A WEST TEXAS SOUL CLEANSING

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_d5
Big Bend, Texas. Photo by James Stevens.

The drive from Austin to Marfa, Texas, when done in one long stretch, feels less like a daunting car ride and more like an odyssey when you get into it. As the terrain changes from forgotten roadside truck stops to long stretches of brilliant nothingness, a mountain scape lingering in the distant horizon, you start to lose your sense of everything you were worried or stressed out about before. This is the magic of West Texas – it breathes you into its grandeur and sweeps you away. Read More »

We’re Not Close Anymore, But Happy Birthday!

Hi there,

We haven’t spoken in about 8 months, but I thought I should go ahead and text you Happy Birthday!

This little note, although short and sweet, is chock full of implications about what our relationship was and has become, which I’m sure you’d love to think about while celebrating your birthday with actual, current friends and family. You’re welcome!

Firstly, my texting you “happy birthday” reveals that I still know the date you were brought into this world by heart. That’s right, that information continues to live in my mind, subsequently showing that I am a caring and open person, despite our relationship’s unfortunate demise. Most of your acquaintances need Facebook to alert them that it’s your birthday, but not me. I knew that shit already.

The fact that I texted you in the first place, simply put, shows that I was thinking about you. This ultimately means I still care about you somewhere deep down inside, despite the utter bullshit we brought to each other’s lives. Am I asking for that bullshit to reenter my life by texting you? Fuck no! Does Paul McCartney want to start The Beatles back up every time an anniversary box set or commemorative Beatles t-shirt is released? I doubt it, plus it would be impossible at this point.

The purpose of my texting you is to simply pay homage to the past. It’s like after working at Target for five years, and then one day taking a slow, luxurious walk through the very same aisles you sold your soul to so many years ago. It’s not because you necessarily miss it – it was just a part of your life one time and sometimes a revisit seems necessary.

Well, I do hope this two-word acknowledgement weighs heavy on your mind! There probably won’t be occasion to speak again until my 28th birthday when you shoot the greeting right back at me, so until then, take it easy old pal.

The Evolution of Life Plans While On Vacation

Day One

Vacation, here we come! Jimmy and I are headed to Fort Collins to immerse ourselves its culture, history and modern frontier lifestyle. The plane ride was shit and my sciatica is flaring up due to our economy seating on Frontier Airlines – no leg room! 

We’re at our Airbnb! It’s a modular house with a very interesting minimalistic design. The trip was so worth it for the view from its pristine, modern windows. From a mid-century lounge chair, I watched a horse walking around in a neighboring field. 

Day Two

Jimmy and I agree that we could totally live here. I can just see us working in the burgeoning tech industry, perhaps for OtterBox. Yup – they’re headquartered right here in Fort Collins! We could casually bike to neighborhood coffee shops and work on our laptops and eat pastries. Plus, we’re only an hour from Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park. 

I already searched for jobs in Fort Collins on Indeed to check out the market. Jimmy says to just focus on enjoying vacation but he can shut up – we’re being summoned here by some higher power. It feels right! 

Day Three

After reading an entire Dwell magazine featuring prefab design (which I now know is short for prefabricated) that the Airbnb owners have, we’ve decided that in just 5 to 7 years time, we can save up enough money to buy a plot of land in Fort Collins and build a modular homestead. My mom will be retiring by then and she and Dad can come live in the guest house and take care of all the animals we plan to own. 

Jimmy says to briefly consider the cost of land, but that will come later. Right now my main focus needs to be changing my career, and saving more money for for this future life! 

Day Four

I got a snippy email from a coworker and decided that I can’t go on doing this job. It’s a shit job that pays nothing and on this salary, I will never be able to save up for a plot of land in Fort Collins. I wonder if any architecture firms back home are hiring admin positions? Maybe I can just get my foot in the door because obviously I’m going to need to know this stuff anyway if I’m going to design our prefab homestead in Fort Collins.

I went ahead and applied to three jobs while Jimmy was on the toilet. I’m getting closer to realizing this dream! 

Day Five

We cracked the windshield of our rental and realized that Fort Collins doesn’t even have tacos. And, the snow? I guess we can sort it all out. Not feeling good about returning to work. In fact I am so depressed about returning to work that I downloaded a free app called Pacifica on my phone so that I can track my moods and try to control my depression. Tomorrow, the journey ends, but that doesn’t mean my new life dream ends with it. 

Day Six

So stressed out because tomorrow I go back to work. It cost $60 to park our car in the airport’s longterm parking lot, and Frontier is a piece of shit airline. I feel as if we sunk all our savings into this escape and I need an extra day off just to recover and try to get my sciatica sorted. On the plane Jimmy asked about the whole moving-to-Fort-Collins-and-creating-a-prefab-homestead plan, and we both agreed that we should instead just save up to take another trip in 6 months. I hear Utah is beautiful, and that Zion National Park is a must see! 

Mysticism and Marketing: Frank Ocean’s “Silent Comeback”

This summer, Frank Ocean headlined FYF Fest (LA) and Panorama Festival (NYC), not long after a short onset of cancelations. His recent duo of performances has been hailed a breaking of silence, a coming out of hiding. The performances themselves, to music journalists and festival goers, seemed to be lacking in showmanship, and words were thrown around like: nonchalant, intimate, reserved, introspective. Those aren’t really words you often hear describing festival shows on the main stages.

Music news outlets like Spin and Pitchfork quizzically posted play by plays of both LA and NYC shows, reporting the onstage vibe as something closer to a studio session or rehearsal than a headlining performance, Frank wearing noise-canceling headphones throughout and kneeling in places onstage that proved very tricky for the festival videographers to get to.

The expectation that a headliner must give their whole selves as part and parcel of their art, that they are entertainers whose attentions ought to be entirely focused on delivering one hell of a show to a paying audience is, intentionally or not, inverted in Ocean’s hands, simply because he would likely be just as happy, if not happier, with a cult following as with international stardom.

Devon Maloney, Pitchfork

What is interesting is how the media felt the need to speculate as to why Frank was so nonchalant, so quiet and reserved onstage. Is it part of his mysticism, his whole ghosting schtick these last few years? Is he making a political statement? Why won’t he take command of the stage? Why doesn’t he employ more crazy festival antics if he’s a headliner? Why does he seem on the fringe of his own career, like he’s outside looking in on his own success?

These questions posed after his two shows made me wonder: do performers who use lots of background dancers and light shows and engage with the crowd throughout get these kinds of analyses afterward? If Frank had come onstage and acted extroverted, would he be getting the same sort of coverage?

The swirl of post-fest media coverage concerning Frank’s performances also seem to hang a few heavy questions hinting toward the future of Frank’s career: If Frank keeps canceling, if Frank doesn’t play the festival circuit game, what’s going to happen? If he keeps performing for himself and not to the crowd, will his fans disappear? Does he even care either way?

One mistaken trait of introversion is people thinking you don’t care, that you’re insensitive to their needs.

I think Frank Ocean is a true introvert, and that he does care quite a bit about his following, fame and quality of work.

I don’t think Frank is hiding or silent – he just wants his life. So few people in the spotlight don’t want to share, that it seems almost necessary to think up on-brand intentions to his actions, that his absence and cancelations are what make him all the more mystical.

In order to make everyone OK with Ocean’s introversion, his mysticism is marketed in a way that makes it seem like it was intentional, planned, part of the whole disappearing-and-reappearing act, when really, it may just be that Ocean is a quiet person and does not give a shit about meeting a certain social expectation during live performances.

How can the music industry speak for an introvert when the industry itself shouts?

The kneeling onstage, the shrinking of Frank into his own onstage bubble, reminds me of a how-to presentation I gave in middle school. How to make Frito Pie (chili eaten out of a Frito bag) was my chosen topic, and when I went up to the front of the classroom with a plastic bag full of my props, I decided to give the entire presentation kneeling partially behind a couple desks.

On the critique form my teacher gave to me after the presentation, she’d written, “Don’t be afraid to stand up next time.”

When you’re an introvert there is a need to make yourself little, to put yourself in your own bubble, but that doesn’t mean the quality of your work isn’t grand. Frank has a powerful voice, but he uses it in a quiet way. Keep kneeling, Frank. Keep kneeling.


 

Can you be accepted as an introvert in an industry that thrives on extroverts?
Can you be accepted as a quiet person when your livelihood depends on you speaking up, putting on a show and entertaining crowds in the thousands?

Yes, but it comes with an understanding from society that not being extroverted does not make you less credible, less profound, or less amazing.