Well well, look what the cat dragged in. Long time no Adios Lounging. 14 months to be exact. Granted, I’ve been posting a bit on Facebook, but the Adios Lounge has always been the place where I could take a deeper dive. So, what I wanna do today is lay a couple things on the table with this post, sort of explain why I wasn’t writing here, and NEXT POST I’ll get down to business. Literally. One of my favorite bands of the early-to-mid 1990s was Overwhelming Colorfast. They’re Kickstartering the vinyl reissue of their second album, Two Words, which only came out on CD and cassette back in the day. I’ll lay out my argument for why you should consider investing in the project. But, that’s then, this is now.
I’ve already written about the death of my brother in July 2015, which followed on the heels of my father’s death in February 2013. Those were devastating blows to my psyche and looking back, a creative lull should’ve been expected. Some people write feverishly through their problems as a sort of mechanical distraction from reality– and I’ve done that before — but this was different. One thing that was different was that instead of writing through my pain, I started drinking through it. Not that I wasn’t a drinker before, but it definitely turned into something else. So, when I honestly look at why I stopped writing for The Adios Lounge, first in late 2015 and then again in early 2017, one of the biggest factors was me turning into an alcoholic.
There it is. I had to stop drinking because I wouldn’t stop drinking. If The Adios Lounge was going to have a chance in hell to resuscitate, get its legs back, and maybe start leading to bigger projects like podcasting and book writing, I needed to address this big, drunken elephant in the room. The tipping point was feeling for the first time in my life like my brain wasn’t making connections that used to be immediate and tenacious. I think they call it being “wet brained,” but I could feel myself being slow on the draw. It’s scary to consciously see yourself slowly pickling the neurons, but consciously — or subconsciously, who fucking knows — wanting it to happen. Or not giving a shit that it’s happening. Whatever else may have contributed to my free falling inspiration and creative lethargy, until I was willing to be honest with what I was doing to myself, the rest was just breakfast. Handle that problem and maybe, just maybe, I can get on with what I think I do best. So anyway, that’s that. Not drinking. We’ll see. I think I’ll be OK.
The other thing frustrating me from a motivation/inspiration standpoint was the politics of outrage that began consuming our culture beginning in 2013-14. Maybe it was a little earlier than that, maybe a little later, but that’s besides the point. Everything was a battleground and whenever you have a battle, you have people not thinking. “You’re stupid. NO, YOU’RE STUPID!” You can see me struggling with it in a few of my posts during the last run of the Lounge. (See: I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts and The Poison in Your Human Machine (or, Politics is Merely the Decoy of Perception).
I have a natural aversion to binary, hard left/hard right thinking and politics as theater, which was what I felt like was going on here. The months leading up to the 2016 election and then immediately following it were like a series of napalm baths. Where I once felt like I had a general handle on what it meant to be an American, I was now out in the fucking weeds. I hated the Trump voters AND the Clinton voters. I hated how every conversation got so easily derailed by virtue signaling. I hated all you motherfuckers digging in your heels because, by God, you were right about everything.
I’ve now come to accept that I was sitting on a fence that didn’t exist. My kind of pragmatic centrism is fine as a theoretical construct or as a conversational ideal, but centrism only works when you know where the center is. That distinction has been nuked. I fancied myself Bogart in Casablanca, the savvy, stubborn face of neutrality, even with Nazis afoot. What I overlooked (or chose to ignore) was that at the end of the film, even Bogie is forced to make a choice, and that choice is against fascism. This country is being “led” by a rage tweeting narcissist with the temperament of an abusive alcoholic and without any ideology beyond himself. He’s not smart enough nor disciplined enough to play the diplomatic long game and he’s constitutionally incapable of nuanced thinking. In that sense, though, he’s provided a valuable service. Trump has made it easy to pick sides.
Yeah, just below the surface lurking
A shadow breathing through a straw
Clinging to the myth that you were cheated
Ahhh, the myth that you were robbed”
Trump is dangerous for many reasons, but on a practical, day to day level, the fact that his arrogant, swaggering sociopathy has metastasized in America’s right wing has to be close to the top. We have grown-ass adults mocking teenagers who were nearly gunned down by a psychopath and these social injustice warriors are actually suggesting that the kids are paid actors. We have unarmed black men gunned down by police and these same people blame the unarmed black men, don’t give a fuck about the unarmed black men, or obfuscate and butwhatabout all because they don’t have the emotional depth or intellectual honesty to accept what’s happening. This, my friends, is exactly why Jim Crow lasted for decades. It’s a withering kind of mental illness that infects homogenous, insular societies. Plantation inebriation. I pity center-right conservatives because they either have to support Trump because that’s what their peers are doing (thus destroying their credibility) or appropriately distance their views from Trump, but then face the kind of cannibalism typically seen on the hard left.
This is where Dan Carlin has made me feel better. I started listening to his podcast, Hardcore History, about a month ago and though I’ve barely scratched the surface, the episodes I’ve heard are intensely compelling. It’s not about linear recitations of facts or simple conclusions. Carlin jumps into a society and walks us around. Very three dimensional, filled with riveting details and connections, and you can tell he’s having fun being intellectually curious. I’d like to think that’s what The Adios Lounge has done for music fans, so listening to his podcast — if I can really be selfish now — has fired me up. What he does, what I’ve done, it’s a very specific, intellectual process and worldview. Hey, there’s someone who likes to deep dive like I do. He likes nuance and pragmatism and kicking over rocks that aren’t typically kicked over. OK, I’m not alone in this thing.
Anyway, so I listened to few Hardcore Histories, then learned that Carlin also has a podcast called Common Sense. But, that one wasn’t showing up in my feed and I wasn’t sure why. Turns out he hadn’t published a new CS since last October and that podcast was his first since the previous June. So, I went to that final (to date) podcast, Shades of Grey, and I was immediately blown away by the show description. It reads, “Dan is finding it hard to operate in a Black and White, Good and Evil cultural environment where everyone is outraged all the time about everything and where Americans hate each other.” Well now, how about that??? That is EXACTLY how I’d been feeling. It’s easy for ideologues and self-styled foot soldiers for this or that cause to embrace the zeitgeist. But, for guys like Carlin and myself, who feel a duty to remain objective-ish, reasonable, and moved by fact and nuance, this toxic environment was like being untethered in space.
I’ve linked here to one of my favorite sections of Shades of Grey. The whole show is a good, honest listen at a guy trying to figure out his way in this not so brave new world. It crystallizes the frustration I was feeling not just as a guy who has a blog, but simply as an American.
Individually we can be very clever and intelligent. But, don’t we just sort of devolve to the mean when we’re talking about us as a group. It is interesting. If you’re a true patriot right now and you do want to see the United States of America continue healthily down the road, you would have to say that the biggest problem we have is that we can’t talk to each other, we don’t like each other. If the Russians are doing that and you’re calling your fellow Americans ad hominem names like libtard or Nazi and these sorts of things when they don’t apply, maybe you’re just doing what the enemy wants. Maybe the patriotic thing would be to resist that by realizing that the biggest thing destabilizing the country right now is us. Which is what’s changed so much about Common Sense.”
I can’t tell you how much better it made me feel knowing I wasn’t the only one whose creative output was stymied by the climate of the times. For me, though, hearing both of Carlin’s podcasts had the opposite, perhaps counterintuitive effect. Instead of burrowing further into my writers block, the past few months have been a reckoning in the other direction. I’m no ideologue, I’m not particularly interested in socialism or dismantling capitalism, and I have little patience for progressive purity tests. Not that I’m unwilling to listen. However, to restate what I said above, there are times in one’s life where you have to pick sides. Playing the detached, bemused observer hovering above the hoi polloi is my default setting, but between Trump, the failure of Republicans and Democrats, the #MeToo movement, the plague of school shootings/spree shootings that some people inexplicably and shamefully don’t give a fuck about (but don’t touch our guns!), and unarmed black males still getting killed by police, acting like the playing field is level is intellectually dishonest. This country is psychologically broken and in my opinion that isn’t because the Russians meddled. I think we’re broken because some of us want to be broken. The good thing, though, is that some of us want to be healed.
Having purged all that from my consciousness, don’t expect this site to turn into some HuffPost-esque political broadsheet. My first love will always be music, so I have to imagine that’s where my primary motivations will still lie. There’s no shortage of good music to explore. But, I felt like I needed to get his shit off my chest. If you disagree with the side that I picked and no longer wish to visit the Lounge, I get it. Freedom of choice and all that. Who knows what becomes of all this? Influenced by Carlin, I think getting into podcasts and talking through various issues might be the way to go. I need to get equipment and setup a home studio, but that’s an opportunity that excites me. And no, I don’t expect Adios Lounge posts to change the world. I do what I do in my niche-y corner of the Googleverse. But, for the first time in months, maybe years, I feel motivated by something bigger than me. And maybe that’s the lesson to take from all this.