"Looking Through Windshields"

I’ve been looking through windshields
I’m not embarrassed
but still this feels like a confession
a vicarious confession for all the voyeurs
My voyeur is licensed to drive by the state of Washington

some of the people in those windshields lower blinds that rest on their ears and shade their eyes with words like COOL or BUSY or RICH
others have unlocked doors and invite me to the pulp of their meals and conversations
but in either case
it is behind a windshield that many people simply lose themselves
in music or misery

I see stories driving by at 6 miles over the speed limit, or two miles under,
but the best stories correspond to all I cannot see through windshields
families and jobs and fucks and drugs and groceries so important they couldn’t be reached on foot
dark faces that had either the good sense or the bad fortune never to get here

some of the people in those windshields lower blinds
others advertise
but in either case
I am the voyeur
I look through windshields
I drive a razor sharp flagstaff into the tip of this mountain,
violently the fabric screams its neon-pink “V”
high above cameras and masks
façade camps with oxygen tanks
networking novels that leak pages of plot holes
all ignoring the shadow cast
by the zenith peak above them
a windshield covered in snow
I’ve been looking for you all!

"Welcome"

First of all,
the English language has its limitations

and so do I

Second,
This is not Love,
this is a poem about Love
specifically, what it means to be young and in Love

This means,
among other things,
that the enigma, the occurrence, the happening, the feeling
it is muffled
by the transition of all humanity into the funnel of words, the funnel of perception, and
then it is smothered by every weakness I have as an individual

That is to say,
Love will never be a poem

Love can never be a poem

Love poems, however transcendent,
can only aspire to be an aftershock,
an echo
of the initial reality

Accepting this,
not as a limitation but as a testament to the indescribable power of consciousness
could be seen as a first step

Next,
I am not the first person to write down my feelings, nor will I be the last
I can only speculate as to the reason we create art
Art can “move” us
Which means, it can affect us in ways for which we have no translation
This is where our inefficiencies are put under the microscope
It seems, under this microscope,
that one cannot write about Love
without using words that were rendered cliché long ago
words that no longer retain the power that once gave them value

One can find all sorts of ways around it:
Metaphor, Simile, Personification,
allegory, rhyme, musicality,
ethics, rationale, causality,
wordplay

But ultimately Love cannot be described unless the listener is willing to put the time and effort into remembering the meanings of words,
as they stood, before our first futile grasps at the manipulation of English
as a vehicle for what cannot by nature be moved;
words like soul, or Love
try hard enough,
and you should come to the conclusion that these are shorthands
symbols,
for things we can be reasonably sure
exist
not only in the hypothetical reality of our minds,
but in the minds of those around us
sensations we all seem to have in common, more or less

Now, where was I…
Ah, yes –
Once again,
I am a writer, a poet, and a human being,
and as such,
the moment I put these words in a position where they can be read,
they lose an awful lot
they lose whatever meaning or intention I can be said to give them
– consciously or subconsciously –
they lose their objectivity
In the sense that death is transitory,
they die

Got that?

It’s flawed.
The writer is flawed, the system is flawed, the art is flawed.

Purposefully, necessarily, fundamentally…flawed

Let’s accept that and move on, undeterred
Let’s take it as a hint
that Love could never be contained by art

If Heaven exists,
there might also exist a sign at the entrance.
It might read, “Welcome To Heaven!”
Or something to that effect
That sign – is not Heaven.

It might use the word “Heaven,”
It might be located near Heaven,
It might be understood, comprehended
It might be helpful, in directing one to Heaven

But it’s not Heaven.

Love can never be a poem.

This is shorthand, this is symbolism, this is a sign at the gates of Heaven.

“Welcome.”

Life can be said to exist on a scale.
Some of us are more awake than others
Some of us are “living”
through impulse, instinct, intuition, and most of all: reflex
One might do all these things, and thusly be known as “alive”
All without experiencing very much at all.
Think about the collaboration of the mind with the things around it:
Think about the difference between watching television and reading a book
Think about the difference between reading about a kiss, and a kiss
Think about the difference between a kiss, and a kiss with someone who matters to you
Once again, we see the varying degrees of “life”
If we don’t, we aren’t ready to be young and in Love
In fact, we aren’t even ready to read a poem about being young and in Love
Not only are we not ready for Heaven,
we are not ready to read the sign
We may feel very strongly to the contrary
We may even get angry that our capabilities would come under fire
We may feel the malaise of having been doubted
But that doesn’t change the fact that we are not ready
Not ready for Love
We may be ready to feel attachment, infatuation, sympathy, empathy, fleeting moments of understanding
We may be ready to feel a relentless urge to fuck
Not just something or someone, for the sake of reproduction
but someone we think of as special
Someone we convince ourselves as carrying meaning
beyond others who have the same reproductive capabilities
We may say to ourselves, “I want her,” or “I want him.”
We may even say to ourselves, “Nobody else matters. I don’t want anybody else.”
But
This is not Love.

This is drive, this is focus
these are the birth pangs of determination
and that is integral in understanding our self-perception

We are just ourselves.
We are linked, somehow, to everyone else,
but we are, at most,
one person at a time
and when we die, we will enter death
unaccompanied

It might take death to understand what it means to be ourselves, and no one else
what it means to be unaccompanied
It might take near-death
It might take religion, or illness, or drugs
But once we realize it,
we see our lovers as venues
keys to doors that exist, like everything else in our universes,
for us
a squire to synchronicity

Then the feeling of being ourselves, and no one else
has less to do with alienation
and more to do with integration, harmony

We’re alive now, we’ll be dead soon,
and in that respect,
we’re like everyone else that can be said to exist, if only in our minds

So,

to be young and in love
means understanding that we experience the same energy, the same feelings
as everyone else who has ever been in love
and, simultaneously,
uniquity

(My drive is to be an individual, like you.
My drive is to be an individual like you.)

Wow.

No one can ever love you the way I love you here
the way I love you now
the way I love you always

So I am young and in Love
and that means not only that I am experiencing the apex of my life
It means, also,
that I am experiencing the apex of all life
In such a way that we can be said to share something
There was a man, lived long ago, who fell in love
he may have been more or less in love than me
but I will never be him
I can only love the way I do now, the way I know how
and thusly,
this Love is the greatest Love, the only Love, the farthest reaching point in this room that can be said to have walls

Think about forever
think about eternity
think about your life in terms of something that can and will end
if you’re doing it right, this should shake you
but as a reward
you will see life as having walls, and you will be able to push them back
expanding our existence
Did you feel that?
That was fear
fear is a tool for self-preservation
you may fear heights
A fall from great heights may end your life. It may kill you.
The fear keeps you away from great heights. The fear keeps you alive.
In the process, it may keep you from exhilaration, from experience, from excitement
but at the very least, it keeps you alive
Alive for another second
Now, the fear you just felt was not for self-preservation
and thusly could not even be known as “fear,” per se
But we will call it fear
as a shorthand

“Welcome”

This fear is from the knowledge of our own mortality
our limitations
we don’t like to be reminded of our own temporality
this fear stems from something we cannot save ourselves from,
even with the sacrifice of endless amounts of exhilaration, experience, or excitement
This fear is the sensation of our soul chasing its tail
This fear may be endlessly frustrating
This fear may seem completely undesirable

But let’s talk about attention –
Attention can be thought of as a quantity of marbles
We take these marbles and we delegate them to things we perceive
in a scenario, I may be in my parents’ living room
I delegate 10 marbles to the television, which is playing a commercial
20 to my father, who is telling me about his day
3 to the smell of dinner, being cooked in the adjacent kitchen
16 to stress, that my day’s work is far from over
8 to a cut on my finger, which gives me pain
12 to hope, that I will see my best friend later in the evening
thoughts and sensations I am having, all at once
To understand Love, you will need to take all your marbles and put them in the exact same place, all at once – if only for an instant
if you can do this, you will be immersed in the present moment
you will be unable to lend a single synapse, a single marble,
to worries or anticipations regarding the past or future
Fear & Desire will become irrelevant and you will find yourself
completely and utterly content to be alive

Life is full of moments in which our marbles are scattered
we have spread our experience of the given moment thin
we have spread our lives thin

…most of us

but not me

I am young & in Love
and I am Here & Now always
always for her
always living, never really sleeping
always for her

“Welcome”

"April 9th, 2007"

Riley Fishburn
April 9th, 2007

I woke up and it was already 1:13 p.m. I was getting a late start, but by 1:15 I was (practically) fully awake, and I had roughly 26 hours until my first meeting with my new professor. It was to be a day of writing, and I was nervous about being behind the gun, but excited to see what I would come up with.

With my new roommate, Don Jeezy, and my first apartment, I was another step farther from Coupeville. That’s the thing they don’t tell you about moving away from home. It seems you move farther from “home sweet home” with each move to a new house. No matter if it be a modest apartment, campus housing, or a duplex in town, it never seems to be anything like home. No combination of posters, pictures of old friends, or soundtrack can recreate the sanctuary-ambience of Coupeville for me. My big, baby shit-green house in the middle of Whidbey Island’s smallest farm town had its own mythology in my mind. I feel safer there sometimes, under the watchful eye of the always gossipy, occasionally judgmental neighbors and a fleet of cops with nothing else to do, than in the enveloping field of Evergreen amidst a sea of well-wishing pacifists, most of whom have never been in a fight.

I distracted myself and snapped out of homesick trances by keeping busy.

A man of my upbringing, not at all an uncommon one, is subject to countless instances of heroism in those who push themselves to the limit. Whether it be Michael Jordan or Tony Montana, Jason McElwain or Jim Abbott, there is no shortage of role models who rise to the occasion and emerge triumphant in the face of adversity. But now, I often feel helpless in a field where intangibles like “the mood,” “writer’s block,” and “the zone” carry more weight than adrenaline, clutch, or raw desire. Besides, we had no cable in our new apartment, and writing about sports, I discovered, was difficult without the luxury of watching sports.

It had been two days since Moony, one of my closest and dearest friends from back home, had left for Iraq. I had expected this would leave me emotionally laden and with plenty to write about. However, much to my dismay, it had instead left me cold and stolid. This was most likely due in part to the fact that I hadn’t been able to see him and say goodbye before he left. I went home specifically with the intention to do just that, but he had been too busy with family business to hang out with the rest of the guys and I the night before his departure. The morning of, some buddies of mind went to his house early in the morning to see him, and they were supposed to pick me up on the way at 8 o’clock. When I woke up at 9:30, I called and found out they had gone without me. That is a memory I hope never to revisit, but I suspect I will do so frequently in the next 7-10 months until Moony returns home.

Since that morning, I had written only a single poem. I wasn’t ready to write about Moony leaving … yet. Instead, the poem was about a neighbor who had asked my parents that morning to take down the flag that flies in their front yard, claiming it was offensive.

It was a peace sign.

Jeezy came out of his room and showed me a coupon for a free lunch at IHOP, and we each quickly abandoned our plans of getting lots of work done at home and we were off; Jeezy had succumbed to hunger while I was just looking to stimulate new thoughts and maybe even get some pancakes in the process.

The previous day had been Don Jeezy’s 20th birthday. For him, it was less a celebration than it was a cold reminder of the three hundred and sixty-five long days he had to wait until we has legal drinking age. There’s really not much you can do at 20 that you can’t do at 19, truth be told.

For his gift, I’d gotten Jeezy a magnum of wine and the debut album from a NY rapper named Mims. How strange, I thought… two or three years ago I may have actually liked this album, but now Jeezy and I were listening strictly as parody, laughing out loud at Mims’ boasts concerning his Billboard status and #1 most downloaded ring-tone, as well as his triumphant self promotion. Whenever there was moment he had not yet graced the track, he would simply yell out his own name to fill the air, as though perhaps you’d forgotten whose album you had purchased – “Mims!

We arrived at IHOP and waited a few moments. I was banging on an invisible bell in the lobby when we were finally welcomed by our waiter, a man in his late 40’s with a dirty blonde comb-over and a comically large moustache. He looked like a thin, sober Rip Taylor.

When he asked if I wanted soup or salad, I misheard and wondered - will I have room beyond my chicken for this “SuperSalad?”

“No thank you.” I replied.

“Either way, it’s free.” Don Jeezy interjected. I caught on, ordered a salad with 1000 Island dressing, and we continued discussing our excitement for what else Mims had to say.

Jeezy asked if we could stop by campus so he could rent a digital camera from media loan. Half-listening, I nodded my head somberly as I stared out the window behind him. Olympia’s excuse for “sunlight” was shifting in a hurry. From a distance, it seemed only cloudy, but a barrage of raindrops revealed themselves on the sidewalk nearest the IHOP window. It seemed proper furnishing for such a day. Although I was wearing shorts, and was sure to be freezing cold by the time we reached campus, at least I would not be tempted to spend the rest of the day outside. I just hoped the rain would not manifest in a dreary tone of writing, as it seemed to have done throughout the winter.

By the time we made it to campus, it was still raining. Although, the second we stepped out of the car, it turned to hail.

“It’s better than rain, I guess,” said Jeezy. “Instead of sticking to you and getting you wet, it just kinda bounces off you.”

“I don’t know,” I replied, “Hail’s no fun either…it’s like an endless barrage of mild annoyances.”

“…Just like life.” Don Jeezy quipped.

When he returned with his camera, he was carrying it in an absurdly oversized compartment – nothing short of a suitcase. It was black on black and had espionage appeal. Before I could even make fun of him for it, he laughed. He claimed Media Loan had no real reason for giving him this ridiculous carrying case. He asserted that perhaps it made people treat the camera a bit more carefully; After all, nothing could be assigned such a trunk unless it were very, very important.

We were walking back to the car when I heard a sort of half-sing, half-chant off in the distance. I didn’t give it a second thought (after all, this sort of thing is rather commonplace on campus) until I saw Jeezy come to a sudden halt out of my peripherals. He didn’t have to say a thing – I knew just then what was going on.

“Wait a second - ” Jeezy began…
“Holy shit…” I muttered.
“Is that…?”
“Eskay!!!” we called out in unison.

There, about 50 feet in the distance, was a frumpy, balding African man in a three-piece suit. The self-proclaimed Prince of Kenya appeared to have been visiting from … wherever it is he does…whatever it is he does. I knew he had spent a great deal of the previous 6 months in a mental institution in Seattle. Jeezy and I walked near toward him as he wandered around the dorm rooms aimlessly, singing in a very high pitch. I no longer attempt to decipher or find any meaning in the songs Eskay sings, but I listened intently just the same. It had been awhile since I’d had the pleasure of zoning out to his nonsensical ramblings, and I missed it.

We called his name again as we approached. This time, he stopped singing and looked at us.

“Who is it?!?” he sang.

“Dude … you’re not blind.” Jeezy said, as he hugged Eskay.

I hugged him, too, and he began to dance. Onlookers sported either a smirk and a giggle, or a confused expression of awe. The latter, of course, were the freshmen.

“Eskay,” Jeezy began in a deadly-serious tone.

“Do you want to go smoke right now?”

Eskay excitedly seconded the notion, and we were off to the woods, adding another member to our crew on the way, whom Jeezy and Eskay appeared to know, but whom I’d never met.

I was excited to go out to the woods. I hadn’t been since I moved off campus, and even in the waning months of campus living, I had taken for granted what many consider to be the greatest student resource here at The Evergreen State College. I had many, many fond memories from the woods.

If the field represents one side of Evergreen, I suppose the forest represents the other. If the field represents the social climate, the forest is a symbol for the catharsis and introspective thinking that seems to be an inevitable side-effect of living and learning in that climate.

Unfortunately, my retrospective sunglasses proved a bit rosy. I never remembered the many various trails of the woods being this wet. With each step I cringed as my white British Knight high-tops sunk half an inch into the trail, further dirtying the shoes I once vowed never to wear, having been autographed by Zaakir of Jurassic-5. They’d been through a lot since then – but cleaning this jungle brush, I thought, would be a real bitch.

With this in the back of my mind, I was nonetheless calmed by the enveloping nature of the woods. It was a rare occurrence, after all, in this day, to have found myself once again in an area where there seemed to be no imposing evidence of man’s presence. A closer look would reveal a number of bridges scattered, abandoned swings, and even a couple of hand-rails. But there is a scent to the whole experience that should really be right up there with 8 glasses of water, some exercise, and an apple as daily prescriptions. Even in the damn hail.

We arrived at a small creek and stopped on a sturdy but superfluous bridge, suspending us 6 or 7 inches above the audible flow of the stream.

“I think we should smoke here.” said Don Jeezy. Eskay jumped all over the idea.

“– yeah!” he shouted, and we agreed.

Eskay’s eyes had widened and his often frantic mind was clearly zoned in. Damn, I thought, this guy is a fiend!

Eskay and the unnamed, newly acquired member of our crew each took a big hit, and started coughing furiously. Just then, we heard someone coming down the trail. No one spoke, but there was a latent sense of paranoia that whoever it was would get us into trouble. For a few seconds, all one could hear throughout the entire woodland was the sound of coughing and rapidly approaching footsteps. A young white woman at least six feet tall came into sight and walked across the bridge.

“It’s marijuana!” Eskay shouted at her, for no apparent reason at all. The girl giggled and walked past us without breaking stride while the rest of us collapsed in a fit of laughter. Our hysterical shrieks echoed and could probably have been heard everywhere from the entrance of the woods all the way down to the waterfront. I hadn’t laughed like that in a long while and it felt like it had been waiting to come out for some time.

I thought of Moony. Two years ago, we had been in essentially the same position: Two white, middle-class males with more opportunity than we were willing to acknowledge. All we wanted was to take our 400 meter relay team to State, win, and then find someone to buy us some beer to celebrate. We were in the midst of our glory days, and we knew it. Thusly, we were so wrapped up in soaking it all in, we didn’t give much thought to the idea of life beyond Coupeville.

We were more than happy, we were perfect – but we were archetypes, not yet developed into men, with identities. Somewhere in that odyssey, Moony lost his way.

A year and a half ago, we were in a different chapter of the same story. Still, essentially, in the same position as each other: confused, afraid, and not ready to leave home as we were hurled into a world that was so much bigger than Coupeville it terrified us. But we had each other. All the guys were experiencing some manner of the same crisis. We’d call one another late at night and reminisce about the good ol’ days as though they’d been decades ago. It seemed like from college to college, none of the guys liked their new friends as much as the clique from back home. Something about growing up together in a town with one stop light forges a bond that cannot be shaken. It lives on for all of us, if only in our memories.

I often lay awake at night and click my teeth mindlessly to the beat of Bill Ward’s drums, wondering where I would be if Moony and I had remained on such parallel tracks. When I say Evergreen saved my life, is there an underlying veil of literal truth?

These late-night mental journal entries usually conclude as my eyes close, with a half-assed commitment, broken in my dreams, to either kill myself, join the Marines, or join the Peace Corps. I wake in the morning to a jumbled neutrality, comprised of all three. I come to a fork in the road and turn around rather than face the consequences of left or right.

In the midst of all this inner turmoil, a shared, hearty laugh in the waning sun of the Evergreen forest is something to be cherished. We sat together, and soaked in the peace of it all. Don Jeezy asked Eskay if he wanted to freestyle with him. They decided Eskay would go first, but as Jeezy supplied the beat, Eskay suddenly called it all off.

He gave us each a stern, deliberate look in the eyes.

“You are a redneck … you are a redneck … and you are a redneck!”

I could see we were in for one of Eskay’s patented rants.

“And if you say ‘Hey Nigger’ I will say, ‘Yes, what is it?’ And if you say ‘Pardon me’ I will say, ‘Yes, you are pardoned.’ … ”

Jeezy nodded in silence. I could see that he really just wanted someone to freestyle with, so I cut Eskay off there and we began walking back home.

As Don Jeezy and I got back into my bright red Mazda-3, suddenly it donned on me that I was focused entirely on the future. Always stressed. Always worrying. Stressed and worried out of my wits, to the degree that I was blinded. As Joespeh Campbell once said, “Eternity has nothing to do with time. It is the here and now. If you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere.” For one brief moment, I was able to grasp the idea that I was, in fact, dealt a good hand. In the few moments when I was able to block out the terrifying uncertainty of the future, I was immersed in a world where I had the freedom to spend my days roaming around a forest with two good friends and a stranger. Exotic as the average adventure tends to be at The Evergreen State College, it does get excruciatingly boring from time to time. But I was not a threat to myself or others outside of a mental institution, I was in no fear of Iraqi gun-fire, and I knew where I’d be in a week. I was fairly certain of that. A year and a half out of high school and that was already more than some of us could say.

"A Weekend In Bellingham"

From out of nowhere, Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” filled the room. Suddenly, I was awake, and after a few seconds to gather my wits, I discovered it wasn’t, in fact, coming from nowhere, but rather from my pocket.
“Tonight, Toniiiiiiiiiight! I’m on my way-ay-ay!” Vince Neil was screaming at me by the time I fished the busted-ass Razr out of my pocket.
It was my dad, wanting to know if he could sell my Xbox to the little boy down the street. (A matter of great importance that certainly couldn’t have waited till noon.)

Looks like I’m up, now, I thought. I lied there for a moment, and I couldn’t here anything but the passing of a few cars on the near-by intersection. Far too quiet, I thought. This could only be bad. I eased myself up on to my feet. Not knowing what else to do, I went to the window and looked down, into the parking lot to see if our cars were there. I half expected to see one missing and another totaled, but they were all there and appeared to be just as we’d left them.

I strained to recall how the night had ended, but in the craziness of my assorted memories, it never seemed to stop. The last thing I remembered was crawling back into the house through Nathaniel’s window.

There seemed to be something particularly disgusting about the muted infomercial on the TV. Jack Hamm, “6-Time World Long-Drive Champion,” kept shoving the head of his fairway wood at me, pointing at it as if to say, “Look how fucking sweet it is!!! You Gotsta have it!!!”

I thought back to the previous day…

With nobody home at the guy’s house when Kelly and I returned from the park, I went over to her place. She went to take a shower, and I found myself watching TV, alone, with Sarah. Who is this girl? I thought. She represented every new friend that my old friends had made without me, and I thought I’d pick her brain if the opportunity arose, and find out if there was more to her than the archetype in my mind.

Before Kelly had left, she had popped in some DVD she’s bought “Because there’s cute boys on the cover.” It turned out to be “The History Boys.” Kelly had left in disappointment. She claimed the boys weren’t as cute as they’d seemed on the cover. “An unruly class of gifted and charming teenage boys pursue sex, sport, and higher education.” It looked like a promising flick, but Sarah looked at me and said, “I’m thinkin about giving this movie the, uh…” She turned her thumbs-up into a thumbs-down and made a fart sound.

“But we’re only like 5 minutes into it.” I protested. She smiled.

“If a movie isn’t good in the first 5 minutes it’s not worth watching!”

She sounded serious. I debated about this for some time. Could she actually have meant that? Maybe I was reading too much into it. She couldn’t have been completely serious…but nonetheless she’d completely given up on this particular movie, and before I knew it, we were watching CSI instead.

We didn’t pay much attention to the TV, and started talking. She seemed authentically interested in who I was, much in the same way I was curious about her. She claimed she’d heard a lot about me. I laughed.

“What kinda stuff have you heard?” I asked, inquisitively.

“Well,” she began, “I can’t really think of any specific stories, it’s always just like, ‘Riley!’ Like, if we’re going to a party, ‘Riley!’s gonna be there.” Her eyes widened whenever she said my name, as though I was only talked about in loud voices in this house. I clearly had earned some kind of loud reputation.

“I have no idea how I got that kind of rep,” I began, “To me, I just kinda…do what I do…” I was coming down from being high for 2 or 3 hours, and wasn’t articulating well. I understood where the rumors of my knowledge of music and love of banghi had come from….but the loudness – where did it come from? I wondered if perhaps my youthful energy had given me a reputation I couldn’t possibly live up to now that the weight of the world and impending doom of upward mobility had strained my spirit.

She asked me about Evergreen. I sat silently with my mouth hanging open for a moment. How to describe it? Finally, I began, “Well, I really love it…most of the time. But, ya know, sometimes it drives me crazy.” I assumed she had some idea of the legend of Evergreen, but her confused expression told me she hadn’t, and I could see I had some explaining to do.

“ – Wait – what do you mean? Why does it drive you crazy?”

“Well, it’s just…the people, I guess. They’re so…weird, and sometimes I just wish I was here instead.”

“What’s weird about them?” She cocked her head to one side and I was now in the grips of a full-on interview. She seemed genuinely curious.

“Well, they’re…hippies, I guess.” I felt bad about using the H-word, but what other label so succinctly paints an accurate picture?

“Oh, so you mean it’s like here?”

This poor girl.

“No no no,” I said, laughing, “I mean like…real hippies.”

“Oh,” She didn’t understand. She was from a place called Kent, the eight-largest city in Washington. She’d clearly never heard anything about Evergreen.

She had a puzzled look on her face. After a few seconds she began again, “It must not smell very good at your school…It’s hard to imagine any school being more hippie than this one.”

I held back the laughter. “Really?” I asked, anxious to hear how she was gonna back that one up.

“Yeah! Sometimes, um, people come to class with no shoes on!

This poor fucking girl.

I wanted very badly to whisk her away to Evergreen just for a few days. It probably wouldn’t open her eyes or expand her mind any, but just for the freak-out. She seemed like a really nice girl. In fact, I knew she had to be nice to have befriended so many island boys and girls. She smiled between phrases, and just conversing with her for a while gave me a good impression of her, but Christ, I was worried for the well-being of my generation. This is Bellingham, I thought. This is supposed to be an open-minded University town, and after all, we’re in a blue state.

I didn’t want to make her feel bad, or scare her off, but I felt I had to say something on behalf of the “real hippies.”

“I don’t really wear shoes to class very often.”

“Really?” she asked. She felt bad. “Well, I mean…the people here, some of them just do it to like…make a statement or something, and it bugs me - ”

I interrupted her. “That’s exactly what I mean when I say, “Real hippies” – they don’t do it to make a statement. They do it because they like being bare-foot…and plus, ya know… I have plenty of friends at Evergreen who smell pretty damn good.”

She laughed.

The next morning I was making the transition from tipsy to hung-over when Nathaniel walked into the room with a smile that said, “Hey, buddy. Crazy night.”

“I was soooooo drunk…In a gooood way!” sang Nathaniel, as though he was trying to convince himself. He grabbed the remote and drowned out the sound of “When The Music’s Over” by the Doors with an episode of Full House.

Everyone seemed to be trapped in a subway, with Uncle Jessie convincing a young man to go back to school. Bob Saget was sporting a ridiculous brown blazer. Kimmy Gibbler, much to my dismay, didn’t seem to be in this episode.

I didn’t see Sarah again for a while. When I finally did, she seemed really excited to see me, and she ran up and gave me a hug. I was glad I’d managed to navigate my way around such a strange and uncomfortable conversation without sullying my name. At least, it was uncomfortable for me. The poor girl was just trying to get to know me, but all I could think about was…the state of things, and what it means when a good-hearted girl grows up in an environment like this one, and worse yet, she stays in essentially the same environment for college. It’s conversations like the one I had with Sarah that make me praise Evergreen, through day after miserable day of rain, punctuated by the occasional B.O.-riddled elevator.

But unfortunately, Evergreen has taught me a lot, and the more you learn, the less you know. For instance, I have no idea how day after day of CSI and hung-over mornings of Full House marathons will prepare my generation for the intellectual struggle of adulthood. Fortunately for my island friends-turned-Western Washington Vikings, there are thousands of mindless office jobs waiting for them in the system.

Growing up around ignorant buzz-words like “hippie,” slapped to death with brutal, mostly undeserved stigma, has left my peers close-minded and ignorant. It’s being perpetuated by apathetic college students whose parents have the money to buy their children TVs, but not the time to explain to them the social sciences, and the intricacies of delicate issues, like, for instance, why there are places like Evergreen where smelling good doesn’t always come before feeling good, and education comes before appearance; places where young men and women spend free moments reading or discussing pressing issues that will only become more important as we are handed the keys to our cities and states. Ask a Greener how they like school. They will tell you about class, their professors, new schools of thought, and books that are changing their lives. Ask a Bellingham frat boy, and they will tell you there are lots of girls.

The stale mornings, God, the stale mornings. Festering youth, eroding in a sea of cheap wine…Good boys and girls – real sweethearts like Sarah; their lives are passing them by. Without the pursuit of knowledge, what more is upright mobility than this: A rerun and a hangover?

Top 100 Songs Of 2008

The “Top 100 Songs Of The Year” list is a particularly masochistic and strenuous endeavor. More albums come out in December than in any other month – it takes at least a month to absorb a decent album – and nobody will give a fuck about 2008 come February. With several hot LP’s still lukewarm in the disc changer, it would most definitely look different if I did it again in a week. And beyond the 80-some albums I’ve kept from the past 12 months, there are of course others waiting to be discovered. But I’ve cut myself off – so here it is.

Aside from the typical dilemma of apples vs. oranges, or Neil Diamond vs. Scarface as it were, this year’s crop came with new problems; does Lil Wayne’s “Misunderstood” get bumped up a slot for the 6 minutes of hilarious and provocative Weezy-musings (weezings?) that follow the 3 minutes of lack-luster rhyming? Dare I rule out Kimya for taking the awesome initiative to make a children’s album? Is Ratatat’s “Shiller” really a song, or is it merely a platform for songs to stand on? “Paper Planes” was ’07 – but it really found another level when Bun-B and Daniel Gibson, er, Rich Boy hopped on the remix last January – does it count?!? And what’s to be done with The 3rd World, an enjoyable cocktease of a mixtape filled with infuriating repetition and sloppy production on otherwise Top-100 quality joints? *Sigh* the mind of an unemployed, homeless, compulsive insomniac rarely rests, and certainly not when there are musical debates to be sparked. Hahahaha!!!

Ahem. As I was saying…

Proper perspective will only come with time but it seems 2008 was a middle-of-the-road year, musically. Stronger than last year, yes, but for all the waiting and all the controversy, has Nas made a weaker album than Nigger? Three 6 Mafia sold their two remaining souls to VH1 and yayo, respectively. Snoop failed to double-up on the surprising dopeness of Blue Carpet Treatment, and 808s And Heartbreaks was something like a niece’s piano recital - sure it was cute at times, but I can’t help but feel like I’m owed some cookies and a Dixie-cup of lemonade for indulging him for 45 minutes. L.A.X. has kept the jury out on The Game, but who knew The GZA was still peaking at age 42? (Yeah, peaking.) Slug’s diary proved to contain at least one more fascinating chapter, and Emc gave purists something to brag about while quietly mourning the predictable delays of releases from Eminem, Jay-Z, Dead Prez, Big Boi, Raekwon, Mos Def, Immortal Technique, Method Man & Redman, and the debuts of mixtape gods Papoose and Saigon.

Outside the realm of Hip-Hop, Neil Diamond made more dirty Rubin love with Rick. The remaining members of Queen teamed up with the venerable Paul Rodgers, only to channel the spirit of a poor, old, gay man’s Freddy Mercury. You heard me – a gay man’s Freddy Mercury.

Metallica sounded a lot more like 80’s Metallica (the last nail in the historical coffin of their tragically under-appreciated post-Black Album pre-St. Anger material (seriously, go listen to their cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Astronomy.” Now.)), but made the mistake of touring with The Sword, who outshone them like Heath Ledger outshined that-guy-who-played-Batman. I’d say The Sword is the best metal band from Texas since Pantera, but Pantera can only wish they’d rocked so hard. Tom Morello tested our patience for rock with another Nightwatchman LP, The Raconteurs made Meg White look like Meg Griffin, and Axl finally, finally, finally released Chinese Democracy and could perhaps have made Guns N’ Roses a real band again if he could have just resisted the urge to fire Buckethead.

But enough talk, let’s hurry up and get to the list so you can scroll down to #1 and find another Wu-Tang-banger like last year (jk?). Enjoy.



100. “Broken, Beat & Scarred” by Metallica
99. “Under The Boughs” by The Sword
98. “Better” by Guns N’ Roses
97. “Walls” by Beck
96. “The White Sea” by The Sword
95. “Like the Rest Of Us” by Atmosphere
94. “The Storm” by Snowgoons feat. Boom Bap Project
93. “U Let Me Grow” by Emc
92. “Certain Death” by Brad Sucks
91. “To Take The Black” by The Sword
90. “Lay It Down” by Al Green feat. Anthony Hamilton
89. “I Got Mine” by The Black Keys
88. “The Black River” by The Sword
87. “If The World” by Guns N’ Roses
86. “On The Rise Again” by Kool G Rap feat. Haylie Duff
85. “The Unforgiven III” by Metallica
84. “Mr. Carter” by Lil Wayne feat. Jay-Z
83. “Swagga Like Us” by T.I. feat. Kanye West, Jay-Z, & Lil Wayne
82. “Do Ya Thing” by Ice Cube
81. “Priceless” by Flo-Rida feat. Birdman
80. “Sledgehammer” by Invincible
79. “Dropping Out Of School” by Brad Sucks
78. “You Can’t Stop Me Now” by The RZA feat. Inspectah Deck
77. “Harlem Renaissance” by Immortal Technique
76. “Alphabets” by The GZA
75. “7 Pounds” by The GZA
74. “The Kramer” by Wale
73. “Kindred” by Akrobatic feat. Brenna Gethers
72. “Mecca And The Ox” by Vast Aire feat. Vodul Mega
71. “Misunderstood” by Lil Wayne
70. “The Switch And The Spur” by The Raconteurs
69. “Gone Like Rain” by The Nightwatchman
68. “The Matrix” by Black Milk feat. Pharoahe Monch, Sean Price, & DJ Premier
67. “We Alright” by Emc
66. “Cinema” by The GZA feat. Justice Kareem
65. “Volcano” by Beck
64. “Low” by Flo-Rida feat. T-Pain
63. “Chemtrails” by Beck
62. “I’m Wild About You” by Al Green
61. “Love And Appreciate II” by MURS feat. Tyler Woods
60. “American Boy” by Estelle feat. Kanye West
59. “Big Fists” by Azeda Booth
58. “In Her Music Box” by Atmosphere
57. “Red Moon” by The Walkmen
56. “Nina Ross” by MURS
55. “Maiden, Mother And Crone” by The Sword
54. “That Was Just Your Life” by Metallica
53. “You Make Me Better (Remix)” by Fabolous feat. Raekwon & Ne-Yo
52. “Be A Nigger Too” by Nas
51. “Guarantees” by Atmosphere
50. “Halfway Home” by TV On The Radio
49. “Total Breakdown” by Brad Sucks
48. “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” by Ice Cube
47. “Get Used To It” by Ice Cube feat. The Game & WC
46. “Be Prepared” by Akrobatic feat. Little Brother
45. “Hood Mentality” by Ice Cube
44. “Love The Way” by MURS feat. Tyler Woods
43. “Don’t Give Up On Us” by Emc
42. “MVP” by Ludacris
41. “Sorry” by Guns N’ Roses
40. “Get Cha Issue” by Bun-B
39. “Me” by Atmosphere
38. “EMC (What It Stand For)” by Emc
37. “Around The Bend” by The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
36. “Painting” by Atmosphere
35. “Who We Be” by Emc
34. “Pretty Amazing Grace” by Neil Diamond
33. “Rising Down” by The Roots feat. Mos Def & Styles P.
32. “Don’t Know How To Act (Screwed & Chopped)” by Flo-Rida feat. Yung Joc
31. “Let Us Live” by The Game feat. Chrisette Michelle
30. “I Love College” by Asher Roth
29. “Groundbreaking” by The GZA feat. Justice Kareem
28. “Happy Home (Keep On Writing)” by Kimya Dawson
27. “The Waitress” by Atmosphere
26. “High Powered” by Scarface feat. Papa Rue
25. “What Up Man” by The Cool Kids
24. “The Day That Never Comes” by Metallica
23. “A Milli” by Lil Wayne
22. “Paper Plate” by The GZA
21. “Scared” by Jake One feat. Blueprint
20. “All Nightmare Long” by Metallica
19. “How Heavy This Axe” by The Sword
18. “Vagabond” by Greenskeepers
17. “There Was A Time” by Guns N’ Roses
16. “If I Don’t See You Again” by Neil Diamond
15. “Love Dog” by TV On The Radio
14. “Yesterday” by Atmosphere
13. “And I Love It” by MURS
12. “Long Story Short” by Black Milk
11. “You Don’t Understand Me” by The Raconteurs
10. “DLZ” by TV On The Radio
09. “Winds Of Change” by Emc
08. “The Sundering” by The Sword
07. “Life Is A Movie” by The GZA feat. The RZA
06. “The Science” by MURS
05. “Columbian Ties” by The GZA feat. True Master
04. “Feel It” by Emc feat. Money Harm
03. “Paper Planes (Remix)” by M.I.A. feat. Bun-B & Rich Boy
02. “The Angel And The One” by Weezer
01. “Pencil” by The GZA feat. Masta Killa & The RZA



Artists with the most songs listed:
The GZA – 8
Atmoshpere – 7
Emc - 7
The Sword - 7
Metallica – 5
MURS – 5
Ice Cube – 4
Guns N’ Roses - 4