Hip Priest

So I’ve been listening to a lot of The Fall lately.  They’re a band that has a VERY long history, an extremely convoluted discography, only one original member (the wonderfully irascible and outspoken Mark E Smith), and one of the weirdest rock styles in all of post-punk.  But I find I love them anyway.

(I taught myself how to play this particular track back in ’88, I love the guitar work on it!)

Recent Music Purchases, March Edition

D’OH!  Forgot to do one of these last month, so here you go.  I’ll have April’s up in a few weeks.

This year is continuing to surprise and delight me with some absolutely solid albums.  A lot of new albums by old favorites, and numerous releases by bands I hadn’t heard of previously.  I’m looking forward to more of this!

Minus the Bear, Voids (released 3 March).  I’ve been hitting this one hard lately…they kind of remind me of Shearwater, with the odd melodies that somehow fit together perfectly.  LOVE this album.

Bush, Black and White Rainbows (released 10 March).  Glad to see them having a second life with a consistent run of excellent new albums.

The Creation, Action Painting (released 17 March).  A fascinating garage band from the UK, this one packages their single 60s album (We Are Paintermen) and the singles from the same era.  They were influential to a hell of a lot of UK musicians, from Jimmy Page to Paul Weller.  [And yes, the UK record label was named after them.]

Spoon, Hot Thoughts (released 17 March).  Probably my favorite Spoon album since Kill the Moonlight back in ’02.  It’s weird, heavy, and there’s a hell of a lot of funk going on as well.

Lloyd Cole, In New York (Collected Recordings 1988-1996) (released 17 March).  A lovely counterpoint to the box set he released for his Commotions work, this contains his first five albums plus an album of demos.  An exellent and underrated songwriter.

Depeche Mode, Spirit (released 17 March).  A return to the darker and more electronic DM.  I’d say this is on par with Ultra, with its heavier, angrier sound.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, Damage and Joy (released 24 March).  Wait, this is 2017, not 1987, right?  Seriously, though…it’s a welcome return.  It sounds a lot like their mid-era sound, very similar to Honey’s Dead, but that’s definitely a good thing.

Jamiroquai, Automaton (released 31 March).  Jay Kay still has the funk, and he doesn’t skimp on it here.  I often find myself listening to this in the afternoon as a lift-me-up.

Wire, Silver/Lead (released 31 March).  What can I say?  I will buy anything and everything by this band.  They’ve never let me down once.

Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 4


I love listening to this mix. It was made in September 1998, when I was finishing up the original first draft of The Phoenix Effect.  I was in full-tilt mode on my writing habits by this time: write a few pages during the day, transcribe and revise it at home.  [I believe my comic collecting habit had gone full swing as well — driving halfway across the state on Wednesday afternoons to pick up my weekly list over in Hadley.  Not that that stopped me from working later that night anyway!]

There were a hell of a lot of great albums that came out in 1998, and many of them ended up on heavy rotation during these sessions.  [That’s another post entirely, maybe next week!]  Many of the tracks from those albums ended up on this mix.

Side A

  1. Massive Attack, “Teardrop”
    Every now and again, there’s a song that just blows you away upon first listen, and this is one of them for me.  I bought the import version of Mezzanine because I loved this track so much.  It doesn’t exactly fit in with any scenes or characters in particular, but Liz Fraser’s always-angelic vocals and the band’s sparse-yet-intense music fit the mood of my story perfectly.
  2. VAST, “Touched”
    The WEA rep handed this band’s promo cd to me and stated it would be right in my wheelhouse, and they weren’t wrong.  Not quite goth, not quite darkwave, not quite alternative, but somewhere in between.  Another mood piece I could use when I needed to write a scene full of bite.
  3. Mistle Thrush, “Shine Away”
    [Sorry for the quality…this is the only video of the song I could find.]  In a bit of serendipity, the lead singer of this band was good friends with my then-manager Tom, and he handed me their Silt album to check out.  It’s full of that heavy guitar-laden dreampop I love so much.
  4. Dishwalla, “Until I Wake Up”
    When their second album And You Think You Know What Life’s About dropped in August, I was all over it…it had their excellent songwriting of 1995’s Pet Your Friends but a much louder and heavier sound, and much darker lyrics.  This is my favorite track of theirs, and it fit the mood of frustration a lot of my characters were feeling.
  5. Primal Scream, “Higher Than the Sun”
    Their Screamadelica album remains one of my favorite albums of the 90s (really, you should own it if you don’t already).  I always loved the dreamlike trippiness of this track.  This was another track that influenced my idea of what it felt like for my characters to visit Trisanda: excitement and fascination…but also a little disorienting.
  6. Radiohead, “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”
    The Bends got a ton of play out of me even during the sessions for True Faith, because it’s that good of an album.  I liked how the track seemed to hint at community but was really more about trying to escape its stifling grip.  In a roundabout way this became another theme in the trilogy: trying to avoid the grip of outside influence.
  7. Hooverphonic, “Eden”
    Their Blue Wonder Power Milk was released the same day as the Dishwalla album and was another big favorite of mine; they’d moved past their synthetic-sounding first album and become more of an organic band here.  This track was one of the inspirations for my wanting to pair Alec and Akaina together; they knew they were different in so many ways, but their spiritual connection transcended that.
  8. Portishead, “Roads”
    I listened to Dummy quite a bit in the summer of 1995 when I was writing True Faith, and this track just stayed in my head for a long time afterwards.  By 1998 I was a big fan of triphop and catching up with all those bands that I’d missed the first time out; it’s a perfect subgenre for setting a mood.
  9. Information Society, “The Ridge”
    This track is a long way from their 1988 “What’s On Your Mind”, that’s for sure.  Essentially a Kurt Harland solo album under the InSoc banner, Don’t Be Afraid is a creepy darkwave affair with a bit of X-Files-ish conspiracy weirdness thrown in.  I used this track as a base for Denni and her trials in trying to balance being a goddess and being a teenage girl.

Side B

  1. Global Communication, “Epsilon Phase”
    I picked up both their 76:13 and Pentamerous Metamorphosis cds at the same time, after being blown away by that Pulusha track (see Vol 3).  Bonus points when I realized the latter was an ambient remix album of a Chapterhouse album!  This is a lovely transcendent track that fits in nicely with the spiritual side of the story.
  2. Portishead, “Half Day Closing”
    A track from 1997’s self-titled second album.  That record was a harder listen, though tracks like this fit in with the trippy headspace stuff I was trying to come up with.
  3. Tin Star, “Raincheck”
    The Thrill Kisser was a surprise favorite of mine (and another album where I grabbed the import before it was issued in the US).  It was a great mix of synth and guitar with quirky lyrics and music.  Another mood choice, this time for those scenes where the characters need to make unfortunate desicions.
  4. theaudience, “I Got the Wherewithal”
    You might know Sophie Ellis-Bextor for her solo dance hits in the UK, but this was her pre-solo band, and I absolutely adored their self-titled album.  It’s perky, snarky, and Very British.  I really wanted them to break in the US, but alas, they surfaced with exactly one American sampler EP before the whole Polygram/Uni shake-up ditched a crapton of good bands.
  5. U2, “Love Is Blindness”
    This was another track that I used for Alec and Akaina.  I hadn’t listened to Achtung Baby for a few years until I found a cheap cd copy at a used record store and it ended up on medium rotation for a year or so.
  6. Radiohead, “Fake Plastic Trees”
    Another single from The Bends.  Put here partly because I like the song, but I think I as also thinking about how what seems shiny and awesome on the surface is quite less so when one looks past all that.  It doesn’t show up so much in TPE or the trilogy, but it shows up in a future Mendaihu Universe story: the enlightenment of the Mendaihu and the Shenaihu may be worth celebrating years after the events in the trilogy…but there’s an ugly undercurrent that never quite went away.
  7. Hooverphonic, “2Wicky”
    I was a latecomer to Hooverphonic’s first album, but I knew this track from hearing it all over the place.  It’s a simple sci-fi sounding track that I thought would fit in with the rest of the mix.  I may have thought about a side story using this song, but I never really got anywhere with it.
  8. Rob Dougan, “Clubbed to Death [Kurayamino Variation]”
    Yes, that song from The Matrix.  I was completely sold on that film, because I’d always been frustrated by Hollywood’s inability to make an SF movie that wasn’t basically a horror or disaster movie with SF elements.  This was a true science fiction film, even if it was filled to the brim with all kinds of action film tropes; it had a story you had to think about and figure out as you were watching it.  It didn’t so much influence my own writing, as much as it confirmed that I was on the right path with my own story.  This, of course, was my favorite track from the film.

…And that concludes the original four-volume Songs from the Eden Cycle mix!  Hope you enjoyed it.  I made a few ‘sequel’ mixes during the trilogy writing years, but I’ll share those at a later time.  These four are the originals, the ones that I’d play on my tape deck in the car during the long commutes, the ones I’d listen to downstairs in the basement when writing.  I’ll still throw them on now and again; sometimes I’ll even have them on my mp3 player that I use when I go to the gym.

More Mendaihu Universe tunage coming soon!




Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 3


Volume 3 of the Eden Cycle mixtapes was put together in November of 1997, right in the midst of the fourth quarter at HMV.  I had a significant portion of The Phoenix Effect finished and a good handle on it all, so this mix was less about trying to figure out the characters as it was about trying to narrow down what kind of mood and setting I wanted.  I was quite aware that I was writing a story where the actions had big circumstances.  I understood that I didn’t want my characters to be acting in a void; whatever action took place, it was affecting more than the leads.  The rest of the city had to respond as well, even if it was passive.  The only way I could do this is to slowly but surely change the mood and the actions taking place within Bridgetown.

Volume 3, then, ended up being a study in trying to capture that idea; this time the mix wasn’t about the characters, but the setting itself.  Thus it’s darker and more introspective than the previous two.  The flow is a bit rough, and this was probably the mix I listened to least (unless I was listening to all four mixes chronologically), but there’s some excellent music on this one regardless.

Side A

  1. Rabbit in the Moon, “OBE”
    Originally a dance club hit back in 1994 (due in part to its brilliant use of sampling Tori Amos’ “Precious Things”), it got a second life as a track on the Urbal Beats Vol 1 techno compilation that came out in 1997.  This was probably the height of the 90s electronica wave, and provided me a bit of moody futurism.
  2. Shaï No Shaï, “Better with White”
    This was an obscure French band I’d discovered via one of our many cd promos and listened to this quite a bit in the back room.  This was also the height of the new age/Celtic folk boom (thank you, Riverdance), which gave me a lot of mystical background music for the more spiritual parts of my story.
  3. Mansun, “Wide Open Space”
    One of my coworkers handed me a copy of Attack of the Grey Lantern and I was completely hooked on the band.  Latter-era Britpop, when all the party sheen has worn off to reveal that darker edge.
  4. Whiskeytown, “Not Home Anymore”
    Ryan Adams’ band before he went solo, Whiskeytown was part of the wave of alt-country bands like Wilco.  I loved the creepiness of this song, the feeling of ghosts long departed.  This would be part of a theme with spiritual travel in the book (such as characters traveling to Trisanda).  Even though I had an idea of a soul’s transcendence from the body, I wanted a darker edge to it — there was always a reminder that things could go horribly wrong.
  5. Lauren Christy, “Breed (Coda)”
    A much slower, dirge-like version of her single that closes out the Breed album, this was another hint at that darker edge of spirit travel — the never-ending hunger to be connected to the body, no matter how far one wanted to transcend.  I’d use a variation of this as a major plot point in The Persistence of Memories and The Balance of Light.
  6. U2, “Please”
    Another dark song…this time a feeling of displacement, of being somewhere you don’t want to be.  The frustration of being aware of a situation you may not be able to handle alone.  This was a reminder to myself that it wasn’t just about the main characters.
  7. The Chemical Brothers, “Elektrobank”
    Dig Your Own Hole was crazy popular in 1997, and it’s no surprise, as it’s one hell of a great electronica album.  My favorite track off it was partly due to its excellent Spike Jonze video, but I also loved how twitchy this song is — the extant energy within a spirit barely contained, begging to be let out.  This theme was used a few times in TPE and once or twice in the trilogy, but I have more plans for it in future Mendaihu Universe stories!
  8. Cocteau Twins, “The Thinner the Air”
    One of my favorite CT album tracks, and one of their most dreamlike tracks.  Another song inspiring the state of the soul: at rest, but always aware.  I’d use that theme with Caren’s oft-spoken mantra throughout the trilogy, hra khera, hra mehra (to be here, to be at peace).
  9. Seal, “Crazy [Acoustic/Instrumental Mix]”
    One of my favorite tracks of the 90s, I chose this version as it flows better with the previous track…for me, it’s the moment when the already aware spirit finally chooses to take action.  This happens numerous times in TPE as well as in the trilogy; sometimes the characters are forced into action, other times its out of desperation, but each time it’s a pivotal moment.

Side B

  1. Jocelyn Pook, “Oppenheimer”
    One of my favorite promos from this time is a compilation called Invocation that features spiritual songs from all different cultures and genres.  This was my introduction to Jocelyn Pook, as well as the full speech from Robert Oppenheimer about the atomic bomb; many find ‘Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds’ is an ominous line, but I felt that ‘…I suppose we all thought that, one way or another’ really brings it home, chillingly, in terms of humanity taking responsibility for its actions.  The theme of responsibility became a very strong one in the trilogy.
  2. Forest for the Trees, “Dream”
    Time to lighten the mood just a bit.  This is the opposite of the previous track; this is celebrating what the responsible human spirit can do.  I always made it a point to balance the two within the trilogy as much as I could.  [And yes, I’m well aware that the main verse is stylistically incorrect.]
  3. The Verve, “Bittersweet Symphony [James Lavelle Remix]”
    This track was ubiquitous in 1997, and their biggest hit.  I loved this version, having found it as a b-side to one of their other singles.  Like the track before it, it’s a wish for the soul to reach out, to branch out, to move, even when all around is stasis.  (James Lavelle would pop up later in 1998 as the leader of one of my favorite bands, UNKLE.)
  4. Orbital, “The Box [Single Version]”
    Another excellent electronica single of the era, this particular track’s twitchiness and minor key works with my theme of balance: even though the soul wants to reach out, it also needs to be aware of what it’s reaching for and what the outcome will be.
  5. Dubstar, “Stars”
    Another promo I fell in love with, Goodbye is a lovely synthpop album with some damn fine songs on them.  This particular track resonated with me as feeling like the opening credits theme to a romantic anime series; I was still obsessed with anime then (it was still hard as hell to find through normal avenues) and the album was a good reminder of this story’s origins and how I wanted to portray it.
  6. Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt”
    Interestingly, The Downward Spiral is an album I listened to constantly in the mid-90s, but I find it a hard listen to now, given how raw it is emotionally. This track is a perfect ending song for the album, though, considering it’s a song of, well, maybe not redemption, but acceptance.  It’s dark as hell, but there’s hope at the end.
  7. Pulusha, “Isolation, Pt 1”
    Another track off the Invocation compilation, and the track that introduced me to Global Communication (whose member Mark Pritchard is behind this track).  This is an especially important track for me, as it inadvertently helped me figure out a plot line I’d been fighting for a long time: when a character’s soul departs a body, what takes its place if the person is still alive?  I’d been listening to this track when I finally figured out the answer: balance.  Even as all the characters were seeing their world as Mihari or Misuteru, they were refusing to see that, deep down, they were in fact both; it’s just that culture has forced people to chose one or the other as dominant and the other as weakness.  If one leaves, the other stays.  This realization broke down a hell of a huge wall for me and cleared the way for the rest of the novel and the trilogy.  In essence, this is when I came up with the cho-nyhndah theme.

Hope you enjoyed the mix!  Volume 4 will come up soon, and I think you’ll like that one…there’s a hell of a lot of great tracks on that one.







Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 2


This next mixtape was made a few months after Volume 1, when I had a little more of an idea of where I wanted to go with the story.  The songs on this mix, then, were not about trying to evoke a specific mood; this was more about trying to figure out who my characters were.

There was a reason for this: in my previous projects, the characters were always based on someone.  In the pre-1993 projects, they were usually inspired by certain traits of people I knew personally.  For True Faith, I’d based characters on certain actors that I could see playing that role.  For The Phoenix Effect, however, I wanted to do my homework.  These characters would be true creations and not cameos.

Side A

  1. George Harrison, “Isn’t It a Pity”
    I’d always loved this track of George’s, and that summer while listening to All Things Must Pass, I realized this encapsulated some of Alec Poe’s views of humanity: so much potential, yet falling so short, so often.  You don’t see it as much in the first two books of the trilogy, but it really comes to the fore in The Balance of Light.
  2. The Smashing Pumpkins, “Tonight, Tonight”
    Their Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness album had been a big seller at HMV during the winter of 1996 and this track had gotten a lot of airplay everywhere.  [I particularly loved the Georges Méliès homage in the video, having studied A Trip to the Moon in college.]  In reference to my story, this kind of hinted at how the Mihari (aka the Mendaihu) would approach being spiritually awakened; excited and curious.
  3. Depeche Mode, “Home”
    Another song connected to Alec Poe; the song, like a lot of Depeche Mode’s love songs, is deeply emotional yet extremely self-conscious.  Poe has a hard time dealing with people sometimes, but his initial meeting with Akaina (even in TPE) changed all that.
  4. Beck, “The New Pollution”
    Back when the Mihari and Misuteru (aka the Mendaihu and Shenaihu) were awakened in AI bodies, this track fit pretty well as a simple yet effective ‘alone in a new world’ feel.
  5. Tori Amos, “Little Earthquakes”
    I’d been a passive Tori fan, but one day back in 1994 I’d heard a college station play this track, and I realized just how intensely beautiful the track was.  I’d initially thought about using this as character development for Akaina, but soon realized it fit Saone Lehanna’s character so much better.  A character who’d been changed against her will and had to deal with the consequences.
  6. U2, “Gone”
    This would be a song for a bunch of the characters who had to deal with those new changes they’d gone through.  This song in particular reminded me of those like Alec and Caren who had to come to terms with the fact that they were no longer exactly who they’d been just a short time ago.  While some would accept it, others like Saone and Caren were angry.
  7. Live, “White, Discussion”
    And there are those who refused to give in so easily.  This song inspired me to think of how to deal with the tension; conflict between the Mihari and Misuteru, conflict between the awakened and the unawakened.  Even conflict in how ‘pure’ some people had become in spirit.  The spiritual awakening of my story was not going to be a peaceful one.
  8. Delirium, “Silence [feat. Sarah McLachlan]”
    I’d gotten into a lot of new agey music around 1994-6, which partly influenced the worldbuilding of the Mendaihu Universe.  There were also a wave of chillout electronica bands at the time (like Delerium, Enigma, and so on) that helped set the mood for various characters’ spiritual mindsets.  Tracks like this one (which got a lot of airplay then) got me to think about how recently awakened characters would handle their situation.  How would they see the world and those around them?  How would they balance what they were sensing psychically versus using their other five senses?

Side B

  1. Sneaker Pimps, “Post-Modern Sleaze”
    Becoming X is another album on my platinum album playlist, especially for its gloomy triphop sound.  I didn’t use this track for any character in particular, but it did fit both Akaina’s and Saone’s situations.
  2. Republica, “Ready to Go [US Mix]”
    One of the first cds I bought from HMV when I started!  I liked the energy in this track; fast forward and unrelenting.  This was more a mindset of who I would see living in the McCleever and Waterfront Districts.  This is what I meant by the original opening of TPE, with Nehalé witnessing the unbridled, directionless energy that evening.
  3. Stabbing Westward, “What Do I Have to Do?”
    Their second album Wither Blister Burn & Peel got a lot of play during my post-Boston, pre-HMV era, when I was still trying to figure out what to write next.  This ended up being a good balance with the previous track; while the former is positive and uplifting, this one is negative and angry.  The spirits Nehalé felt that he was afraid of.
  4. Sarah Brightman, “Cape Horn/A Salty Dog”
    I knew this was a cover of a Procol Harum track about sailing, but Sarah Brightman’s classy, poppy version made me think of an anime I’d seen a few years previous (I’d forgotten the name) that had a wonderfully exciting (and a bit cheesy) sequence of a giant spaceship setting out towards the stars.  This brought to mind an image of the Meraladians making their way to Earth, and the Earthers making their way back to Trisanda eons later.
  5. The The, “Good Morning Beautiful”
    It was around this time that I realized that spiritual balance was an interesting theme worth investigating in my new universe.  Matt Johnson’s devastating warning about being a passive believer raised a hell of a lot of questions for me, questions that would become central to the Bridgetown trilogy.
  6. Elton John, “Believe”
    That same theme is brought up here, though in a much more positive way; the question here isn’t whether one wants to let belief take over; it’s now what it is that they’re letting take over.  In this case, it’s love and compassion.  That would be the Mihari/Mendaihu tenet from here on in.
  7. Soul Asylum, “Black Gold”
    This one is a holdover from the 1993 Vigil story.  The lyrics ‘this flat land used to be a town’ gave me the idea of setting a story in the far future; not just with sciencey gadgets and everything, but with the disintegration and disappearance of the old historical parts of the world.  I’d use this later with True Faith (with NewCanta as an enclosed circular city) and especially with the trilogy (with Bridgetown as a megacity and the idea of small towns becoming Wilderland outposts).
  8. Joy Askew, “Corrine”
    A sort of rewrite of “Dear Prudence” in a way, and a track that had popped up on a promo compilation I’d gotten from the record store.  I liked the idea of having a character who’d kept themselves shut up for a length of time — not out of mental instability but because they were afraid of what they’d become — and I later realized this is what Caren Johnson would be like.
  9. Phish, “Free”
    I’d known about Phish since my college years when my freshman year roommate played Lawn Boy incessantly, but it wasn’t until Billy Breathes that I finally got into them.  This is one of their rare tracks that ended up getting a lot of radio airplay, but it’s a great track nonetheless.  I used this to balance out the previous track; while the former was about hiding from oneself, this was about celebrating it.  This is what Caren so desperately wanted to be.


Hope you enjoyed this mixtape!  As you can tell, I was still trying to figure out not just the story but who was involved in it, and how they’d evolve.  The next volume is a bit similar in that regard, but the themes are a little more stable and less meandering.  By Volume 4 (my favorite of them), I knew exactly what I wanted.

Aside: Music as Sanctuary

The other day Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said the following on CNN:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on Tuesday said Americans may have to choose between purchasing a new iPhone or paying for health insurance.
“You know what, Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice,” the House Oversight Committee chairman told CNN’s
New Day, one day after the House GOP unveiled its plan to replace ObamaCare.
“And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest in their own healthcare.”

As you can well imagine, the blowback on social media was swift and deafening.  The one thing you do not want to argue with a poor person is whether or not they deserve something you deem frivolous.  You do not want to kick down, because they’ll kick you right back even harder.  [Noted, he did attempt to walk back the comment, but his follow-up was still basically “you poor folk will still need to go without Fun Stuff if you want to be healthy.”]

Why do I bring this up here at Walk in Silence?  What does this have to do with my obsession with music, anyway?  [And for a very slight few of you: oh god why is he bringing up politics and ruining an otherwise decent blog?]


Let me tell you a little about my post-college years, from mid-1993 to late 1996.  Yeah, I’ve talked about this before in previous entries, but rarely in detail.  Stay with me on this.

See, when you’re too damn fucking broke, you’ve got student loan debt, the average apartment rent in Boston at the time is around $400-500 a month, your paycheck averages around $200 every two weeks at a job that you don’t necessarily want but is what’s available for someone with little to no business experience, but you’re absofuckinglutely determined to make a name for yourself somewhere in the working world…you do any damn thing you can to make it happen.

You survive on take-out and what groceries you can skim from your parents.  You borrow money from your parents to attempt getting caught up.  You defer those loan payments.  You maybe skip a payment on the credit card so you can buy food for yourself.  You deal with a long-distance relationship because your girlfriend is too broke to stay in town for the summer and has to live with her mom for the season, which means the only mode of contact is writing letters and, very rarely, a phone call.

And because of your committed career choice as a writer, with absolutely no publications to show for it just yet, and you’re still learning the ropes, you know you’ll need a Day Job to cover expenses.  And pretty quickly you know you have no interest in business sales — you dislike trying to sell something to someone that you yourself aren’t interested in (in this case, a telemarketing job selling toll-free numbers to small businesses), and you really dislike the idea of having to aim for a quota in order to keep your job.  You briefly entertain a position doing transcription, but you don’t really have the ear or the speed for that.  So that means you’ll end up working at some blue collar establishment, like an ice cream parlor, or a movie theater.  You’re not above that; it’s what you’ve done for day jobs in the past.

You were on your parents’ insurance until you graduated back in May of 1993.  You don’t even fucking think of entertaining that expense, because you know you won’t even be able to afford it.  Not without cutting elsewhere.  Like moving back home with the family.  They’ll have you, of course, but you’d feel like such a goddamned failure because you graduated with a BA from college and can’t even get a fucking career off the ground, let alone living in a city where all the jobs (what there are of them) may actually be.

So.  No insurance.  Low-paying job.  Hardly any food in the refrigerator.  All your college friends have moved on and left the city.  The only thing that you get by on is a pack of cigarettes that you make last for two weeks or so, water, tea and instant coffee, toast or cereal, and food that you didn’t pay for from your Day Job (hot dogs and soda is a frequent dinner, with a chaser of popcorn).

Your next door neighbor, a guy you know from college who’s living comfortably on his own due to having rich parents (he owns a number of kind-of-expensive toys from Sharper Image to prove it).  He’s your only friend of note at the moment, and even at that point he’s more of a clueless prick than a friend.  He wonders why you won’t come out with him to dinner at that restaurant or to see that movie, even when you tell him repeatedly that you can’t afford it.  He wonders why you won’t splurge on things you need, considering you have a credit card and all.  And because he’s pretty much the only person you know in the city to any degree, he’s your hangout buddy.  And because you don’t know what else to do with your miserable fucking life, he’ll easily talk you into doing things that get you deeper into debt.

You’ll make one stop at Beth Israel Hospital one early winter morning early in 1995 when you have an insanely sharp pain in your groin area and you have no idea what’s causing it.  You have no insurance, so when you’re filling out the hospital forms, you say you have no frigging idea how to pay for it, if at all.  You tough it out and decide to be a charity case.  After staying overnight at the hospital (where you’ve been shoved aside and left out in the hallway for hours before some intern comes by and finally realizes you haven’t been seen), you’re told that the pain is caused by an overlong twisted vein that’s been starved of blood.  Not caused by an injury or anything…just a weird medical issue that can happen to any male.  Things are readjusted and you’re given the information that to permanently fix it, you’ll need to have a minor surgery done.

You already know that’s out of the fucking question.  You deal with it, get discharged, walk to the subway and ride home.  You call in sick (no sick time pay, by the way) and take the day off.  [You won’t get that fixed until two years later when it flares up again, and thankfully this time you have insurance to take care of it.  And sick time.]

Eventually this will all come to a head in the summer of 1995, when your original plan to renew your lease in that apartment in Allston falls through.  No roommates (your original roomie moves out, the replacement backs out), no phone (cut off due to overdue bills), hardly any food (which your ex-roommate ate anyway), and still no way to get ahead.

You finally make the decision, say fuck this shit, and move back home with your parents, which you will do for the next decade, just so you can get caught up with bills again and fix your completely decimated credit rating.  It’s the most frustrating, the most depressing, the most goddamn aggravating decision you’ve ever made in your life.


What was all that about, anyway?  And what does that have to do with Jason Chaffetz’s complete lack of empathy?  And why here at Walk in Silence?


See, there was in fact one thing that kept me from going batshit crazy, from wanting to jump off a bridge, from wanting me to do something truly and colossally stupid.  Something that kept me sane.

And that was music.

Not a day went by when I didn’t have the radio going, or was listening to my music collection.  It was my one splurge.  It was my sanity.  My sanctuary.  I rarely bought new releases, as I could only afford them every couple of months, and a few titles at that.  No, I built up my vinyl collection by digging through the dollar bins at the used record stores around town.  I had a pretty decent collection of classic rock and sort-of-recent releases at a fraction of the cost.

To a lesser extent, I’d also rent movies every couple of weeks from Tower Records.  Those were cheap, maybe a few dollars for an overnight rental every couple of weeks.  Did I feel guilty about that?  Not one bit.  It was how I rediscovered anime which inspired me to try my hand at writing science fiction instead of literary fiction.  It completely opened my eyes and my mind to new creative avenues in my writing, and started me on the path to where I am today.

But the point here is:  music was my sanctuary.  It was one of the very few positives in my life at that time.

Did I make some dumb financial mistakes?  Sure.  We all do at that age.  Maybe I could have sold more of my albums back to the stores for money — something I did a few times, actually — but that was just a temporary, finite answer to an ongoing problem.   It gave me pocket money for one run to the supermarket for food.  Could I have done without the music or the video rentals?  Sure, but I probably would have been a hell of a lot more miserable than I already was.

Music was the inspiration for my writing.  It was something I chose to afford because it gave me something to look forward to.  It was something that helped me feel that little bit happier when I was going through a hell of a deep depression.  It reminded me that there was a light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

And I would not let my finances, or anyone else for that matter, take that one oasis away from me.  No fucking way.

So yeah.

This is why — this is one of many reasons why — when I hear from asshats like Chaffetz who decide that poor people must ‘do without’, even for things such as phones — which keep people connected to the world and help them stay available and contactable for job openings, health screenings, and loved ones — I get extremely angry and my filter goes out the goddamn window.

You, Jason, do not fucking understand what it is to live your live on the margins with barely a way to get yourself out.  Not one goddamn clue.

You deserve no nice words from me.

Ultrasound’s ‘Everything Picture’

In the last few years of my run at HMV, I was given the go-ahead to do special orders for customers, as well as order the occasional import.  This came in handy when NSYNC released the single “Bye Bye Bye” some time before the No Strings Attached album; I knew it would be a huge seller despite the price, so I had them order a good hundred or so copies.  They all sold out within a few days.

Around that time, I’d been reading all the reviews in the British music magazines and catching up on bands that may or may not break here.  One of my favorite finds was a five-piece called Ultrasound, whose sound was a fantastic cross between crunchy guitar-led Britpop (very similar to Kaiser Chiefs, predating them by at least a few years) and seventies psychedelia, with a bit of Pink Floydish prog in there as well.  They released a handful of singles and one album, Everything Picture, before breaking up.  [They would, however, reconvene twelve years later for a second album, Play for Today, and have just released a new mini-album at the end of 2016.]

It’s a sprawling album, twelve long tracks stretching an hour and a half over two cds (most of the tracks are around six or seven minutes long, with the last track featuring a truly epic freakout that lasts a little over 21 minutes plus a two-minute hidden track!).  Due to its length and wide scope, many critics found it bloated and meandering, but despite that, it reached to number 23 on the UK Albums chart, and it’s remained a fan favorite.  I for one loved that it was a long album; a sort of The Beatles only with fewer and much longer songs.  I dubbed it onto cassette and listened to it constantly whenever I drove around New England.

The single “Stay Young” is one of my favorites from this album.  It’s a wonderful rock anthem from the loud-soft-loud school, a twenty-first century rewrite of “My Generation” in a way.

The track “Aire & Calder” is another favorite.  I love its driving beat and folksy melody that evokes the feeling of riding a caravan through the British wetlands.  [Aire and Calder are two rivers that meet up near Goole and Castleford just outside Leeds; both towns are name-dropped within the song as well.]

The album still holds up well nearly eighteen years later.  I can see where the critics were frustrated, as it slides all over the place, changing moods and sounds constantly (again, much like the White Album), but taken as a whole, it remains a strong record from start to finish.