Tag Archives: Raleigh

Sex with idiots, drinking, dark bars, and drugs: why I was wrong to think I could start partying again

Most folks who know me know I quit drinking cold turkey about three and a half years ago.  Back then, my life was one big insane, rollicking, rock and roll party.  And although I was no longer in my 20s and had even left my 30s behind, I was still out in downtown Raleigh most nights trying to carouse like I did back in the day.  The thing was, I wasn’t enjoying the partying any more, not really.  In fact, I was sick of it.  But at that point in my life, I was trying to prove to myself that I still COULD party if I wanted to.  That I had not become some stick-in-the-mud adult, aging out of fun, turning into some lame-ass, follow-the-rules working stiff.  My life surely was still all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  Surely.

Jesus, when I look back to that time, my frame of mind about what constituted a good time seems ridiculous now.  I was a hungover shell of myself: waking up sick and nauseous, hooking up with drunk guys I wouldn’t otherwise have given the time of day to if I was sober, overwhelming feelings of depression at the emptiness of the entire lifestyle, scouring through all of the bar tab receipts in my purse to find out how much I spent the night before and exactly what bars we blew through (or wondering which bar I’d left my credit card in or, all too often, walking out without remembering I hadn’t paid my tab).  Looking over at the dude in my bed and thinking, “Oh, Jesus, why did I fuck this moron? I don’t even like him.”  Too many times, the day after partying, I’d be texting and calling friends trying to piece together how the night ended (and often being so damn embarrassed by some of the more wild and ridiculous shenanigans).  The list goes on and on as to why the bar scene and drinking did not work for me.

This summer, while on vacation in the Curacao, I thought I might try to incorporate drinking back into my life.  In small doses.  And, when I got back to Raleigh, to go back to those same bars I used to frequent.  But what I found from that test run is that these places and that drinking made me feel just as empty and sick as before.  More so.  I was trying on a lifestyle that I knew didn’t fit and wasn’t my style, but I was going to try to make it work anyway.  Because, hell, why not?  Maybe I could do it differently this time and just do things in moderation and with some semblance of sense and sanity.  But the alcohol made me more depressed than ever before.  And I went right back to hooking up with idiots and acting like an idiot in the process.  Having conversations I didn’t want to have, talking to people I didn’t even like, being nice to people I didn’t want to be around.  But, dammit, I love the taste of gin.  And I adore wine with good food.  But the fact is, alcohol does not agree with me.  Spirits destroy my spirit.  Alcohol immediately alters my brain and taps into some of my worst impulses or even creates new impulses that serve no purpose but to create negative and dark energy.  For me, alcohol and drugs distort my reason in ways that cause me to make skewed and wrong decisions.  I want to go through life clear headed and with clarity.  And, fuck, achieving either of those is hard enough with out liquor, dope, and negative-energy people mucking up the process. Sure, I can be around people drinking.  But I learned one thing from dabbling with going back to bars:  I do not like being in bars.  I just don’t.  These spaces are not spaces for me and I do not want to go back in them unless I am there specifically to see a show – because I do still love live music.  But no drinking with the rock and roll. So, once again, bar scene, adios and vaya con dios.

Dating, sex, hooking up, whatever, and drinking

I have a lot of demons and a lot of emotional baggage from family experiences, childhood, and certain relationships.  I’ve spent many years of introspection and writing to come out on the other side of all of that trauma to find success in my career and work and to live a life I can be proud of and feel good about.  I absolutely don’t want any kind of drug or liquor altering my thought processes.  And this summer, after hooking up with a few fellas and trying out dating again after a very long hiatus, I was struck by a revelation – I don’t want to date anyone who uses drugs of any kind and I don’t want to date anyone who drinks a lot or who wants to hang out in bars.  I certainly don’t want to be with men my age who are still trying to roll at the club like they are 30.  Hell, I don’t want to date anyone who smokes cigarettes.  I quit and I cannot be around it or I want to light up.  And I absolutely hate the smell of it – smelling it on a dude used to be kind of sexy to me.  Now the smell just makes me nauseous.  I feel terrible even saying that – it feels hypocritical to do so given my history.  But, my journey, however convoluted, has been one towards positive energy and light. Also, I was reminded this summer to listen to my instincts – I hooked up with fellas full of darkness and rage who were masquerading as a good time.  Ladies, don’t blow through the red flags – if a dude seems shady and damaged to you, he is and it ain’t your job to fix him.  And if he hasn’t actively acknowledged how fucked up he is or that he is wallowing in darkness – steer clear.  You cannot and will not save him.  You’ll just go down into the darkness with him.  And if you are drawn to that type of darkness, then you have your own demons to wrestle with.  Don’t let his and your demons join forces – together you both produce a relationship that is the sulfur-spewing spawn of Satan.  Not fun.  Steer clear, baby.  Steer clear.

I have worked hard to leave that old, dark lifestyle behind – and there are too many trigger points lurking in bars and clubs that take me right back to those destructive forces.  This summer, I fell right back into some of that same stupid shit I was doing before that left me so empty and soul-sick.  So, for me, no more bars, no more drunken stupid pointless hookups, no more people who are still rolling in that lifestyle.  I just can’t.  I had to learn the hard way – thinking I could temper my relationship with all that “stuff” – but I can’t.  So, after a bit of dark dabbling these past few months, I am looking back to the light, back to wholeness and healthiness, back to love and positivity.  Finding your happiness is different for everyone, and maybe you find all of this in a bar or club or in your weed and coke or in your pills.  I don’t.  So if you want to hang with me, it’ll be over coffee or roasted oysters or a hot bowl of ramen at a Japanese noodle house or on a back deck sipping lemonade.

The party ain’t over folks.  Far from it.  I’ve just changed the venue, refreshments menu, guest list, and theme.

The Raleigh/Curacao Dive Diaries: Initial thoughts on Advanced Open Water

Angela Perez
First, I’ll tell you I am documenting my dive journey so that one day I can look back at the PROCESS of learning to dive.  If I ever get to professional instructor level, I want to be able to recall the heavy psychology behind learning to breathe and move under water.  Got it?  Good.
So. Over the weekend, I signed up for AOW.  Still in the fever and warm and fuzzy feeling of finishing up OW in Curacao last week, I could not wait to get back into the water.  Back in Raleigh, I headed straight to my dive shop and signed up (not just for that but for a wreck dive in South Carolina and for a trip to diving trip Bonaire that is coming up soon).  When I got home with my new AOW manual in hand, I flipped through it, wondering what all this cert would require of me.  And I found that I have choices in what I want to pursue and specialize in – it felt like CHRISTMAS!  Oh my God, I thought, I’m going down a rabbit hole and I don’t care.  I’m going in with everything I have (and, it appears, with all of my hard earned money – pursuing this sport at full speed ahead requires, I have discovered, a serious outlay of cash.  But the thing is, I don’t want to spend my money on anything else BUT diving.  So this all works out.  Also, I want to get as far as I can with diving BEFORE I move to Curacao so that I hit the sand running.
So what are my choices?  I know for sure I want Fish I.D., Underwater Nav, Boat Diving, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Digital Underwater Imaging, Wreck Diving, and, yes, I want Search and Recovery.  I don’t want to get ahead of myself but I want to set myself up for eventual professional level.  I know, I know, Angela, slow down, enjoy the ride.  But I will tell you this – I’ve engaged in a lot of things in my life and I have never felt this passionately about anything in my life.  I want to define it, reign it in, control the desire and passion.  But I can’t.  So I am just going to roll with it and dive deep deep into my soul, heart, and the blue, blue sea.   I want this more than anything I’ve wanted in a long time.  And I aim to get it all and take everything I can from this journey.   And I will have some failures and anxiety and panic along the way.  But that’s okay.  That’s how we grow – by pushing our limits and blowing through the things that scare us.

Shirtless Gerald is not a closet gay but does enjoy cocaine: a story about Raleigh

Gerald was shirtless, wearing only a pair of cut-off jean shorts and those scuffed-up blue suede Pumas he never got around to throwing out.
“What dude wears cut-off jean shorts?” said his roommate Bobby, shaking his head and wrinkling his nose in semi-distaste. “Dude, that look cannot be pulled off, even ironically. It just outs you as the closet fag you’ve always been. Like James Franco.”  He hunched over the kitchen table, moving closer to his Cheerios, but not eating them.  He lit a cigarette instead.

“Hand me my smokes,” said Gerald brushing past him.  He moved closer to the kitchen window, peering through the stained, twisted metal blinds. His right eye twitched. “Where IS Judd? He said he’d be here in twenty. I ain’t got all day. He’s such a little fucking liar.” He let go of one of the slats, accidentally popping it back into perfect alignment.  It had not been straight in years.

The thing is, Judd dropped dead 10 minutes earlier from a heart-attack just as he was walking out the front door of his condo, little bags of shitty ineffectual cocaine in hand.   The drugs, intended for Gerald, were clenched in his quickly cooling right fist.   Hundreds of muscles loosened all over his body and carbon dioxide began building up in millions of cells that would, in a short while, split wide open and begin to devour themselves.

At the very moment Judd’s pinkish skin went loose and was fading to blue, Gerald reflected on the pattern of his life: moments of stultifying boredom and self-loathing peppered with bits of great anticipation only to have nothing much transpire.

Why should today be any different?

What a woman obsessed with scuba diving looks for in a man. Or rather, what you don’t want.

by Angela Perez

Ah, what ARE women like me (who are obsessed with scuba diving) looking for in a man other than him possessing a working penis, all of his teeth, a job, and a strong stroke?
Well, I’ll tell you.

This conversation happened between me and a co-worker at some half-assed Mexican restaurant (you know the kind, where they feature $5.99 specials called Speedy Gonzalez 1, 2, 3 and so on.  And each dish tastes exactly the same but satisfies a craving so you go and eat half a pound of two day-old chips and shell out 8 bucks total plus tip for the waiter who is wearing too much Drakkar Noir and wonder why you put yourself through this mediocrity every 3 or 4 weeks.)

My co-worker, who is in her mid-30s and has been married for 10 years and has 2 children, asked me this, “So Angela, do you think you’ll find the one any time soon?”

“Find the one what?”  I asked, reaching for one of the stale chips.

“You know,” she said, “the man you’ll marry.”

“You know that I believe marriage is for the weak,” I said.  “You and your husband excluded.”  (I just said that to pacify her. I actually count her in that bunch.)

“Oh, Angela, there’s a wonderful man out there who will make you want to run down the aisle.”

“Maybe,” I replied.   I tried the guacamole.  “Good Lord,” I exclaimed, “I think they put shredded jicama in this.  It’s incredible!”  I dipped my spoon in for another try.   They had indeed put jicama in guacamole.   A revelation.

“You’re avoiding the topic,” she said.  “So, how about this.  Tell me who your ideal man is.”

“I honestly don’t know,” I said.  The waiter came back to ask us how everything was even though we hadn’t gotten our food yet.  The acrid smell of his cologne was actually clinging to the back of my throat, ruining the joy of jicama.  Suddenly I recalled that the first time I ever had sex was with a boy wearing Drakkar and we were listening to a Metallica cassette on his boom box.

“Okay,” she said, not giving up, “let’s do this.  Tell me what you absolutely don’t want in a man.”

“Hmmm…okay, that I can come up with,” I said, dipping a chip in the salsa.

“Yayyy!” she squealed, daintily clapping her hands.  “Finally.  So name five things quick – without even thinking about it.  Aaaaand…GO!”

“So.  One. I could never date a man who suggested that for a first date we eat at Olive Garden.  Or any chain restaurant. I could never date a man who regularly wears golf shirts and khaki pants with pleats in them.  Men should never wear pants with pleats in them.  Flat front only. Wait – do those two items of clothing count as two reasons?  He’s got to love to get in the ocean – swim, snorkel, dive, I don’t care.  But he has to want the water as much as I do.  Hmmm…also,  I could never date a man who wears Y-front white underwear.  Gotta wear boxer shorts or even just let your balls and dick swing in the wind.   Oh, and I like nice, solid forearms.  My favorite part of a man’s body.  Oh and one more, I could never date a man who thinks getting a group together to get on one of those Trolley Pubs in downtown Raleigh would be a fun thing to do.”

[Trolley Pubs are found in larger cities across the U.S.  They are these rolling pubs (like a giant bicycle) where up to 14 people get on and sit around a bar-in-the-round and each person pedals as they troll through the streets of downtown, drinking beer and going from pub to pub.  Their revelry combined with the flashing light decorations make it the most annoying sight and sound imaginable.]

“Oh my God,” she said, frowning.  She let out a sigh.   “I was thinking more along the lines of you naming certain qualities like if he was a Republican or is obsessed with sports.  Which I know neither of those is okay with you.”

“Those are two good ones to add to the list actually,” I said.   Wow, I didn’t know she knew me that well.

She shook her head.  “You are going to die alone.  You can’t be so specific.  One guy isn’t going to have everything.”

“I know that,” I said.  “Okay, I can maybe let go of most of those except for the ocean part.  It’s fundamental to what I think about, how I look at the world.  I cannot get around someone not wanting to be in or near the ocean.”

“What if he doesn’t like the ocean but had a lot of money and treated you like a queen?”

“I’d rather die than concede,” I said.  “Power never concedes without a demand.

“What does that even mean?” she asked.

“I don’t actually know.”  I looked around, weary of the conversation and of, particularly, myself.  “Where the hell is my Speedy Gonzalez number 12?”

“Do you really even truly know what you want?”

“Yes,” I answered carefully, “I want a man muscled in flame and who sweats kindness and intellect and who is funny and who will burn me to the ground causing me the exact opposite of harm.”

She rolled her eyes at me and nodded towards the approaching waiter.  “Okay.  Whatever.  Our food is here.”

“Good,”  I said.  “Great.”   And I threw down on that Speedy Gonzales like the good little single Mexican gal I am.



A married couple’s conversation overheard while dining at Bloomsbury Bistro

by Angela Perez

After a late afternoon meeting yesterday, I found myself in the aspiring-to-be-well-heeled neighborhood of Five Points in Raleigh.  The poor denizens of this neighborhood actually are only playing at being well-heeled and dream of power.   The actual truly well-heeled old-school money part of Raleigh is further west, past Oberlin Road.    Over there in that pristine and quiet neighborhood are massive old homes that look stately but not in that cloying drafty Southern mansion kind of way.  And the homes don’t look expensive in that depressing pre-fab, recently built, 5,000-square foot cookie-cutter bullshit kind of way (people who came from nothing tend to think the new development homes near new golf courses are the pinnacle of class.  But the middle-class is not known for their sense of aesthetics, are they?  That class tends to spawn unimaginative women who think Dooney & Bourke, Coach, and Michael Kors pocketbooks are the epitome of style.  These women like to go to outlet malls so they can live a little fancier than their pocketbook actually allows.)

A lot of the still-active elderly men of power in Raleigh live in these homes with their wives, women who have never had to work but who have expended a lot of effort in book clubs, cooking for the Episcopal Church bake sales, and on near-by tennis courts.   Many of these women enrolled in the English department at the private all-women Meredith College in the 1960s and 1970s, not really to study Hemingway but mostly to land a soon-to-be wealthy husband from across the street at N.C. State or maybe as far afield as Carolina.  Even into the 90s, many of these Meredith women would quit school once they had achieved their ultimate dream, to be engaged.

These clever gray-haired Southern couples often entertain their visiting adult sons who arrive from northern Virginia or Maryland each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas in shiny Lexus SUVs with shiny wives who inevitably sport J. Crew puffy vests and Ralph Lauren riding boots.  The grandchildren are usually enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill, Georgetown, or the University of Virginia (but not Duke University since no Southerners actually go there).

Ah, but enough about the fine neighborhood near my afternoon meeting!

It was after 5 o’clock and I didn’t want to brave the mind-numbing traffic crawl up Capital Boulevard to go home so I decided to have dinner at a restaurant that is a favorite among the well-heeled elderly crowd –  Bloomsbury Bistro.  A lot of my hip foodie friends in Raleigh call this a fancy restaurant for old geezers.  And, yes, there is some truth to that.  I arrived just as the restaurant opened at 5:30 and already there were nicely dressed couples and groups of 4  arriving, the majority somewhere in the vicinity of 70 years of age.

These people were happy when they arrived, laughing and smiling and joking with the waiters, bar tenders and host staff.  Because they all know one another well.  They and their friends eat here regularly and the food is good, fairly expensive, and comfortable.   This is the kind of restaurant where elderly regulars think nothing of coming in two or three times during the week to have salmon or a N.Y. Strip and a good bottle of wine and a drop of whisky and dropping around $120 per meal.

Here’s the thing though.  A restaurant like this will never go out of business.  These people are fiercly loyal and the food is solid.  These people will never defect to the zillions of hip, foodie-culture restaurants opening up downtown (and trust me, the competition in Raleigh is stiff – this town is home to an incredible and varied food scene that’s evolving every day).

But enough about food and old people.   Let’s get to what you came here for:  what I overheard some younger married couples discussing while I ate my own dinner.   Yes, there were some younger couples in their 30s and 40s also in attendance.   And, lucky for me, they were nearby.

There is nothing more depressing than the conversation between a married couple as they decide what they want for dinner.

Scene:  Couple is seated in front of me.  I am majorly eavesdropping, pretending to be deeply engrossed in my New York Review of Books which I actually can’t even read because the light is too dim.

30-something husband:  Oh, man, wow.  Look at this for an appetizer.  (he reads aloud slowly): “Damascus style spiced lamb confit pie in puff pastry with hummus coulis, crispy chick peas, Greek yogurt and mint tabbouleh.”  God, that sounds good, don’t you think?

30-something wife:  No, it sounds heavy.  Puff pastry and lamb.  That’s a meal.  That’s not an appetizer.

Husband:  Yeah, but it sound delicious.

Wife:  Yes, but not as an appetizer.   If you get that, you don’t need an entrée.

Husband.  Why don’t I get that as my entrée then?

Wife: Because I don’t want the lamb and I wanted to try whatever you got for an entrée.

Husband:  Okay.

[Waiter arrives and asks if they’d had time to look at the wine menu.   They had not.  So they open up the wine menu.  Waiter leaves.]

Husband:  Do I want wine or whisky?

Wife:  Let’s get wine.  Something red.

Husband:  Oh, this looks good.  This one from Chile.

Wife:  No, I’ve had that one.  I want to try something new.

Husband:  But did you like the one from Chile?

Wife:  Yes, but I want something new.

Husband:  Buy why not get something you know you’ll like?

Wife: [Wife sighs VERY deeply.  Within that sigh was contained all of her disappointment in the man sitting across from her.  The sigh was deepened because he probably failed to get her off last night so she had to fake an orgasm or at least fake how much she enjoyed their 20 minutes of love making.  She also may be sighing over the fact that his penis is only about 5 inches long and she once had a one-night stand with a guy in a shitty band who had a 10-inch dick and she knows she’ll never get to see or feel anything like that ever again.  No, she is stuck with this 5-inch penis forever.]

Husband:  Never mind.  Get what you want.  I’ll drink anything.

Wife:  Let’s get this Lang & Reed.

Husband:  That’s $59!

Wife:  So?  If it’s good, it’s worth it.

Husband:  Why get a wine we don’t know if we’ll like that costs so much?  Let’s just do it by the glass.

Wife:  Why don’t we just get a bottle?  I really need it.  I’ve had long day today.

Husband:  Okay.  But it better be good.

Wife:  I still don’t know what I want for my entrée.  I wonder what’s gluten-free.

Husband:  Don’t ask the waiter that.

Wife:  Why?  Why not?

Husband:  Because this is a nice restaurant.  They don’t do gluten-free.  Do you see that adjective anywhere on the menu?

Wife:  He won’t care.  Lots of people eat gluten-free.  I’m sure he’s used to being asked.

Husband:  Oh, man, listen to this.  (he reads from the menu) “Chicken and dumplings: Skillet roasted breast of organic chicken over Southern style pastry noodles with pulled thigh meat gravy, grilled asparagus and Cherrywood smoked bacon.”  Sounds good for $24.95.

Wife:  Ugh.  It sounds heavy.  Why don’t you try the pork tenderloin?  That sounds delicious.

Husband:  I don’t want that.  I’m not in the mood for pork.

Wife:  But you’re in the mood for lamb?

Husband:  They aren’t the same meat.

Wife:  How about this, the Scottish salmon?

Husband:  I don’t want fish.

[Waiter comes back to take the wine order.  They get the Lang & Reed North Coast Cabernet Franc 2010, a delightful wine from Napa Valley, California.  Wife is happy.  Husband is irritated by price tag and lack of knowledge of how much joy it actually brings.  Also, he is still plagued by a vague suspicion that his wife was faking it last night.  But then again, who cares?  He got off and slept soundly.  A good night, all in all.]

Husband:  What about the calves liver?

Wife:  It comes with bitter greens.  You hate greens.

Husband:  I do?  Yeah, I guess I do.

Wife:  I feel like such an adult.  We made reservations tonight.  We never make reservations at a restaurant.

Husband:  We didn’t need to make reservations.  Nobody is here.  It’s not even 6 o’clock on a Thursday night.

Wife: Yeah, but don’t you think it makes eating out more exciting when you make reservations?

Husband:  I guess.  So I’ve decided.  I’m definitely getting the chicken and pastry.

Wife:  Well, I ‘m not trying it then.  THAT is definitely NOT gluten-free.

Husband:  Good.  More for me.  I’ll get a dessert you like.

Wife:  Oooo…I wonder what’s on the dessert menu?  Should we go ahead and look?

Husband:  You do know that nothing on the dessert menu is gluten-free, don’t you?

Wife:  Who cares?  I need something sweet.  I told you.  I had a bad day at work.

Husband:  Seems like a bad day at work makes it convenient for you to not be gluten-free.

Wife:  [wife sighs deeply again]

[Waiter comes.  Husband orders chicken and pastry and wife orders the pork tenderloin.  They then spend the rest of the meal each regaling the other with tales about their jobs and the people at those jobs who are annoying.  The annoying people from their jobs were infinitely more interesting than this couple.]

I think to myself at the moment they order that right now, everywhere across Raleigh, across America in fact, husbands are reading aloud menu items and then unnecessarily reading aloud the full descriptions and wives are telling them why that’s not a good choice.  And these conversations all occur in monotone voices, though the wives’ responses are oft tinged with minor irritation.  I still think some of that irritation is directly related to the husband’s penis size, though even large penises get old when attached to the same man year in and year out.

Ah!  But all was not lost…something wonderful happened as I started in on my [Angela is reading aloud to you]: “Short rib Les Halles: Boneless Black Angus beef ribs over caramelized French onion broth with asparagus, cave-aged Gruyere cheese, buttered croutons and a splash of Oloroso Sherry $26.95.”

Oh, but, dear reader, the rest of this delightful tale is for another day.


Afternoon tea and race relations with Dottie and Elsie (near Raleigh)

It’s cold in the cavernous tea room and the riot of floral patterns on the wallpaper, tablecloths, and napkins is soothing even in the Garden of Eden chaos. I’m having High Tea at the little tea room in historic downtown Wake Forest. This creaky old place feels like your Southern granny’s fancy front parlor that no one was ever allowed to sit in. Two white-haired old gals wrapped in pearls and the powerful sweet scent of magnolia perfume are sitting at the table next to me.

I pretend to be reading my Dostoevsky novel but I’m really eavesdropping. They speak in that languorous Southern accent – the one that adds an extra syllable to every word, especially three-letter and four-letter words. “Here” is pronounced “he-ah” and “there” is pronounced “they-ah.” They are talking about the new preacher’s wife and what a terrible job she has done planning the annual Thanksgiving luncheon to be held this Sunday. “Bless her heart”, says Dottie. “She’s got all those people signed up to bring canned cranberry sauce and macaroni and cheese. But hardly anything else.”

“I know!” exclaims Elsie, sipping on her lavender tea. “She should have just asked each one of us in the ladies group to make her particular specialty.” She takes a bite of her crustless egg salad sandwich. “This egg salad isn’t as good as mine. As I was saying. I WOULD have made my pineapple upside down cake. All she had to do was ask.”

“Here, taste my cucumber sandwich,” says Dottie, pushing her plate towards Elsie with her silver tea spoon. “Too much cream cheese. Well, I’m going to make my pimento cheese but I’m not signing any sheet. Pastor loves my pimento cheese.”

“She’s pretty enough, the wife,” says Elsie. “But I don’t think she cooks much. He’s such a handsome man. She’d better take care.”
“Oh Elsie! You’re terrible!” titters Dottie. She slathers Devonshire cream on her butterscotch-walnut scone. “She’s funny. In a fun way, not a crazy Dix Hospital way.” (For those not from North Carolina, Dorothea Dix Hospital is an infamous, now-defunct, old mental institution in Raleigh started in the 1800s and only recently closed. Old folks refer to it as “Dix Hospital” or “Dix Hill”, which is the name of the hill the hospital was built on).

“She’s too flirty,” says Elsie. “She doesn’t seem all that bright to me. You should make your cornbread stuffing. With the pepper sherry. It’s the best thing you make. There really is too much cream cheese on this cucumber sandwich.”

NOTE: I have been typing this eavesdropped conversation on a mobile phone. Dottie and Elsie are discussing the best way to make a sweet potato casserole and a squash casserole. “You can tell we’re Southern,” giggles Dottie. “Indeed,” agrees the infinitely serious Elsie. (I’m going to try Dottie and Elsie’s recipe secrets and pass them off as my own.)

My oolong tea has grown cold. Damn. They are now speaking in hushed tones about a married woman at church who had an affair with a black man and had the prettiest little half-black girl. The church, evidently, still allows both mother and mixed-race child to attend with no judgement. Dottie and Elsie are nothing if not understanding.


A Tinder conversation: lesbians and spider webs

Dude:  hey sexy, my lesbian girl friend and me will go out tonight.  care to join?

Angela:  Why are you telling me that she’s a lesbian?

Dude:  just ’cause 😉 😉  she’s hot though 😉

Angela:  Are you telling me to let me know that you aren’t homophobic?  Because that’s awesome if you’re an open-minded person.

Dude:  hell yeah LESBIANS

Angela:  Your lack of capitalization except when it comes to LESBIANS is quite troubling.

Dude: you wanna come 😉

Angela:  And gay men?  How do you feel about them?

Dude:  naw son not down with that some wrong shit

Angela:  Do you mean being a homosexual is wrong?

Dude:  not if you got big titties 😉

Angela:  What else have you got to entice me to go on this extraordinary date?

Dude:  I am all tatted up and am hung big dick baby.

Angela:  I noticed the tattoos on your arms in some of your photos.  What other tattoos do you have?

Dude:  just got two spider webs

Angela:  On your elbows?

Dude:  nah around BOTH NIPPLES ha ha ha

Angela:  So basically you now look like you’re wearing a spider web mesh BRA all of the time?

Dude:  you down or not

Angela:  Let me mull this over.  [UNMATCH WITH MUCH HASTE]


Oh, what a tangled web we weave whilst single.

More online dating: too fast for love

Dude:  Hey girl, I wanna a piece of you.
Angela:  Are you paraphrasing from “I want a piece of your action?” I like that one Motley Crue record. I appreciate both the reference and the innuendo.
Dude:  What?!?
Angela:  Too Fast for Love.
Dude:  Whatever, bitch.


Raleigh, NC court hands jail sentences to 4 dogs

by Angela P., a butler and reporter

On Monday, a Raleigh, NC court sentenced 4 dogs to 11 days in jail. The dogs were accused of pouncing on and repeatedly licking a married couple, Skylar and Barry Bateman, at a local downtown park that left the couple covered in dog hair and saliva, in a trial that raised an outcry from single people and dog lovers.

The verdicts against the dogs, said to each belong to 4 unmarried, unrelated owners, are subject to appeal and will likely be overturned, according to 2 dog lovers who have law degrees.

Gang member, a pug named Burly Q, says the couple got what was coming to them.

Gang member, a pug named Burly Q, says the couple got what was coming to them.

In a press conference after the trial, the ring leader of the 4 dogs, a Welsh corgi named Harvey, said, “We weren’t gonna hurt ‘em. But, you know, they were talking smack about our butlers.”  When asked what he meant by “butlers”, Harvey replied, “You know. The people who pet us and bring us food and treats and stuffed animals and stuff.”

In court, the defendants testified that they each overheard the married couple having a conversation that was highly offensive. Harvey noted, “The woman said stuff like, ‘Why do single people act their dogs are kids? It’s pathetic.They need to have children like God intended. They’re too attached to these dogs. ‘ And the man said, ‘Dogs belong outside. Or at least not on the bed. If a woman wants a bed partner, she needs to get a man. It’s just sad.’ What if my butler Julie heard that? She hasn’t had a date in, like, 7 years.”  When asked if he was referring to dog years, Harvey replied, “I wish. Poor thing.”

During the tense trial, it was determined that one of the gang members, a chihuahua named Nacho, urinated on Skylar Bateman’s New Balance trainers.“Unthinkable,” said the married prosecutor, Jerry Jones, who is the father of two unattractive children.

One of the dog gang, a hound and poodle mixed-breed dog named Hoochie-Poo said, “The four of us were chasing around a peanut-butter stuffed ball when we heard them talking shit. The final straw was when the lady said that pit bull mixes didn’t belong in a people park.We’re friends with a bunch of pit bull mixes. She said they are unstable and ought to be in their own separate parks away from playing children for safety’s sake. Well, that’s when we all saw red and Harvey just went for it. So we did too.”

The swiftness and the harshness of the sentence deepened concerns that Raleigh’s court system is biased towards married people with children, even those with pets.“It’s like their lives are fuller and better somehow because they have kids,” said Burly Q, a pug who was also part of the pouncing gang.  “They can kiss our hind parts. Our single butlers rule!”

The dogs’ butlers are expected to appeal the sentence.

For those days when you think to yourself, “I am not an artist. I am not a writer. I am not a musician. I suck. I got…nothin’. Michelangelo bitched harder than you ever have.

“Awwww fuuuuck,” said this Raleigh guy to me.  “I’m no musician.  We never got anywhere.  Some homemade records and a few middle-aged aging hipsters who still come to see our shows.  I’m no musician.”

One barista/poet/nanny/part-time jewelry maker who works for a coffee shop downtown cried in her espresso and exclaimed to me:  “”I am no writer.  I ain’t an artist of no kind. To turn a phrase.”

For those creative types who sometimes languish bereft, or stand as a vault wrenched, slashed open, scavenged and silent inside.  Are ya’ gaping to the world with nothing to offer??

Despair not!  Elation, self-satisfaction, and satiety will soon follow if you just keep on keepin’ on.  Aw shucks, it’s just the human condition got you down temporarily.  It’ll come back to you and you will, once again, be that thing that makes you perfectly comfortable and miserable in your own skin.  I mean, Jesus, even Michelangelo bitched about losing his creative spirit – bogged down by the day-to-day and the failings of his skin sack.   But don’t take my word for, read the Master’s own poem – yes, he was a poet.

Even ole' Mickey had bitch and whine sessions with his buds when his creative spirit was low and his back ached and he felt flabby in his skin sack.

Even ole’ Mickey had bitch and whine sessions with his buds when his creative spirit was low and his back ached and he felt flabby in his skin sack.

Michelangelo: To Giovanni da Pistoia
“When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel”

I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture,
hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy
(or anywhere else where the stagnant water’s poison).
My stomach’s squashed under my chin, my beard’s
pointing at heaven, my brain’s crushed in a casket,
my breast twists like a harpy’s. My brush,
above me all the time, dribbles paint
so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!

My haunches are grinding into my guts,
my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
My skin hangs loose below me, my spine’s
all knotted from folding over itself.
I’m bent taut as a Syrian bow.

Because I’m stuck like this, my thoughts
are crazy, perfidious tripe:
anyone shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.

My painting is dead.
Defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honor.
I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.

Fuck the Rules: A Brief History of Sheer Terror’s Paul Bearer, Chapter 1

Paul Bearer of Sheer Terror and Joe Coffee.  I only wish my brother had known about Paul Bearer.

Paul Bearer of Sheer Terror and Joe Coffee. I only wish my brother had known about Paul Bearer.

Chapter 1

Sheer Terror, Paul Bearer, and how I wish I could have saved my little brother

“I just got into the punk thing…pretty much when Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend. I just thought that was the most craziest thing I ever heard, so I went to the library and I stole the thing on cassette, Never Mind the Bollocks, I stole it—and I still have it. And I just started buying punk records and getting into it. You know, trying to sneak off into shows, whenever I could—because I was young.” – Paul Bearer in an interview for “Burning Time” blog.

To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the legendary hardcore punk band Sheer Terror until last weekend, when a friend of mine, Ricky Bacchus, formerly of the NYC-based glam rockers D Generation, told me I should check out their singer, Paul Bearer.  Ricky knows of my interest in figuring out what makes for a brilliant front man and felt that Paul and Sheer Terror  (formed in 1984 when Paul was but a young fella) would give me plenty of material.

So, off to Youtube I go, searching for my new mystery man.  A man who, by the way, ain’t dead yet.

First off, I was partial from the get go to Paul, who now fronts for the slower-grooved band Joe Coffee. I’m partial because Paul is a big, hilarious, smart, thoughtful, ominous, artistic, no-nonsense, stone-mountain of man.   Also, his thick Staten Island accent makes him ripe for a role in a Scorsese film  (I assume it’s Staten Island.  He’s from somewhere around there.  How the fuck should I know? I grew up in the South).

The partiality towards Paul comes from the fact that my little brother, Tony, was just as big, just as ominous and thoughtful, couldn’t be held down by a 9-to-5  job, loved music just as much, was an artist at heart, and I believe if he’d known about Paul Bearer, well, he wouldn’t be dead (he died at the age of 33).   In many of the interviews with Paul, he describes his inability to fit into regular “working stiff” society and how life on the fringes drew him inexorably to punk rock music and the scene around it.

My little brother was in trouble throughout his life starting way back in elementary school and felt a freak and I remember him sitting alone in his room as a kid playing the Circle Jerks, Hüsker Dü and Black Flag on bootleg cassettes he played on a cheap Sears tape recorder my dad gave him.  He was chubby from the time he was a kid (he always had to wear “husky” sized jeans – that’s what they called them in the 70s) and he was always picked on for being big until he got big enough to kick their asses.

When he did have regular jobs they didn’t last long.  I remember in high school he worked at an Advanced Auto Parts store.  Evidently, he traded so many hubcaps and car batteries for weed that the store could keep neither item in stock. When he worked for Pizza Hut after that, well, let’s just say there were a lot of weed-selling rednecks riding around with large Pepperoni Pan Pizzas in their trucks.  He also, at the age of 16, led a farmer on high-speed car chase through our tiny rural Southern town for hot wiring his $100,000 combine and wrecking it into a ditch.  The farmer chased my brother all over town and through the back rural roads for over an hour, shooting at him with a rifle and blowing holes through the trunk of my brother’s old Corolla.  Needless to say, the farmer had to end up not pressing charges because he was guilty of attempted murder over a tractor.  My dad, a Mexican who used to be in Chicano gangs in Los Angeles in the 50s, didn’t really think it was that big of a deal all the way ’round.

My brother, Raleigh N.C.-s smartest drunken asshole (with a heart of gold), could actually sing his balls off.  And, if folks weren’t pissed off at him, they were usually falling over laughing at his filthy direct humor (or running away sobbing).  My brother often talked to me about wanting to front a band but because he was such a big, hulking dude, and despite his charisma and apparent confidence, he actually was too self-conscious to stand on stage in front of people.   He would sing Corrosion of Conformity and Pantera songs to me at the top of his lungs, but only when I was driving him around in my car.  Just me and him.

I feel confident that if my brother had seen Paul (especially the slower-moving Paul from the later years) fronting Sheer Terror – thundering back and forth slowly across the stage in front of the audience like a giant pit bull being taunted in a cage – well, I think he’d have given fronting a band a go. He’d see that leading a band– whether you are writhing wildly or standing stock still, whether you have a sexy girlie face and physique or a visage carved out of granite – is all about what the singer is exuding.  It comes from within and it can incite an audience to rack and ruin.  Some folks got it, and some don’t.

I believe my brother had it.  And I sure as hell know that Paul Bearer has it.

If my brother had seen Paul perform, he’d have had the courage to go down the path of hardcore and find an outlet to quell the demons he wrestled with.  Instead of selling coke for most of his life and eventually killing himself through his lifestyle, he could have purged through music. Alas, my brother, to my knowledge, did not get to see Paul Bearer or even know about him.

But enough with the sappy, sentimental stuff.  Thanks to Ricky, I now know enough about Paul to feel like writing about him because the man was pushing the boundaries of his chosen genre – hardcore punk – from the get go.  He was pointing out through his performances and lyrics how limiting the “rules” of punk could be and he was having none of that bullshit.  At the same time, from what I can tell, that same music scene provided him with refuge – a place to belong.  He identified with it and yet he rejected its restrictions.  His relationship with hardcore punk points to one of the genre’s most overt cases of the fracturing of punk and hardcore ideology that caused it to bleed out on itself.  Establishing a dogma was antithetical to the whole punk enterprise – and naturally, the ship couldn’t hold.  Paul’s life gives us an example as to why.

Now, about Paul.  Well, I’m finishing up chapter 2 this week.

The Triumph and Terror of Nostalgia in the South: why Caitlin Cary’s artwork is killing me right now

By Angela Perez

This collaborative work between Caitlin Cary (fabric/thread) and Skillet Gilmore (screen printing) is some of my favorite Southern art being created right now. Warm, compelling nostalgia and deep-rooted longings for home are mixed with disturbing, bizarre feelings. Centrifugal and centripetal forces tearing me apart in good and terrible ways. I cannot like this enough. Mortal acts and emptied pastures are scratching at me. And then caressing me and it’s messing with my mind.  For me, this work is informed by the complexities of defining the “New South” and the identity struggles every progressive Southerner grapples with.  The jarring stitching harkens to the Frankenstein I often feel like as a Southerner who has lived all over the U.S. and in parts of Europe, where I was constantly trying to define and defend who and what I am.  Why I speak the way I do.  Even, still, oddly enough, answering for slavery, bigotry and backwardness.

This work was recently produced as part of Caitlin’s Regional Emerging Artist Residency with Raleigh’s Artspace.  That residency started in July 2015.  For this collaborative work with her husband, Skillet Gilmore, she says this in an Artspace interview:

He and I will decide on an image and screen print it, and then I will add to it with fabric and thread. I plan on choosing an iconographic North Carolina image – one that evokes a distinct sense of place. My work tends to focus on humble landmarks point up the relationship of art to troublesome histories: poverty vs. wealth, rural vs. urban, preservation vs. development, and commerce vs. beauty. The underlying print will be the same for all shares, but each individual piece will be unique, embellished by fabric, stitch and imagination.

This work has even gotten me thinking about the way Southern identity has been appropriated all over the U.S. to sell food, cookbooks, some homey, earthy way of life, some cohesive identity that doesn’t actually exist.  But causes gazillions to flock to over-priced fried chicken and pig picking joints every day.  To swarm to restaurants where they can sit on uncomfortable benches made from salvaged wood from old plantation homes built by slaves. To buy slick, shiny cookbooks about pickling and canning and the way the old folks used to grow collards.  To long for some agrarian way of living that life in the South “back in the day” seems to represent.  But is not possible for most and not desirable for the poor and for rural folks who have no romantic notions about the old way of living.  Underneath all of these quaint pastoral or nostalgic scenes lurks the racism, the poverty, the inequality, and the bigotry that still exist today.  Those old store fronts and barns may be falling apart and going away, but all that bad stuff hasn’t.  It’s still there – it’s in the threads and the stitching holding it all together.

What the fuck is it actually that we’re all longing for in that $16 bowl of grits at Standard Foods or that Instagram photo of a busted out old storefront in downtown Raleigh?  Caitlin and Skillet don’t give us any answers but they illustrate the painful process – internally and externally – all too perfectly.



I sat in that bar and drank all day on Sunday for more than one reason

by Angela Perez
I sat in that bar called Slim’s and drank all day on Sunday for a reason.
Oh, sure, I had a good time.  No doubt.  Nothing finer in this world than being surrounded by good friends who make you endlessly laugh ’til you cry.
And I have a deep appreciation for milling about dark places listening to good music amongst people I might or might not be inclined to sleep with.  Or at least touch the tip and graze the lip but not go all the way because then it’s just promiscuousness.
Ah!  But my reasons for knocking back all that Cardinal gin on the Lord’s day were deeper than just having a good time.
Lately, life has gotten too comfortable and too safe.  And I see the people around me, my age, posting on Facebook and Instagram all of these stultifyingly boring photos of children and grandchildren and spouses and snapshots of chili and bowls of soup they made.  And these folks write about how grateful they are for being secure and getting engaged and drinking hot chocolate this morning and on and on.
And all of those mundane, regular-folks’ posts make me feel like I am suffocating.  I am drowning in those posts.  And I want to flee from these people and their penchant for the opposite of pain, dangerous adventure and anguish.  Jesus Christ, this is where it’s all headed for all the average and not-so-average Joes, including myself.
These youngish- to middle-aged lives I see around me fall so neatly and predictably into that pattern of goodness and the straight and warm and fuzzy path to the grave.   And it makes me sick.  And ill.  And I want to burn it all down to the ground.   But now, as I have gotten older, I know that there is no stable but magical brilliant place of wild satisfaction and quick release behind the curtain.  Oh no.  That place beyond the beer, shitty coke, and cum-stained curtain is dark and warped and a realm where bad people go to live in misery. It’s a place from which nothing warm and fuzzy and secure can emerge.
And so I’m caught between two worlds, neither of which appeals to me.
A limbo of longing and disdain.  Of pity for the regulars and the predictable people alongside an abhorrence of and lust for the twisted.
While I ponder on that, I suppose I’ll just sip my gin and get laid and think on glorious food and boys who smell of warm gray wool and taste of peaches and cigarette smoke.  Because, really, if you just do it once and a while, it’s just a good time, right?  I’m going to say yes, because, on this particular Sunday, it was.
But if I do it again next weekend, it might not be.  As you know, you can never fully relax when you’re getting all lit up on Sunday because in the back of your mind, as you knock back that Fireball shot somebody ordered for you, you’re thinking of all that grown-up regular responsible adult shit you gotta do on Monday morning at 8 o’clock (or whatever time it is you get up), things that the damned on the other side of the curtain don’t give a fuck about.
[Editor’s note:  this story is told from the point of view of someone who is not actually Angela Perez but who thinks along similar but not exact lines.]

How now is SOON? Why you need to see this Chapel Hill (folk?) metal band live

By Angela Perez
The music line-up at Slim’s that cold Saturday night promised me hours and hours of heavy metal.  And not just one style of metal – but a veritable smorgasbord of genres, from screaming and guttural howling to droning guitars to jackhammer drum beats to gentle ambient soundscapes.  The question looming large in my mind as the fancy Uber car pulled up and dropped me off in front of the bar was, “Can I veer all over the sonic map tonight without getting a headache? Might I possibly not like half of the bands?”  For, as you know, all metal heads are not into every kind of metal.

But, I decided for this particular night what’s most important is that I’m supporting a friend by attending the show.  The show was a benefit organized for local Raleigh hard-core musician Jason Brown to help him settle his little brother’s funeral expenses.  And, as benefit shows often are, the band roster was a motley hot mess of a line-up.  But, for my money, it was a glorious mess that titillated me down in my guts. Also, I knew there would be lots of hot and delicious metal boys skulking about downing PBR and whiskey shots.  Several of us ladies had already had short, breathy discussions earlier in the day about the presence of all those brooding, devil-may-care men.  Oh yes, we like it like that. Good God, we do.
As you have heard me say before, metal is about power and sex.  It’s inherent in the heavy primal scream of it all.  A deep-throated drive exists within – whether melodic and orchestral or DIY breakneck and morbid.  More than power and sex, however, my favorite types of metal are a sonic homage to the chaos that rules our lives.  Unlike pop music, it doesn’t try to resolve or order anything.  No, most genres of metal zero in on the dark side of the soul and the cold ambivalence of nature and the world around us.  The music revels in that which controls us and it illustrates that same context within which we lead our uncertain lives.  Sweet God, I’m generalizing.  But that’s how I make my peace with said chaos.
There’s an inherent sexiness about the bands that brood in this type of darkness.  This penchant is infinitely more interesting than the optimism of pop, even if that pop is born out of despair.  These days, most indie pop despair gets channeled into that folksy earthy celebratory jig claptrap churned out by bands like Mumford and Sons and that ilk.   All of this gets me to the band I came here to discuss with you.
That night, I got turned on to the Chapel Hill band SOON.  And they were my favorite band of the night.  Here’s why.
First up, I’ll introduce the guys – all well known in the Triangle music scene and most of them known for a gentler kind of music:
Mark Connor: guitars
Stuart McLamb: guitars, vocals
Thomas Simpson: Drums
Rob Walsh: bass, vocals
With SOON, these guys are creating within two growing trends of metal right now that really push the boundaries of the genre – atmospheric and folk metal.  SOON plays with those boundaries in their own unique and seductive way.
So what about SOON?  Their music is tight and sexy and glides across cold and mysterious landscapes dotted with ragged peaks and gently rolling valleys.  Most times, it feels more like progressive rock, often bordering on melodramatic despair inevitably tempered with either silky folk ballad reverie or 80s power ballad metal (which is too simple to be melodramatic).    There’s a self-reflectiveness to their stage output and, as is the nature of reverie, it doesn’t really climax so much as come to multiple epiphanies mostly in the form of painfully tight and heavy crescendos.  I do love it when a band gives me multiple epiphanies.  Ah!
There were fade-outs and rising and falling curtains of darkness – SOON put on a stage show by all accounts.  And yet the project felt so natural and organic.  The push and pull of theatrical artifice with raw interiors was tantalizing to say the least.
As I sipped my cold Cardinal gin and listened from the back of the bar, I felt ancient longing in the music, which is the nature of folk metal (it’s an earthy affair for all such bands creating in this genre. I keep thinking of Portland-based Agalloch who blew me away at King’s a few months back.  I kept annoying my girlfriend at that show by pulling her aside and musing, “What the fuck is this?  My God, it’s got all the trappings of metal but, buddy, it ain’t metal!”  It seemed to have hints of early U2.  But I digress. )
The beauty of that night with SOON is that they had no self-consciousness about what they were doing.  Given the fact that most of these fellas are not born and bred metal musicians, they pulled off a kind of metal authenticity that usually only guys who spent their teenage years jerking off to Pantera and weeping over Iron Maiden can manage.  But this line-up handled the whole show masterfully.  It was as though the music lit up a mythic landscape that had always existed and SOON guided us across it, letting us all feel what we felt.
 What I felt that night from SOON in that crowded bar was delicious.  And sad.  And sexy.  I felt a tight ache in my belly.  And I want more of it.
Note:  SOON released a track on February 9, 2015 and you should listen to it.  The tracks were mixed and engineered by Krif Bilbert at Legitimate Business in Greensboro, NC and only one has been released so far. But you need to see them live if you want to feel what I felt.

Bittersweet Southerners: What our reaction to the Sun Kil Moon incident says about us

by Angela Perez

I won’t give you the details of the actual incident from the Sun Kil Moon show during the Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, N.C. – that’s been covered ad nauseam.  What I want to talk about here is why Southerners – especially the North Carolinians – got so goddamned bent out of shape about it.    This incident sparked by the precious little singer from the band wasn’t really that big of a deal – calling the audience a bunch of hillbillies and telling them to shut the fuck up.  But our overheated reaction here in the South points to a much larger phenomenon, one that most Southerners deal with regularly when they leave the Southland and, quite frankly, we’re just fucking sick of.     The bitterness you might have gotten a sense of has been come by honestly.  I’ll tell you how I came by mine.

Back in the 90s as an undergraduate, I studied in Budapest, Hungary for two years.  While there, I lived in a dorm with other American students, most of them from the northeast.  That very first semester, during our orientation to the ways of Hungarian universities, I met a moderately good-looking guy from the University of New Hampshire.  We’ll call him Clive.  Clive and I got to be sort of friends, often discussing Hungarian literature while having coffee together in the dorm’s snack bar.  Towards the end of that semester, I passed Clive on my way to class and he stopped me and said, “You know, Angela, I was thinking about something you said about Ady Endre last week [he’s a Hungarian writer] and I realized you are really actually pretty damn smart – you know, to be from the South.  When I first heard your accent, well, you know, I wasn’t sure about you.”

I walked away dazed.  After all, living in Hungary was one of my first extended stays outside of the South.  And my first exposure to the fact that people who were not from the South might have a rather outmoded vision of people conducting endless swooning Gone-With-the-Wind shenanigans and cavorting Hee Haw antics.

The resentment blossoms further

A few years later, while I was at Duke University working (and drinking and fornicating) towards my Master’s degree, I often encountered students from the northeast (they seemed to make up a large part of the campus population) who made comments about my Southern accent, laughing and wondering at the fact I could be so intelligent.   On many occasions as I took the bus from East campus to West campus and listened to wealthy little blonde prep-school girls from up North speak in clipped tones about partying it down at Martha’s Vineyard, I dreamed of rubbing them all down with fatback grease and Duke’s mayonnaise and throwing them into a pit of wild dogs.   But that was just bitterness taking over.  I was taught better than that.  So I never did rub any blonde girls down with pork or anything.

For a long time, while I was at Duke studying Russian language and literature, I tried to hide my Southern accent so as not to be discounted as dumb, or, at least not as smart as everyone else there.  And since I wasn’t able to hide the battered blue Chrysler LeBaron I rolled up in and parked daily next to dozens of Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes luxury rides, well, I could indeed hide the accent.  I could swath my Southerness with a disarming cloud of New England erudition. I’d seen it played out enough on Duke’s campus.  But one day, in the midst of all that painful play-acting, I faltered.

I was standing in line at one of the campus cafeterias, passing through the buffet line, telling the women behind the hot table which items I’d like to have.  There amidst the steaming steel pans of food, I spotted collard greens.  What the fuck?  Why would anyone cook collard greens and cast those pearls before those Northern swine?  The tray of collards was full.  Naturally, no one had chosen them.  But I wanted them.  Badly.  Collard greens are my favorite vegetable in the whole wide world.  But to order those collard greens would expose me.  Ah, but that smell!  So I not only went for it, I went one better.

I asked the woman serving food if I could have an extra-large bowl of the collard greens.  The woman, a plump, middle-aged black woman in a hair net, looked at me a little bit surprised.  “Oh, okay,” she said, “sure.”

“I can’t believe you even have collard greens,” I said.

“We don’t serve a lot of them for sure.  But we offer them from time to time.”

“One question,” I said, “did you happen to cook these in fatback and if you did, can I have a piece of it?”

She almost dropped her spoon.  “Little girl,” she said, “what do you know about fatback?”

“I know I want some,” I said.  “Have you got any?”

“Wait a minute,” she said.  And she disappeared into the kitchen.  About two minutes later she emerged with a Styrofoam bowl overflowing with three cooked pig tails.  There were two other women with her.

“Girl, we had to come out here and see who was ordering up fatback,” she said, with a broad smile.  “We made these collards with pig tails.  If you want ‘em, we want you to have them.  I can’t believe this.”

I smiled back.  “Hell yes, I want them.  Thank you so much.  Finally, I feel like home here.  This means a lot to me.”

They all laughed and the third woman said, “You can have all the pigtails you want sweetheart.”

After I sat down and ate my pigtails and collard greens, I decided that I was going to be ashamed no longer.  I was living a lie.  Not only was I brilliant, I had a rich, exotic, horrible, wonderful history coming from the South and a beautiful accent that was slow and easy – for me, well, I take words and roll them around in my mouth, savor them, play with them, and use them to mean a lot of things at one time.   What’s to be ashamed of?

Granted, since the Duke days, I have lived in other places outside of the South and experienced the same sort of reaction – wonder at my words and turns of phrase.  Once, when I was living in Oregon, while at the checkout counter at the supermarket, the clerk said something about the weather.  I responded and he stopped mid-scan of a bag of curly fries and said,

“Oh, wow.  You’re from the South!”

“Yes,” I said, a bit wearily.  “I am indeed.”

“You know,” he said, “I like grits.  I really do.  And one of my favorite movies is from the South.  It’s that movie, ‘You Might Be a Redneck If’ – you know it, don’t you?”

I started to say, “Asshole, that’s no movie.  It’s a stand-up comedy routine by a Southern comedian, Jeff Foxworthy.”  But I didn’t say it.  Because I am too polite to say things like that.  I just laughed and said, “Yeah, boy, that’s a good ‘un.”

The point of all of these fascinating little vignettes from my life is to show that Southerners deal with this parochial bullshit all of the time from people who don’t seem to know any better.  And yet those same people are themselves demonstrating a fundamental lack of knowledge of the world.  It’s amazing in this day and time that anyone could be this uneducated about the South.  I don’t even need to shout out the laundry list of authors, filmmakers, musicians, chefs, etc. from this part of the world who have influenced or even changed the entire trajectory of those art forms and of American culture.  But we remain mired in and conflated with the worst parts of our history and present.

So, yes, Southerners, in this case Raleigh-Durham residents, get wildly bent out of shape (and actually, more wearied than anything) when the lead singer from a cute little precious melancholy band from San Francisco yells out “fuck you hillbillies” during a show.    It’s just so very damned backwards.  Sad, really.  Just sad.

Why the band Future Islands does not suck (even though hipsters like them).

You will be hard pressed to find a less style-conscious group of fellas.  Could be their eastern NC sensibilities.

You will be hard pressed to find a less style-conscious group of fellas. Could be their eastern NC sensibilities.

This week, thanks to a post from a Facebook friend, I discovered the three-man band, Future Islands.  The band is composed of Gerrit Welmers (keyboards and programming), William Cashion (bass, acoustic and electric guitars), and Samuel T. Herring (words and vocals). Based on that friend’s negative description and the heated and polarized thread that followed, I had to find out who these guys are.  The Facebook post read:

“Am I the ONLY one in the Raleigh/Triangle area that thinks Future Islands SUCK? IMHO, they are just plain fucking weird. The singer is goofy as shit and their music simply does not move me. Haters?”

A bevy of positive and negative exclamations ensued.  The descriptions of this band of native North Carolinians who relocated to Baltimore as being “hipsters” had me ready to write them off as probably yet another bunch of wannabe artists with no musical talent who just wanted to score with chicks and took the easy way out through a keyboard.

So I Googled the band and my first link was to their recent performance on David Letterman.  I was not prepared for my response.  I was immediately mesmerized by the band’s dynamic of 3 barely-moving, expressionless dudes – bass player, drummer, and keyboardist (not sure if this drummer is going to be regular or what the deal is with that addition) – all fronted by what appeared to be a marionette manipulated by a cracked-out chronically depressed puppet master. Sam, the marionette, has a voice rich, thick, dark, resonant, emotional, and just plain fun to listen to.  

I then linked to a live performance at King’s Barcade in Raleigh from 2013 – here I witnessed the full range of Sam’s exacting mad abandon in front of a writhing screaming crowd.   I realized then that the Letterman performance only alluded to the full extent of what this band is capable of.  A friend of the bass player’s pointed out to me that for him, where the band really shines is not the “uptempo bouncers” but in their ballads.  

Next up, I found a couple of articles about them.  One music critic, Christopher Hooten of the British daily The Independent, writes:

“[Sam Herring has been] described by friends I have passed this [Letterman performance video clip] on to as both ‘the voice of a soul singer coming out of the mouth of an accountant’ and ‘like a repressed P.E. teacher finally allowed to direct the school play’, Herring has passion and charisma in abundance.”

The writer is spot on. These guys are not typically good-looking, they dress like average dull mopes but not in a hipster way (though some might argue their plain, functional style ala Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza is normcore), and there actually does not appear to be any irony or parody in their performance.  This enterprise is what it fucking is.

Ah, but what is it?  Not so simple.

Upon first listen across their range (they’ve been around for about 10 years – previously named “Artlord & the Self-Portraits), I discovered that they perform electronic music.  And many will immediately write them off as non-musicians because of that fact.  Rock-and-rollers often see electronic music as the opposite of rock and as a genre to be reviled.   But electronic music is indeed music – music performed by digital means. Nay-sayers are often those from the punk tradition who proclaim all electronic music is inauthentic.  But I think these same folks are held back by their own adherence to the rules of what makes for music.   And there’s nothing punk or authentic about hanging on to strict dogma. Ever.

But Future Islands also incorporates “traditional” music –they have a bass player and drummer – it’s a hybrid.  So what genre is it?   Jazz, Dance, New Age, Rock…what?  I’ve heard some describe it as bouncy synthpop with dark undertones.  But that description doesn’t begin to describe what is happening overall.

Let’s look at their live act.

Sam, the front man, is not a rock star hero but he does embody everything a rock and roll front man is typically supposed to be – entertaining, charismatic, mesmerizing, a sexual beast, etc.  But he amplifies all of those parts of his job by 1,000. He experiments with, plays with, explores the limits of, and just generally has a damn good time with that role. But it’s not irony – it’s an expansion of the front-man role pushed just to the limits of irony.

A friend of mine, the delicious Richard Bacchus, who founded D Generation with Jesse Malin in NYC in 1991 and now fronts N.C.-based Richard Bacchus and the Luckiest Girls, told me this about seeing them,

“The very first time I saw Future Islands, about eight years ago, I ran up to Sam and gushed, ‘Oh my god, you’re like a cross between Darby Crash from The Germs and Jonathan Winters!’ He was confused, but gracious enough to take it as a compliment. We’ve been friends ever since.”   

In other words, he’s punk rock and a solid, self-aware, versatile, eccentric presence.  (I could go on and on about the Winters reference – but that’s another blog for another time.) Ricky later mentioned, “I like that he’s added some Tom Jones and Paul Bearer, from Sheer Terror, to his stage persona.”  

How many front men give such a nuanced and multi-faceted performance ranging across so many genres in music  and use that to create something utterly unique?  Not many.

In many ways this band is as much about the act of making music and being a band as it is about actually making music.  Thankfully, it doesn’t just end up being yet another boring art house experiment because these guys actually are good musicians creating very catchy, accessible tunes.  They have a song with lyrics I interpreted as “too many artists, not enough musicians.” With that song, they are telling us that they know exactly how you might write them off and they ARE NOT that kind of band.  They beat you to the punch by reviling exactly the kind of band you might accuse them of being (of course, if I heard the lyrics wrong, then that theory goes out the window).

I’ve read many arguments that Sam is great, he just needs a better band and a different type of music behind him.  I disagree.

The band that Sam works with expertly develops the tension of Sam’s “frontman-ness” – this straightforward synthpop is the setting in which he exists and from the very first chord, Sam is fighting and wallowing and punching out at the very music that surrounds him and allows him to be.  As I said before, his chosen music genre is electronic.  The British-Ghanian writer and critic Kodwo Eshun points out about electronic music in general:

“…as soon as you have electronic music, by definition, you’re operating to create new worlds of sound. These producers … don’t want to create love songs. They don’t want to sing about revolution. They don’t want to get angry. They want to be scientists of sound. They want to explore new universes of sound.”

But Sam, during his performance, lashes out at the very restrictions of the universe of sound his band has created.  It’s easy to be as emotive and theatrical as Sam when you’re singing in a hard rock or punk band – but how the FUCK do you do it in a synthpop outfit?  Sam shows you how and we are intrigued by the lesson.

Sam is going to sing about love, loss, the politics of music and art, inanity – or whatever the fuck he feels like – and no music genre is going to tell him what he can and cannot do. He beats up on the music backing him but at the same time he masterfully works within the context and its confines.  This battle and finesse plays out on stage.  This battle would NOT work if the musicians were no good – he’d have nothing to battle with.  But this crew gives him plenty to work with.  

The straightforward music creates order but Sam and his voice strain against that order – it’s powerful. And when his movements and performance can’t quite burst through the genre, he lets out a guttural “heavy metal” growl that utterly shatters the entire enterprise for just a moment –and then Sam, and the audience, are pulled back into battle as the band plays on.

Those guttural growls are actually very punk and very rock and roll – the very music he’s chosen creates a delicious tension that manifests (it)self into a brilliant spectacle. His split second movement into another genre of music – death metal – frees him and in that split second the band’s meta-performance is revealed – the entire activity is not just music, it is about what music IS.  It is about context and performance. 

On a less academic note, the Future Islands have nailed everything that made 80s synthpop bands so appealing – catchy music in that sad-but-will-get-over-it zone that bands like the Psychedelic Furs and New Order used to make us hurt so fucking good.

Also, Sam looks a lot like Steve Martin and has the same rubber face that allows Martin to be so expressive.  Sam, like Steve, was born to perform.  (Speaking of resemblances, I did see one quip in a friend’s Facebook thread proclaiming: “that lead singer looks like a Thunderbirds puppet of Stanley Kowalski”. That description lines right up with my puppet master theme – perhaps there’s something here worth exploring.)

For the fans of this band who have been there since the beginning (10 years or so), they might see me as a fair-weather fan and accuse me of glomming on to the fan base because they are becoming popular.  But I had truly never heard of them before three days ago. 

Some hate Future Islands because of the hipster crowd that has appropriated them.  But these guys are NOT hipsters in my mind.  I dislike douchebag hipsters more than anyone – Future Islands is way too complex to be a low-end hipster production (hipsters are the simplest creatures on the planet just after single-celled amoeba).

Folks, the world is awash in mediocre music and less-than-talented musicians.  No, Future Islands is not a traditional rock and roll band.  But they don’t have to be.  There’s plenty of that.  And there’s plenty of room in the universe for all of the genres of music.  Future Islands is a brilliant self-reflexive fusion of tight yet organically executed music, art, and intuition.   I’m only sad that they will soon be too big for me to see them in a small club where all of their talents are best seen and expressed.  Get to them up close while you can.

Editor’s note – if I am wrong about the facts about Future Islands or they change, send me a note and I’ll adjust said fact(s) – i.e., who is in the band, where they are based, etc.  The rest is purely subjective and will only change on my own whim.

Hey gang – I just added in a link to NPR’s slow-motion video from a SXSW performance – all in the name of capturing Sam’s fascinating body movements. 

A cruel waste of talent: how you too can have an ass like the jaws of a Tyrannosaurus rex

Ah!  So you want to be more attractive to others?  You want to be desperately wanted for your taut ass, your burnished buns?  Do your want your glistening charisma to be enhanced by subtle hand gestures carefully controlled by strong and sexy forearms?  Well, you soon-to-be-sexy beast, you’ve come to the right place.

A look back at lunchtime

That boy was sweating up a storm.  I mean, it was pouring from his forehead, from behind his ears, his red t-shirt was drenched under the arms and below his titty bones and all on his lower back.  That shirt was soaked through.   He was grunting and moaning with every pump of the iron.  I reckon he was squat thrusting about 300 pounds, which really isn’t all that much for a muscle-bound man, is it?  What the hell do I know?  Either way, he was frowning and struggling like he was Atlas, hauling the greasy ole’ world on his lumpy shoulders.  But enough about him, let’s talk about attaining abs that will get you laid.

A look around

I’ve only worked out in the gym 2 times in the past year.  My knowledge of fitness and who should be able to bench or squat or thrust or sling what is limited to absolutely not a damn thing.  But I do know this.  I’ve been to the gym three times this week and I’m feeling some sort of lightning in my belly I haven’t felt for a long time.

Don’t get me wrong.  I ain’t one for working out anything.  My idea of exercise is walking my dog slowly for 10 minutes and hoping that the poor bastard has seen all he needs to of the great outdoors (which is really just an unscenic trail around my apartment complex).   Oh, I wasn’t always this lethargic.  You see, it crept up on me, slowly.  Hiking, climbing mountains, working out with personal trainers, I used to be all into that sort of hoo-doo.  And then, one day, a love of gin and high-end restaurants in Washington D.C. got the better of me.  I found that sucking down chicken-fried oysters topped with smoked trout mousse and then rounding that off with capricci amatriciana with smoked sheep’s milk pecorino and washing all that down with $20 artisanal gin drinks was much more gratifying than, oh, say, walking somewhere.  I Ubered everywhere I went (for you non-city folks, that’s a car service you order through an iPhone app), jetting about in black town cars and SUVs, hoping that our chosen bar wasn’t too far from where the car dropped us off.

A look ahead

All that wallowing in the past aside.  Let’s get back to the gym.  That’s what you came here for.   Getting in the door of the building is half the struggle.  The way to make the dreaded movement through a doorway happen is through the magic of music.  So, for my first day in the gym, I chose a selection of early Van Halen and a run of Slade.  David Lee Roth’s squeals are dirty and sexy and, consequently, get your blood flowing.  Heavy, hard music makes you think of all the fabulous sex your new svelte self will acquire.  Not that you can’t have sex when you are out of shape, but then, as we all know, out-of-shape people rutting about is a sordid, dreary affair, replete with lots of huffing and puffing and blowing no one’s house down.  No, you want to be someone people would WANT to watch having sex.  Not to say that only attractive people with well-defined muscles should be going at it, but, it’s probably for the best all the way around.   The rest of the world should remain anxious and celibate and angry.   Unsexy couples should spend their weekends knitting and searching out good coffee-houses.  Maybe do some gardening or picking out clothes for the baby.

So now that you are listening to Van Halen’s Unchained and feeling like you could take on the world (not sexually, mind you – my God, don’t let fitness turn you into a slut!), choose a treadmill in the 2nd row in order to get behind the 1st row of treadmills.   Place yourself behind a man or a woman with a really fit and tight ass, one that strains against the fabric in such a way that you can actually see the muscles restricting and constricting, like the jaws of a Tyrannosaurus rex.  Once you have pinpointed which fanny to ogle, walk at a quick pace for, oh, about 20 minutes and while you are walking, really zero in on that chosen ass.  The minutes will whiz by!  It doesn’t matter if the ass belongs to some spray-tanned douchebag in hair gel.  We don’t care about the person – we care about what the firmness of the behind implies SCIENTIFICALLY SPEAKING, which is endurance, stamina, and a damn good roll in the hay (remember! getting inspired to work out is not about romance and what personality traits you look for in a person).

So now, 20 minutes has passed and your music selection has now turned to Iron Maiden.  Because nothing gets you more in the mood to create a body made for sin than good ole’ Satan.

Here ends the first part of our guide to fitness. 


Why the Raleigh band Maldora is my new favorite band

by Angela Perez

Last Friday night, in downtown Raleigh, NC, instead of going to see the Cover Up at King’s Barcade, I went to Slim’s to see the Americana band Maldora, a Raleigh band that’s a favorite among seasoned musicians.  Well, Americana is how the band is often labeled.  But that’s not really what’s happening there.  In fact, there’s a punk dissonance hammering away in every chord that threatens the music’s very being.  That punk irreverence seethes throughout the set and actively prevents this music from being true Americana or Southern roots rock.  And yet, initially, when the band starts to play, you might think you are indeed at a good ole’ roots rock show.

But, by God, you ain’t.
If I have seen Maldora ever play before, I don’t recall it, and, as the line-up stands and performs now, I know I would remember it.  I’m going to go ahead and say this band is my favorite band in Raleigh, knocking Demon Eye out of the top spot (though I still love Demon Eye).
To pull off a punk dissonance while also displaying roots rock sensibilities can only be managed by some very seasoned and wise musicians – which this band possesses, all of them well-known and highly respected in the Raleigh music scene:  J Chris Smith, Vox & guitar; Marc Smith (no relation), Vox & guitar; Lutie Cain, bass & vocals; Jesse Huebner, drums.
The push and pull of this music – destroying harmony while at the same time layering it on – creates an inherent tension that cannot be ignored and is, well, fucking tantalizing.   I was drawn in, spellbound by the fact I was witnessing the very magic of music as a true expression of feeling, of the human condition.  These guys, as they play, are creating an altogether revolutionary force through the unconscious collision of two music genres.  The music feels like it might fly apart at the seams – we are teased with the possibility.  But it’s doesn’t.  It’s not going to.  Because it’s grounded in that good ole’ rock and roll I was talking about.  I was stopped in my tracks by it that night in Slim’s.  I had to put down my glass of gin and stop flirting with Larry Burlison and Molly Flynn and pay attention.  Oh, I see a lot of good bands. But rarely, VERY rarely do I see bands that make me wonder aloud, “What the fuck is happening to me right now?”
A lot of that impact also has to do with our J Chris Smith’s voice.  To me, it’s what holds the whole enterprise together and directs it, perfects it.   Lutie and Marc also sing a couple of songs, but that’s just gravy on the fried chicken.  There is a melancholy overtone in Chris’ voice.   And there’s a pure Southern twang to it, and when he sings, it’s like you just walked into the middle of a monologue in a modern Southern novel, full of all that deliciously languid pathos and steamy introspection.   When Chris sings, I don’t even know what the words are.  It just FEELS like he is privately grappling with his own conflicts and demons and I’m peeking in.  But his language is universal and he, very unself-consciously, notices you watching and says, “Aw, come on in Angela and think on your part of the story.  We’ve all got demons to manage.”  So, I did.  I joined him.   At least, that’s what it felt like.  His voice is a kind of catharsis for me personally.  Who do you know who can sing like that?  Well, the greats do it.  That’s why they are great.
Despite the down-deep conflict of the music (inherent to any great art), the night never got dark or depressing.  Oh no.  Because while Chris and company present the whole range of human experience in every song, they also resolve it simultaneously through pure Southern raunch.  That’s right.  Raunch.  The music made me feel like I was carousing with abandon in a seedy saloon (which, I suppose I was – I was in Slim’s, after all).  So, ultimately, when you see Maldora, you have a good and dirty fucking time, not realizing until hours later, after you get home and crawl into bed, that you’ve been gently jerked from despair to elation in ways you never, ever dreamed possible.