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that shit wasn’t real it was magic: un/reality & the pinkprint – part I

Lately I do all my crying in the kitchen. I think I do that because the kitchen table is where you sit to have serious talks, no touching allowed. The couch is too snuggly. Every surface of a bedroom is a statement. The kitchen also has three separate lighting fixtures, and more proper corners than the rest of the apartment, which is softened and complicated at its edges by comfy chairs and bookcases – friendly objects to escape into. The kitchen is hard and bright and clinical in a way that forces you to feel things, no distractions.

But lately I haven’t been doing much crying at all (this may surprise my friends, but trust: my face was once a waterpark and now it’s more like a Slip’N Slide – you really gotta commit). My body is doing this really well-intentioned and ultimately awful thing where it’s become something of an emotional sinkhole, but tonight, hoo buddy, I’ve been listening to the first three tracks from the Pinkprint on loop while doing the dishes. All the lights are on, I can hear the neighbors having sex, everything is plastic on metal on glass, everything is “another slap to the face, another uppercut” and I fucking lose it. These are the weeping songs.


I. “All Things Go”

Today you are a little okay.

You gave yourself Imbolc and the full moon. You cleaned your nest so it could be yours again, a home and not an exhibit on the art of turning yourself inside out. You strip the bed, you open the window. You can’t strip yourself of your heart or your heart of itself or the room of its ghost, but today is better. You’re only holding your breath some of the time, and the air is still very sharp in your lungs, sharp enough to choke on, but you aren’t suffocating anymore. Your hair is dirty but it’s almost long. You’ll wash it tomorrow. 

This song is the sort of manifesto of selfhood that comes in that rare moment between existing in the nadir of your pain and rising up out of it. Dispensing with the truculent swagger of prior track 1s, Nicki goes straight for the throat, and it’s her own throat and she doesn’t just drip, she spills. It’s inescapably autobiographical, deeply personal, and still, somehow, remarkably anthemic:

All things go, all things go

All things go, all things go

I feel one minute, yeah we got it then it’s gone

While we keep waiting for a moment to live for

So can’t nobody ever tell me that I’m wrong

Cause Imma ride out with you still, the night is young

And we keep goin’, we go, we go, we go

We wake back up and do it all again

We know, we know, say fuck the world we ridin’ ‘til the end

When all is said and done, look at what we’ve become

I just want you to know that I did it for you

Everything goes away, everything will be bone, will be dust, will be forgotten, and that’s painful but it also means that pain we feel right now? It’ll pass. Until then, we do what makes us feel alive. We do what makes us go. We ride until the end, but also maybe we ride hard enough that we bring the end of the/our world, ourselves. Horsemen.

It’s a song about waking up heartbroken and crying because the sky is beautiful and you know you’ll be okay but you’re not right now, you’re just not. I always get choked up at about 4:06, where she speaks the record’s name for the first time, says, “THIS is the Pinkprint.” It’s reinforced throughout the album, a braggadocio-laced shoutout, but all of those moments come back to this one and feed it. “This is me. This is the most important thing I have to say. We are all going to die and we are all very sad, and, so, live!” (Le vent se lève, il faut tenter de vivre!) It’s a rumination on the nature and necessity of #yolo, and it’s exquisite.


II. “I Lied”

Last week, you were not okay.

You sit on the floor in the kitchen corner, between the wall and the cabinet where you keep the Tupperware. You’re not crying but you were. He left, he said “I’m going to leave now,” and he turned and walked out of your house as though out of your life. He was going to a party. He left you a slice of cake. You drink whiskey instead, not enough to get drunk, you don’t have the energy. Everything is so much and you’re wearing a cashmere sweater, which is both too soft and not soft enough to feel on you when your heart is breaking. But there’s a song you know that also knows you that you can blast into your skull loud enough that maybe you can replace your feelings with those of someone richer but just as sad.

When I first heard “I Lied” I was just, you know, chilling with my roommate and all I could do was gaze wide-eyed into the middle distance and mumble several variations on “Oh my god.” With a few more listens and a little more distance from my ~woes~, I can see the song for its universality, but at the time I was in drop-jawed cartoon disbelief at how in the world Nicki managed to write a song that was so clearly about my personal heartache.

Man it was good while it lasted

That shit wasn’t real, it was magic

If it was a record, it would have been classic

But fuck you, though. Orgasmic

is the kind of lyric that makes me want to stuff my hand in my mouth and pull my heart out through my throat because it has such a perfection to it. It has perfection about the perfection of a perfect mess. It lets this was fucked-up and it hurt me exist in tandem with this was beautiful and important in a lasting way. There is so, so much in the real vs. magic thing. Something can be false and feel true. Something can be so wonderful that it’s unreal. Magic is sometimes an illusion resting on mechanical dexterity and an inscrutable smile. A trick. But some of us believe in a deep magic, an always magic. It’s the fullness or absence of the moon before we know why. We craft myths to make sense of things we see and don’t understand. We pass them down and pass them down til they’re just tales of dead gods for nerdy kids to fawn over – fictitious, a fantasy. But flip it for a moment, reverse the trail, follow its traceries back to the root and see, for the first time, the vastness of the ocean and how the tide goes and yes it’s a real thing that exists but the immensity of it all, the salt wind tangling in your hair, the glitter and the peaks and the foam? Yeah, that’s magic.

So magic is real. Or is it? You felt it, didn’t you? Is that enough?

The last line in the quatrain is so, oh my god, sooooo intimate. Because no, she’s not not bitter, “even though [she] said fuck you, [she] lied,” but she’s changed her mind again. “But fuck you, though”: even though and also because of the good, the magic, the classic, like, how could you? Whatever it is, fill in the blank. How could you disappoint me, how could you let me go, how could you love me wrong, how could you not see me, how? And then, “orgasmic,” she slides back into the realm of their physical intimacy without apology or explanation. She’s there all of a sudden and it’s good or maybe it’s just ultimate. Final. They both finish.


III. “The Crying Game”

Last month you didn’t know the meaning of okay.

You try to say a thing or two and you try to say it well and you try not to be scary and you try to be kind and you try to make a space where you can keep something you cherish without holding it captive, but it doesn’t work. You aren’t fighting because nobody is yelling and you know you’ll submit in the end, but there’s something violent about this. Violent but quiet, like you’re on the Gravitron and the force of the motion is a pin in your sternum and he’s across the circle and you can see each other making weird, angular shapes with your bodies, shapes so hypnotic you forget he has eyes, you’re both just geometry. And you know you’re gonna lose something, no matter what you say. You’re not circling each other, but the game is circling you, and you just want (you want!) to have it out but to yell would be to quit, so you’re back to divining symbols from the bend of his limbs.

It’s so brutal, this song, so horrifically honest. It’s the story of two people who clearly, yes, have wanted the best for each other, and who, yes, still love each other, but have become so wrapped up in the game of “what can I say to wound you enough that you’ll see me? How can I be a mirror of the hurts you’ve sowed in me?” All their shared insecurities, all the things tearing them apart (and keeping them interlocked) laid bare on the track. We get a glimpse of this room that feels very real, with “sheets all over the floor and they laced with drugs” where “blood drippin’ out [his] arm on [her] Asian rugs.” We’re at the crack in the door where a fight (or maybe the fight) is grinding to its finish.

Jessie Ware’s gently soaring vocalization renders Nicki’s spit all the more naked, fists up, teeth bared. These lovers are willing to be mean. They will use some vicious metaphors, damn it. But then there are moments where everything they might’ve planned to say falls away, and all we’re left with is the horrible ambiguity of love:

Are you alone? Do you need someone?

Is it too late to talk? Did I wait to long?

and

Sayin that we had enough, but enough of what?

and

All this love you speak of

All I want to love and be loved

all those things you need to know if you’re the asker and don’t know the answer to if you’re being asked. Is any time the right time? How long before it’s always the wrong time? What about us are we done with? Are we done with all of it? Can’t we just have this?


These are the weeping songs. They’re the real after the magic. They know the dissolution of a love is a hard thing, the hardest, and don’t make demands of you. It was all real and it was all pretend and you can want it and still run away from it and maybe you should, but who knows? You can only be where you are, and where you are is in the kitchen, crying into the suds that prune your fingers. Or at least I am.

 

You Got It, I Want It!: A Love Letter to Alison Mosshart


A lot of my persona toward strangers is posturing. I feel okay saying that because it’s a constructed self but it is a constructed self I love (most of the time, anyway) and what is authenticity anyway? Would it be better for me to be a person that I like less but that comes more naturally to me? I can go days without leaving the house or showering and loathe everything about my face and body every time I look in the mirror with absolutely no effort, or I can paint my lips red and sneer into a mirror and feel like I could tear someone apart with the force of my mind alone and feel untouchable, unstoppable, powerful. Who is to say that the former is inherently more authentic to who I am than the latter? If you think I strolled right out of the womb with a perfect flick of eyeliner and tattoos on my arms you’re delusional but that doesn’t make those things any less me, any less mine. I found them. I picked them. I own them.

I found The Kills when I was in high school. They’re mine too. Like a lot of people a little too aware and a little too weird and a little too sad for their hometowns, I was spending a lot of time listening to music and reading about music and self-consciously talking about what music I thought was worthy on Livejournal communities, picking all the shiniest pieces of Self from the musicians and the lyrics and my friends like a magpie to construct an identity that would pass as “authentic” during a time when to be a “poseur” was among the worst things you could be. I was reading some magazine (could have been Blender, could have been Spin, could have been Alt Press, could have been Paste, hell, it could have been Venus or Bust or Nylon, I subscribed to them all in every sense of the word) the first time I read about The Kills. Their music was ugly and noisy and all lazy yet somehow frenzied energy, a caged lion laying with teeth bared and chest heaving, a sign with fresh black marker screaming “DON’T COME ANY CLOSER” and it appealed to every part of my teenaged heart. Then I found a live video of them performing “Cat Claw” and I remember wanting to scream, feeling it claw its way up my throat like a living breathing animal. As soon as I saw Alison Mosshart sneering and prowling around stage, too fucking cool to live, I was in love and in the kind of love that only a teenage heart can muster. I watched every video I could find. I burned every song of theirs onto cds and listened to them relentlessly on my portable cd player. I painstakingly made a collage out of so many cut up magazines devoted to her and the things I liked best. I hung it on my wall next to my mirror and practiced grimacing, grew my bangs out and hid behind them, went back to dying my hair black black inky black instead of the purples and plums it’d been for a few years. I wanted to date her, I wanted to befriend her, but I settled for trying to become her.


Alison wields her hurt and her anger and every time someone has ever called her a bitch and every time someone has called her mean like a shining spear, the sharpest weapon, one she made, one she fabricated herself. You can hear it in their lyrics. You can see it in her face. I wanted to use those same things and at the very least forge a suit of armor from it. All the hardest parts of me I learned from her.

Because listen, the thing is, she is Baby Ruthless, she is growling prowling leopard-print cool, she smokes like a fucking chimney and I never wanted to smoke until I saw her do it and I would’ve done anything to take a hit off of that cigarette. She’s you want a warning / you got a warning / bet you something I can get your mouth shut. The Kills’ first album is called Keep On Your Mean Side and if that isn’t hashtag goals I honestly don’t know what is. Their lyrics have evoked magic and spells since the beginning and I’m convinced she’s a witch, the kind you don’t want to get on the wrong side of. She’s “damned if she will / she damned if she won’t/ some of them left in one piece / and some she damn near broke.” More than all of that, though, or I guess at least alongside all of that, it is important to mention that she is aware of herself at all times, aware of how you see her, aware of how she can play with that perception. She’s not perfect but she knows it and I’ll be damned if she isn’t one of the closest things I’ve got to an idol.

Photo by Flickr User hobogirl923

When I saw her for the first time, she was mean and she was cool and she was untouchable and she seemed like the type that did not give a single fuck what you thought of her and those were all things I wanted to be. Those are all things I still want to be, let’s be honest here. In the years following high school I sloughed off so many of those pieces of identity I’d carefully collected and built up around myself like armor, replaced them with other bits and identities, some more successful than others. But I never shook Alison. I never shook the Kills and I was just as into the Dead Weather when they became a thing. I can still feel something green and ugly and jealous well up in the darkest deepest parts of me when I see her give a particularly badass performance, but I think she would recognize that ugliness, appreciate it. There is still something in her I’m aspiring toward, something I probably won’t ever get to because of the soft pink parts of my heart that warm too easily to people, that let down every protective barrier I’ve tried to build too quickly. But it’s good to have goals, right? And at the very least, I don’t have to practice her sneer anymore. I’ve got a grimace all my own and it looks damn good, especially with some red lipstick.

Pin Her Down on a Photograph Album

What a strange thing, to be a teenage girl. What a strange thing, to be a person who is also a teenage girl. Do you know what I mean? When I was fourteen I didn’t know any music to listen to except what my dad listened to and my dad only listened to classic rock and the more known names from 90s alt rock, so I took his Walkman and his August and Everything After cassette and I listened to it over and over and over. In retrospect I don’t really even know why I liked it, because listening to it now is only good in the way where you understand that a twisting in your gut is important. It’s pretty, though. Maybe that was just it. It’s pretty and it’s horrible and it’s mine and that’s, like, life. Or whatever.

There was a certain point, I think, when I was still a round-faced child, when I wore the same coat every day and tied my hair in a ponytail at the base of my neck because I didn’t think of anything else as an option, when I was just a small person who read books with her claws dug into the awfulness of reality, that I realized sometimes people narrate me. Sometimes people–no, sorry. Sometimes men narrate me, sometimes men narrate me and I’m a character in some thing but never a protagonist. Sometimes I’m there but also not, which is a strange thing to feel when you are a human who is always there in real life. I have always known what it’s like to be seen but only sometimes do I know what it’s like to be. Men narrate me and it’s almost worse when the person they narrate, instead of being only secondary and flat, is–something that rings true in a part of me I wish they couldn’t see. If I am not to be described as a person, can I not at least silently own my own complexities?

And what do you do when some boy says “Maria says she’s dying, through the door I hear her crying, why? I don’t know,” when your own life or death is just a beautiful complicated mystery in somebody else’s story, when the response to “she says she’s tired of life” is “she must be tired of something, round here”? That reduction of reality and specificity and viscerality into some kind of quasi-literary observed melancholy, and the way that gaze isn’t not your own self-image sometimes too.

And sometimes it feels like you’re always the subject but never the narrator but the subject is still there, though, she’s right there in front of you and you get it. You don’t know if the guy describing it gets it in the way that you get it, but you know that what he’s describing feels strangely internal even though it’s all external.

And how angry it makes me, to be somebody’s subject and for them to have the gall to be right. To not just be looked at but seen. To identify with somebody that’s not allowed full narration, who isn’t the main character. The girl in the car in the parking lot, he sings, and I think, that’s me. I’m the girl in the car in the parking lot. I can feel the tender flesh of the palms of my own hands and I can taste the back of my throat and I am still the girl in the car in the parking lot. Just light on skin, just this exterior thing, but described well enough that you can feel the insides of it and you don’t know which makes you feel worse: that it might be ignored, or that the whole of it is seen, but still doesn’t quite matter.

The thing about August and Everything After is it’s a boy that says snap her up in a butterfly net, pin her down on a photograph album, but then when he does you look at that awful flattened thing and you realize he’s captured something a little too real, a gross picture of some tender part of you that you never meant to be visible. Especially to somebody who’d frame it.

I guess all I could really do when I was so young and so enraptured was what I’ve learned to do with a lot of things that are about me but aren’t supposed to be for me–take them anyway. It’s this complex damp incredible perceptive album, this album about exteriority and looking and pain, and those outsides, and those insides, and everything, belong not to an emotive singer-songwriter strumming in the background and watching but to Anna, to Maria, to the girl in the car in the parking lot. To me. Maybe you pinned me down, but that doesn’t mean I should be yours to look at.

Special Intentions

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A playlist for trying something in 2015.

Pink Champagne – Caitlin Rose
Every Year Until We Die – Lisa Bouvier
Spaceship – Kanye West, GLC & Consequence
Slippery Slopes – Jenny Lewis
I Am A Soul – Little Janice
Peach, Plum, Pear – Joanna Newsom
I Wanna Get Better – Bleachers
I Am Waiting – The Rolling Stones
Upgrade U – Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z
Closer to Fine – Indigo Girls
Name That Thing – Chumped
Body of My Own – Charli XCX
Help Me Mary – Liz Phair
Way Over Yonder – Carole King
Oblivion – Grimes
I Won’t Be Left – Tegan and Sara
Change Your Ticket – One Direction
Can’t Ever Sleep – Saturday Looks Good To Me
Peaches – The Orchids
Modern Girl – Sleater-Kinney
New Romantics – Taylor Swift
Torpedo – Jillette Johnson
This Year – The Mountain Goats

I got a tracksuit for fourth grade that was green and made sounds when I walked. I wanted to be President then. It was a vest and pants with a long stripe down the legs and my arms inside a long-sleeve white t-shirt looked like wiggling wet rubber from outside the school windows that were plastic for safety and made the whole reflected world seem round with possibility. New Year’s Eve, I turned nine. I remember that my birthday cake had a grinning clock on it instead of my name. That didn’t even seem depressing. It was 2000 and almost 1.

It seems okay not to know what you want to be. How many movies have made me promise to the tune of that pop song you already know from the Honda commercial that people don’t know what they want? It’s charming. All that falling into one’s own life, fingers laced like by surprise. I don’t mind that I can’t decide who I should wish I was, but I get a little hot at the edges– I become something that needs a sign please do not touch, I begin to shake, and it starts low in parts of me the sun won’t ever touch, before suddenly I’m vibrating the chair, the room, your car, his hands, I can’t breathe– when I let myself wonder what exactly it is that I already am.

Britney Spears was a birthday present when I was small and it snowed all day. My hands and my t-shirt were red just walking from the car. Everybody grinning with their coats on while we shuffled across the streets. From our nosebleeds half a nation away I could taste the rising pyrotechnic smoke better than I could see the performance. She was sparkling. I already knew that. I could watch a thousand heads follow her body when it moved. I gave the t-shirt to my sister who had cried when we left the house and woke up the next day only half-forgiving. Bitney Spee-uhs. She cried but didn’t have her Rs yet. She was sparkling. A spring night when I was nineteen I drank wine five feet from a folksinger by accident. And we were blessed, all of us, even though mostly what everybody was was high, because she carved herself open under a shoddy orange spotlight and didn’t seem embarrassed at all. Me, I was mortified when I saw my own face everyday, when I remembered other people saw it too. I hated my shoes that night. My date wasn’t blinking often enough. The girl with the guitar didn’t care. She made me feel brave and all my skin hurt. I wanted to be lost somewhere alone after that just moving but I left with who I came with like the rules say, I tried to walk my way back to it in the morning but it was already too late. That whole year my mouth was always stained purple from something, for staining. I needed all the marks. When I turned twenty-one I saw Pauly D from the Jersey Shore bowling. They played the “1985” music video three times that night and I drank something banana three times because I didn’t say no to the first when it made my whole body wince. My dress was all sad mosquito net and that seemed honest.

(more…)

a graven image: the fallout of punk idolatry

I haven’t been to the Fillmore since I was very small, so when I step into the blue light and look up at the Banga bass drum I’m a little taken aback by how close it is, how close she’ll be. People are making sardines of themselves already, staking their claim in the splash zone. I take a wide stance. I, too, am a territorial fish.

Patricia “Patti” Lee Smith, godmother of punk and high priestess of my heart is somewhere in this very building. It’s a presence deeply felt: she’s just so much. Like, to culture, to music, to art, of course! But also to me. Just Kids is the best kind of comfort food, it’s a fire under my ass, it’s my favorite ode. I spent the final months of my schooling becoming crow-girl Cavale, a character in a play based on its authors’ (Patti Smith and Sam Shepard’s) tumultuous love affair. She is my work, my wail, my lullaby. Music is never not intimate, but some artists just crawl into your lungs, and sort of by accident, and soon you don’t really know what it is to breathe without their involvement.

That’s really dramatic. But anyhow, it’s personal.

And good lord, is it incredible. Incroyable in the esoteric sense. She is electric. She shakes the ground because we shake the ground because she shakes from inside our bones and vibrates into our feet and we dance because we must. It’s moving. We are moved. Sixty-eight years old singing we explore the men’s room/we don’t give a shit/ladies’ lost electricity/take vows inside of it and I see her, we all do, young and wild and sonically entwined. I’ve never felt so like a witness of such exquisite fervor between a woman and a beloved ghost. Sixty-eight years old and caterwauling EOWROWROWROWROWROWROWROW, turning the crowd into a chorus of stray guitars in heat. Sixty-eight years old and burying Lenny Kaye in the curtain of her silvered hair as they play creature in an erotic rock-out shred dance that takes them both to their knees. She spits. She spits a lot. Maybe it used to be a defiance, a middle finger to the sky re: femininity, re: manners, re: appropriate places to spit, but now she does it because it’s a part of her. Patti Smith spits on the floor and I think Oh my god, I just saw Patti Smith spit on the floor. And then Oh my god, I wish she’d spit on me, because there’s so much history in her saliva and I’ve got this weird faith that her amylase could somehow dissolve my fears, catalyze me to make a grand thing.

That’s not how spit works, but that’s okay. Because she keeps going. She sings love is an angel disguised as lust, and I bathe in it, letting myself have a crystalline moment of belief in a love that will later betray me but it doesn’t matter because here it’s good and pure and in her words I see myself: take me now, baby, here as i am, and for now I escape the sorrow and only feel wonder at what a human can give to another human in a kiss.

We are given a parable. We are given a medium. We cry as wolf all together, and we taste it all, as she tastes it, each epoch of herself. She knights a girl in a turtleneck sweater who clambers onto the stage and takes Patti’s guitar in hand, playing not one song but several, singing backup, fucking rocking. It is a marvel to see a hero make a hero. Some kid from the crowd shoulder to shoulder with veterans and saints and holding her own. (I cry a lot during this show, but especially now.)

So we get all this and we stomp for more and this truly delicious riff is taken up by the band but suddenly I get this woozy feeling because then Patti is snarling baby was a black sheep/baby was a whore and I want to vomit, I want to curl up and die, but I don’t. Patti Smith and Her Band are singing “Rock N Roll N____” and suddenly these, like, 32 year-old white dudes are moshing at me in near-bacchic frenzy, more stoked to rock than they’re ever been in their lil bro lives. The room vibrates in response to the priestess’ call, a sea of ecstatic white faces taking full advantage of this permission they’re being given to say a word that is inherently ugly on their tongues. I push to the edge of the crowd, I disengage and back away from the stage, refuse to let the sheer visceral musicality of the song make me dance to it.

I feel sick. I feel sick because I knew this song existed and I knew she might play it but I came anyway and just hoped that she wouldn’t, that the set list would be clean. I knew it could happen but I wanted to forget, because it is easier to relax into the quasi-deification of an artist you admire if they don’t make shitty things and insist that it’s a compliment. That she, having been othered in her own domain, may call herself revolutionary in using the word, give it to her favorite white men, point us out one by one, giving it to us too, with the lights on so we all see each other, most people’s lips forming shapes of slurs with a grin.


I feel sick. I feel sick because I knew this song existed and I knew she might play it but I came anyway and just hoped that she wouldn’t, that the set list would be clean.


And look, I truly believe that Patti believes that all mutants and the new babes born sans eyebrow and tonsil-outside logic-beyond mathematics poli-tricks baptism and motion sickness-any man who extends beyond the classic are this new breed of rock n roll being, existing outside of society, the most noble-hearted of folk. But it’s wrong! It’s wrong for the white punx and their foremother to appropriate such a word, a poison doled out from white people to black people. Just because you know that black people exist and you think they’re pretty cool and radical doesn’t mean you can straight up position your oppressions and defiance thereof as equivalent. As worthy of so weighty a word.

One hour and fifty-four minutes of punk rock piety made illusion by one song clocking in at three minutes and thirty seconds. This isn’t about my time being ruined or wasted. This isn’t about me much at all. It’s about “how do you negotiate the simultaneity of great love for an artist and great disappointment in a facet of their art and, by extension, their concept of rebellion?” I shuffle out of the venue, and I think about it. I think about it in the cab. I think about it on BART. I think about it when I go to sleep and when I wake up. I think about it on the plane. I think about it while I write about thinking about it, and honestly I don’t know. I can neither escape what Patti Smith has meant to me, nor can I ever even try to want to justify the song and its 37-year tenure as the encore that’ll really bring the audience to its knees.

I hate that we live in a world where an artist feels in good conscience and just power conflating her oppression—as woman, as artist, as captive of capitalism—with the oppression of others, black people whose scars are directly proportional to this country’s growth, both industrial and cultural, who are eponymous to the song specifically because the slur has been hurled at them with such vitriol and accompanied physical and spiritual violence. To survive that? That’s nothing short of miraculous, but to call it a miracle would rob individuals of their ownership of the struggle. It’s artistically irresponsible at best to strip a word of its bearers and assign it to your sanctified self. Black lives matter because they do, not because you found in them a way to (en)title your own. You can’t shock the world out of racism and into revolution. That doesn’t belong to you. Cut it out.

It’s hard to allow yourself to be disappointed in an action and still treasure its overarching experience. I think we’re told that in order to be grown ups we have to know what to do about the uneasiness we feel. But I know no other way than to talk about it. To weave in and out of it. To look at it and call it for what it is. I don’t know how to kill my idols, couldn’t bring myself to burn the book and melt the wax and trash the merch tee. But I’ll be damned if I lionize or hasten to protect that moment of venue-wide complicity in a linguistic assault that got disguised as a moral high ground.