly out the window in order to, "you have to be able to sell your magazine."?

You have an air about you, that exudes this pompous "I'm somehow better than the kid standing next to me at the show cause I know these guys on a personal basis." So what man? Name dropping only gets you so far.

Did I want to write for your magazine? Yes and no. I wanted to get my own name out there so one day, I wouldn't have to write about music. I love it too much to pretend like I have any business telling anyone what they should think about it, at the end of the day.

So here goes.

My name is Aaron Earl Hale-Williams. I live in Arizona City, AZ. Mailing address is PO Box 95, Eloy, AZ. Half Mexican-Half Irish. I write stories, but...I'm done with trying to pretend my opinion on how good the new Off With Their Heads album is. I'd suggest people check it out, yeah...other than that...this is the last time I'll ever give some of you the courtesy of a name-check. I'm not Scott Heisel, thats not how I operate.

Besides, theres some real important shit going on in the world. Atom smashing, Hurricanes, wars, poverty and real life situations. This right here, this is me giving my two cents about the situation at hand. It won't be happening again, and I apologize. Drama is for people who need reality tv.

Dinosaurs will die. Nothing can continue to exist forever, not a worthless medium of entertainment, nor a glorified machine that will not accept it's no better than a tabloid.

I'm nothing. Some of the people mentioned here, they are nothing.

It's everyone else who means something, and it's time we worked on that.

If some of you mentioned here were about the music whatsoever, you'd think outside of the box you've hammered yourself securely in. Those nails left holes, you're taking on water...you're about to fucking sink.

Bands will still exist with, or without you. We'll still here it, and only care about them. The other mediums are nothing short of sucker fish, sustaining life from an actual creature.

And thats repulsive.

And I need a shower. I feel very, very dirty.

But I leave you with a few questions, and I want these to be answered:

What do you allow to influence you, and your decisions? Whens the last time a record review made you rush out and purchase an album? If culture exists on the mediums of art, in all it's forms, then with content being shared as rapidly as it is, does culture actually exist anymore?

With every bit of buzz that surrounds something, do you ever worry that that buzz belongs to something thats going to sting you? What will last?

Are we a product of push-button topics, are we educated idiots absorbing misinformation, and doomed to only preach this as truth?


Story of the Saguaro

Yesterday was the funeral for someone who was close to me, and my family. His death, Leroy VanVerth was his name, came as a complete shock and utter tragedy.

It really did come out of left field. No one, I think who knew him, could have ever predicted that this was in fact the way he would go.

Last Sunday, 8/31/08, he was stabbed to death for his car.

Leroy was a great man, a kind and compassionate person. He was one of the few religious leaders I've met in my life that I could honestly say I respected. To pardon the pun, he truly practiced what he preached.

And in the days since this tragedy, I've done a lot of soul searching. A lot of looking for some justifiable feeling I could have towards this situation, and to be quite honest...I just can't find any.

There are times right now when I feel emotionally void. There are times when that sore just re-opens, and I want to cry. I want to be so angry about this, and I just can't. I can't, because I know in my heart Pastor VanVerth wouldn't have, either.

But I'm searching for some kind of harmony. Some sort of clarity, some sort of reasoning that could make me understand why something like this could happen.

How a man could survive, like he did, the depression, the dust bowl, social upheaval, and actually serve in several wars. How he could give comfort to dying men on foreign soils, with bombs falling and bullets flying everywhere. How a person can see the darkest depths of humanity, things that would prove to most others that God wasn't on the battlefield, and still serve what he believed in so diligently.

How he could survive all of this and die at the hands of some person with a knife over a car.

And...I just can't.

But what gives me hope, and gives me comfort is the following: He got to spend his final moments with the person whom he loved most on this earth. The girl he married in the 1940's, his high school sweetheart.

To tell her he loved her one last time.

Now I find myself trying to find some sort of solace. Sleep doesn't come, and I find myself still shaking at the sight of him in a coffin, and how that memory won't ever leave me.

And how unfair it is that when they lay a person you love in a coffin, they never ever resemble the person you once knew, and how unfair of a representation that is of them. And that no one deserves that to be their final image on this earth.

But most importantly, I pray that one day humanity won't resort to these lows. That one day murder, rape and broken hearts won't be such a pivotal portion of ones time spent here.

That one day we can stop the violence just long enough to enjoy a sunset and sunrise in the same sentence. That we won't have to worry about sheltering our children, or hurt this much when we realize we can't.

It might be impossible, but if I really gave up on that hope, I'm not sure if I'd have anything left to believe in.

Go out and hug someone.
Tell them you love 'em.
Call someone you haven't spoken to in a while and just talk.
Or shoot an email or text.
Why not write a letter or postcard?
Make a new friend.
Greet a stranger.
Strengthen bonds with old friends.
See the sunrise and sunset.
Fall in love.
Live for something great.


If you ever fall into a situation like this, please know there are resources and people who care.


I left my heart in Southern California.

I try to update this about once a week, and I aim for Fridays. But lately, I've just been feeling pretty down, and I think a lot of that has to do with me having returned from Southern California almost two weeks ago.

I spent a decent amount of time out there, which is something I'd never had the opportunity to at length before, and the entire time felt like a waking dream. But nevertheless is also felt like, and was, a blessing.

Where I live is the death and absolute bane of human existence, and I say that with as little dramatics as I can possibly muster. It's a town called Arizona City, in...well, Arizona. Imagine that.

The irony is it isn't even an actual city. It isn't incorporated. There are a few businesses here and there, and somehow a Domino's, but other than that it's about thirteen miles away from the closest semblance of civilization. However, that town is called Casa Grande, and it isn't exactly the epicenter of culture either. That towns economic stability is almost solely resting on the shoulders of a Wal Mart, and a Wal Mart distribution center that employ, last time I checked, 20-30% of the towns working populous.

To paint the picture as clearly as possible, if you've seen the movie "Three Kings" with Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg and George Clooney, try your best to recall that landscape. In the movie, you're under the impression that it's the tale of four soldiers at the tail-end of Desert Storm at the beginning of the cease-fire agreement. Try and remember that landscape thats sold to you as Iraq and Kuwait.

That movie was shot in Arizona City, and Casa Grande predominantly.

But this is where I've spent most of my life, in this area. As much as one would think you'd get acclimated to it...you really don't. Not if you've ever seen, even at a glance, a picture of a great city like London, Paris, Toronto, Seattle, New York or San Francisco.

But the trappings are so strong here, those small town trappings. When I went to Casa Grande Union High School...which...top notch educational facility they have their (it was designed and modeled by the same people who make the prisons in Arizona. Looks like one, too. Bars on windows, impending gates and on campus cops and security guards outnumber most of the office faculty.)

But when I went to CGUHS, I took notice of something that I feel led to me having a break down, because it seemed like no one else noticed it: Most of the teachers used to be students at that very same school.

It's something to me that was very subtle. As subtle as having a dictator on a Nations currency, I feel. In the way that it felt like, man...if these educators didn't make it out...what fucking chance do I really have?

I've grown to despise and hate most of the faces I've known my entire life, because they are the same exact fucking people that were there before them. So many married young, had kids and discovered meth. Walking into the Airport Tavern for the first time this year, was one of the most depressing things I've ever done in my life.

Walking into the bar and seeing all these grimaced faces choking down gulp after gulp of some old shot they'd ordered a million times before, making passes at the girl at the end of the bar who's had five kids and should be at home taking care of them so they don't carjack me in eight years, or take me hostage when I'm at the Quick Trip. Instead, they are there at this bar thats ironically placed at the edge of town, a place they won't ever go past because of the great unknown.

And you sit back and watch this with a drink in hand, and you realize, the only thing that separates you from them is this passage you've built in your head that somehow you have more cultural wisdom and intelligence than they have; too afraid to admit it's most likely denial of the inevitable.

It's like the ship of the Damned in William Faulkner's 'Mosquitoes'. You realize all these other people are dead, you just don't want to accept the fact that somehow...you're just as much a cadaver as they are; you're every bit as damned.

So I wound up having an opportunity to cover the Warped Tour in California on August 17th. At first it felt like a passing idea, but as time drew much more near it became evident that this was actually going to happen.

The trip started off with a friend and I going to meet another friend who was in town (and being so fucking gracious in taking me with her to California, and even more so to let me stink up her futon.) We meet her and her mother and her mother's boyfriend. Some drinking ensued for a dew days, another pal stopped by for a while...more drinking ensued, there was a baseball game which was one of the best times I've ever had in my life.

Before we'd even left Arizona I was already realizing how much of a deviation this was going to be from my tomb of normality. I consider myself a person who handles (and thrives) on change. I feel I react extremely well to on the spot things, and everything getting turned on it's head, and I started to break out of this shell I've been building for myself for months.

Everything I'd convinced myself I wasn't a fan of, I became receptive towards, and began to enjoy things I'd written off. The most obvious of this would be that normally I'm a proprietor of flight. Why? Because I hate, hate, hate...hate long distance travels. Even a seven hour flight to Chicago drove me insane, once. But one key benefactor is: I was basing all my hatred for long distances in cars and buses off of the fact that I usually travel solo.

When I rode with Velvet (the kindly girl whom let me hitch a ride and sleep on her futon) it was just a completely different experience.

Now, I've been to California enough times that I think if I go again I have to start paying state taxes. But I love California. Well, Southern California. I've not had the pleasure of heading up North yet. But I love California. It's a complete contrast: A different world than anywhere I've ever lived/been before.

I love Boston, I love New York City. I'm okay with Albany, NY. Chicago was great! Denver, Colorado Springs (birthplace, yo) are a lot of fun. I can live a hundred more years and never think of another reason to go to New Mexico and New Jersey again. We should give those back to Mexico, and England (respectively.)

But the point I'm trying to make is that, out of all the places I've ever been, Southern California as a whole is the one place I've ever felt completely alive and happy. It's honestly why I continuously make excuses to go there. Whenever I'm depressed with my life, when I feel I've hit a creative block or hit an emotional speed bump in my life, I've always found the love I felt I've never truly had in California.

Most people hate, with vehement passion, Los Angeles. They hate the contrast of 'glamor' and 'glitz' with the inverse of crime and degradation. Even me, myself, should hate the polarizing effect that a place like the Sunset Strip of Hollywood casts on people, because, well...I hate all things that are that fake, but for some reason it's a different beast of burden when I'm there.

In New York City theres girls with bent-noses walking down 42nd Street in tight-fitting, skimpy uniforms where they serve wings or "dance" for business men. This is their way of "showcasing" their "talent" in hopes of one day being asked to dance in a play on Broadway. Everyone has an education and a degree in self-importance, but most work at 'chic' hotels or fashion boutiques because everyone else has that same education and degree. Educated idiots drowning in a cesspool of the American Dream. But each and everyone of these people are 100% convinced that they will be a success. Men and women.

But you enter a place like Sunset Strip, and even though it's flooded with Japanese tourists and people with costumes of movie characters that maybe weren't even that great in the first place, theres the people who live there. Who breathe that uncirculated air of Hollywood's ghosts, praying to God that some how their lungs are gonna fill with Marylin Monroe's ghost.

Their birth place as far as they are concerned, is the sidewalk of Mann's Chinese Theater. Yet somehow when you look into the eyes of some bleached blonde, forty-something woman who's lived a much harder life than I ever will, you see in the back of that glossy exterior that they themselves realize that their final resting place is going to inevitably be Skid Row.

And for some reason, I love that. Not the abandonment of it all, but the people watching. The stories in faces that I couldn't ever fathom of putting to paper: They come to life when everything else seems so dead and gray.

And it's such an odd phenomena, to see something so over-polished and self-assured be so gritty and full of doubt when you scrape it with your finger nails.

I want to breathe that. I want to breathe the dregs of society; I want to bask in ebb and flow of humanities breaking point. Because when everything seems so disgusting, you can turn right around and see a street performer who probably works weeknights at Kinko's or the Comfort Inn, playing guitar just because he or she didn't feel like staying in. Somehow the expression of art is more affluent in the places where commercialization of culture won't ever touch.

And then you leave that area, and go to other great and fun places. Pomona, San Clemente...all over, and theres still so much to take in. It's such an odd thing for me, to see people who live there not even realize they are being inspected with eyes wide full of curiosity. How can they not notice, even after having lived there for however long they have, that where they are standing is the only place that makes sense in this entire country?

Perfect weather, a diversity of races combining to co-exist and create a mesh of cultures that really, I've not seen anywhere else.

I made some new friends this time around, and I got to be with old friends. I got to spend time with the one person who makes my whole existence seem somewhat validated, and I know I wasn't even deserving of that much. She's so incredible, it honestly hurts not to be able to bug her face to face now.

I started off the second leg of this trip (first being the days spent in Phoenix) at, really, for all intents and purposes is a frat house. Thai food, a crazy neighbor, three white kids not comfortable with the community. Read: Anyone brown they were weary of. A black room mate I barely got to talk too, but was still a rad dude. And one very on edge Editor of a certain magazine who became very anxious when I started saying, "minority" loudly. (Sorry man, sometimes I shouldn't be brought out in public.)

One afternoon, a few of the room mates and I made the trek to China Town. Patrick (who's really hairy) Wesley (who's lived in Africa, but is somehow white) and his gal pal, who...I've forgotten her name. Sorry. And a Mexican named Hector, who isn't a stereotype whatsoever (living in Southern California, drives a van...name is Hector. It's okay, I'm half beans and rice). So we went to China town, and had some great sandwiches. Thing is, I love mustard, and there was this condiment bottle I thought was mustard (it was yellow-ish) and liberally squirted on my sandwich.

I should have known better. The Chinese are fuck crazy with their condiments. After being convinced there was an exorcism in my mouth, and the Devil was winning, the gentleman in front of me was wiping tears away from his eyes, and saying "I should have warned you, but I figured you knew." Yeah, funny man. I'm used to hot things, not nuclear garnishments. Fuck you, funny man. Fuck you.

But China Town can eat a dick. Everyone there is full of evil, and shoddy masonry.

The third leg of the trip saw me being put in a scenario, as good as I am with change...took me so far out of my element, I thought surely I would die. See, I'm 22 and love comic books. I've been a nerd for thirteen years strong. Futon crashing at a pretty girls house (a pretty girl who makes my voice crack, even though I've been done with puberty forever). She finds it all hilarious. I'm glad I could be such a source of the funny during my time in California, guys. So glad...

We had a lot of fun, and...a doomed expedition to the Warped Tour, which saw the casualty of her vehicle. To be fair, the expedition was doomed the second the term "Warped Tour" was thrown in the mix. So she had to tend to getting her car towed, I however was now all alone in the town of Carson, California, surrounded by walking advocation's for abortion. I hate the youth of today.

But I got a nifty press pass, and was allowed to walk backstage. Now, a few things come to the top of the list here. Meeting and watching Rise Against from side stage, check. Getting to hang out at length with Hunter from AFI/Hunter Revenge, and Aaron from Reel Big Fish, as well as getting to meet the legendary thrash punk band, DI, and getting invited on side stage to watch the most passionate performance I'd seen in quite a while. But two things really come to mind.

First off, it seemed like every other song on KROQ in California is "I Kissed A Girl" by Katy Perry. Katy Perry for those who don't know (and good for you if you didn't) is the latest record company creation to generate revenue from sexual ambiguity. Katy Perry however, has been in the music industry for a while. See Katy Perry, or Katy Hudson as she used to known, recorded albums in a previous life for a Christian label. I'm an atheist, but that rubs me the wrong way. I'd kill for some convictions in this modern world.

So I'm talking with Aaron from Reel Big Fish, and we're slapping our knees at having the same name, when this broad starts signing autographs. Now, I'd heard the song, and glanced at the video (in hopes of girl make outs, I'll confess.) but I couldn't, even know with a gun pointed at my beloved cat Rizzo's cute head, pick her out of a crowd. So I asked him whom she was, and he said he hadn't a clue (though I suspect he did, but wanted to see where this was going) so I said, "Fuck this. I'm going to ask her. Excuse me, who are you?"

Katy Perry: "I'm Katy Perry."
Me: *blank stare*
Rando slut-fan in booty gym shorts, annoyed: "She has a song on the radio."
Me: "I still have no clue who you are."
Rando slut-fan, more annoyed: "She's on MTV."
Me: "I still have no idea who this lesbian is."

Imagine the egg on my face.

The second highly notable event would be, a few posts back (What To Wear When Swimming With Sharks) I'd taken many pot shots at Max Bemis.

I don't hate the guy, I know major label bands don't make any money, and I do thoroughly enjoy "...Is A Real Boy", but that being said, I still take grievance at his new practices. So Say Anything was one of the headlining bands at this particular date, and I thought I'd make his acquaintance. So I do, and I introduce myself. I then go on to say I write for Racket Magazine, and of course here at Piss and Vinegar, and had written a piece about him.

A light visibly went off in the crazy man's head, and even though I'd known he'd read the piece (several posts on AbsolutePunk, a reference in Punknews weekly Navel Gazing, as well as thirty emails and posts on his bands message board will ensure things like this) I was shocked he wasn't pummeling my face with his angry little fists. He smiled, laughed, and it seemed alright.

But the rest of the trip...yeah. After Velvet came back and picked me up (I would've left me to die) we went back to her place.

I bonded with her awesome turtle, Yertle. There were some bad jokes (told by me) and funny jokes (told by her) and a general havoc wreaking on my every attempt not to beg for her hand. Whatever, I don't want to come off as lame...

The last night was something with her/in California is something thats gonna be burned into my memory, until I've killed those cells with Sam Adams. But even then, I think I'll still have the feeling left, and to be honest...it was the best time, this whole trip, that I've ever had in my life.

Certain people have that ability in your life that can restore your faith thats been shattered. But even more few and elusive people can transcend that, and every once in a while you come across one or two people in particular that make every ounce of shit in life worth it. I have a hard time expressing this to people, but I wish them to know that I've never taken a moment of knowing them for granted. Not her especially.

Jonathan was a great host. I'll never look at Olympic gymnastics the same again. The other room mates are slightly less crazy, but insane just the same...and I hope that never changes about them.

Theres a lot of people I didn't get to see that I wanted too. Hopefully if there is a next time, I will.

The train ride home felt like defeat, but at the same time...it was beautiful. I read Robert Sheffields, "True Love Is A Mixtape" and at one point couldn't help but weep, when he talked of his wife's passing. I hope one day I can mean that much to someone.

But now I'm gonna end this post with the following: This right here is the second most honest thing I've ever (poorly) written in my life. Theres a lot more that happened than I'll ever manage to replicate in an online setting. I hope I never forget a second of it.

There was a lot of self-discovery. Theres a lot of emptiness at this moment knowing this right now in my life isn't what I want. But I'll have to keep going on, and on, and on, and on (to quote Against Me! *We Laugh At Danger (And Break All The Rules.)*) But I also got to experience the people I feel closest too, and for that, I'm more than grateful; I'm in eternal karmic debt. Thank you for that.

And in closing, I leave those I spent time with this play list. I hope they get the time to listen to the songs, and hear what it is I'm not gonna ever be able to say: I left my heart in Southern California.

Side One: I Know You're Leaving (Baby, I've Done The Same.)

1.) Lemuria - Pants (Album: Get Better)
2.) The Gaslight Anthem - 1930 (Album: Sink or Swim)
3.) Billy Reese Peters - Mexico (Album: Almost Heaven)
4.) Murder by Death - Spring Break, 1899 (Album: Red of Tooth and Claw)
5.) Chuck Ragan - California Burritos (Album: Loz Feliz)
6.) Manchester Orchestra - I Can Barely Breathe (Album: I'm Like A Virgin Losing a Child)
7.) The Velvet Teen - Radiapathy (Album: Out of The Fierce Parade)
8.) Alkaline Trio - San Francisco (Album: Goddammit)
9.) Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven (Album: Led Zeppelin IV)**

**For a very specific memory.

Side Two: I'm Barely Standing, But Standing Nonetheless.

1.) Tegan and Sara - The Con (Album: The Con)
2.) Billy Reese Peters - Almost Heaven (Album: Almost Heaven)
3.) The Gaslight Anthem - High Lonesome (Album: The 59 Sound)
4.) Alkaline Trio - Do You Wanna Know? (Album: Agony and Irony)
5.) Against Me! - Sink Florida, Sink (Live in London!!! Americans Abroad!!!)
6.) Bob Dylan - Forever Young (Album: World Gone Wrong)

Thats all folks! See ya Friday.