Friend

Suicide is tempting because peace is tempting. There are moments where you feel you would give absolutely anything not to feel so much pain and fear anymore. To just be at peace. To finally go to sleep and rest. Some days it’s hard to resist that temptation.

I’m trying. I’m trying to stay alive because I believe there is more for me to do here, and that I will find hope one day. But some days it’s very hard. It’s hard not to welcome death a kind friend and go to sleep.

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Weakness

precipice

We must not attempt to overcome or conquer our weakness. Battling the weakness only makes it grow. The larger our light becomes, the deeper is the shadow we cast. No, we must embrace our weakness, we must cherish and respect it. In seeking strength we attempt to become stronger than what we are. In loving our weaknesses we accept the beauty of what we have always been.

The Serial Podcast

serial

I enjoy podcasts, and lately I’ve been listening to a lot of them. After spending hours and hours over on Jackie Kashian’s entertaining The Dork Forest, I decided to branch out. About a year ago, in fact, the very night before I moved to Delware, I’d listened to an interview on Geeks Guide To The Galaxy with Cecil Palmer, who serves as the central narrator of the radio play style podcast Welcome to Night Vale. I started listening, but I was a little aggravated by the format, I was hoping for something closer to an actual radio play, whereas Welcome to Night Vale is mostly told via a single character speaking through the town’s radio news broadcast. Occasionally there are other characters speaking, and it seems like most often they happen during the live episodes, but for the most part it’s just Cecil speaking, and there isn’t really a concrete narrative, mostly just endless descriptions of the town in Lovecraftian detail. It’s actually really cool, I don’t mean to sound down on it, but I was getting frustrated because I wanted something with a genuine narrative.

This led me to Serial. I knew absolutely nothing about Serial other than that it was an incredibly popular podcast. I had no idea what the show was about, and I actually assumed it was something more like Welcome To Night Vale of Thrilling Adventure Hour, so when I started the show I assumed it was fictional. It turned out to be entirely non-fiction, and is the story of the murder of a teenage girl in 1999, and one reporter’s efforts to truly understand everything that happened, and whether or not the man convicted of her murder was truly guilty. The following paragraphs are adapted from some comments I made in a Facebook discussion about the show.

***

For me, there are some common sense issues here.

Jay admits to helping with burying Hae. It was done using his shovels. He was, in any version of events, the one helping to put her body in the ground. Immediately that doesn’t look good for him. Then, you add in the fact that he cannot keep his story straight, even after all this time. Even after Serial he came forward with yet ANOTHER version of events.

Jay’s character seems to be that even in the most amiable light, he was a bit of a weirdo. That whole incident where he wanted to stab his friend just for fun, that doesn’t seem like just random playing around to me. His answers to the questions change so constantly that no one actually knows what his story is, there are five versions and counting. When Sarah spoke to him, he seemed defeated, exhausted, destroyed.

He talks in detail about seeing her dead body, helping bury it, describes the way she looked dead in graphic detail, talks about throwing away his clothes and disposing of anything incriminating. And all of this because… Some guy he only casually knows who he got high with murdered someone and he’s just fine with helping get rid of her? No way. I don’t buy anything Jay says.

Then add in the fishiness of the prosecutor getting him a free lawyer. I know nothing about law but that was clearly a conflict of interest on some level and i don’t understand how the case wasn’t thrown out on that alone.

Compare Jay, the unpredictable guy described even by friends as a weirdo and in his own words as someone who was the person to come for with illegal activity, to Adnan, who is either innocent or is doing a DAMN good job of looking, speaking and acting innocent fifteen years on and never slipping up once.

I don’t even know what to think about Mr. S and his weird story that doesn’t add up.

The prosecution doesn’t seem to have any hard evidence, and the defense has none either. With the Nisha call, it seems to me that Jay could have called her by accident, freaked out and then pretended to be Adnan, “Jay on the phone,” and then spoken as himself for the rest of the call. Then you have Jay’s incredible paranoia in the porn store after the murder happened, thinking people were out to get him. Who was he afraid of? The state seemed to be creepily involved with him in a variety of ways.

Also, from the very first episode I thought there was a huge element of anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan Prejudice involved, and sure enough, it was there in droves. The investigators were given incredibly inaccurate information about Muslim culture and the prosecution used both the ignorance and prejudice against Muslim culture to paint a picture of Adnan as an angry Muslim killing the woman who slighted him in some kind of archaic honor killing.

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Sure, Adnan doesn’t have an ironclad alibi. Sure, Asia seems to be a little shady, and the fact that she refused to come forward until the podcast became incredibly popular and then wrote an entire book about the case makes her seem like a fame-seeker who just wants to milk some money and popularity out of the resurgence of interest in Adnan’s case.  And sure, Adnan cant say anything incredibly convincing about what he was doing the day of the murder. But Jay? He has red flags all over him. Somehow he was the prosecution’s star witness, when he is the fulcrum on which the entire case turns and he can’t be counted on to keep a single detail straight. Not to mention he is the only person to admit to burying Hae. The only person who SEEMS guilty is Jay. Adnan doesn’t seem like a cunning psychopath, or someone who went into a dissociative state to murder Hae. He admits he was high most of the day. Weirdly enough, so was Jay, but he seems to have a detailed memory of the day, though the details change constantly.

There are so many things about this case that just don’t add up. No one seems to have a clear motive. The prosecution spent all their time on their racist “Muslim honor killing” story, but even in the most unflattering interpretation of Muslim beliefs, it’s clear from Adnan’s behavior that he wasn’t some devoutly religious kid adhering completely to Muslim doctrine, but a modern kid who had sex and smoked pot and did the kinds of things teenagers were doing. Gutierrez, who is a whole separate jar of pickles because she seems unhinged, didn’t put forth any real motive for Jay to do it.

After hearing all the details about these people, it’s hard to understand how Hae ended up murdered at all. None of them seem like they had any reason to kill her. I think that ultimately, there’s not truly enough evidence to convict ANYONE. The whole thing just feels like a puzzle with a huge central piece missing, and it’s easiest to blame the ex boyfriend, and easier if you happen to be in Maryland and the boy is the Muslim son of Pakistan immigrants. It doesn’t seem like anyone had any real reason to kill her. The idea that it was a serial killer seemed farfetched, but what if it turns out to be? If so, that means that not only was Adnan innocent, but Jay is guilty of being involved in some serious conspiracy with the police. I’m told that a separate podcast dug a lot deeper into what happened and that it seems like the police were acting incredibly shady, and I believe it, especially with the prosecutor getting Jay his attorney for free.

I wish I could say that I believe unequivocally that Adnan didn’t do it, but I can’t. Hae is dead, and her death was heinous and gruesome, and it’s utterly horrifying to know a real person was killed, stuffed in a trunk and then buried. It’s hard, knowing that, to think that if Adnan DID do it, well how could I possibly entertain the notion of wanting him to go free without knowing without a doubt he was innocent? In the end, there isn’t enough evidence to prove who did it. But is Adnan guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? No way. Even if Adnan did it, there isn’t enough evidence to prove it beyond reasonable doubt. Like Sarah said, a juror would probably have to acquit Adnan, because there isn’t any hard evidence to prove that he was the one who murdered Hae.

bestbuy

Tori Amos. Miami, Floria. October 23, 1996

Tori

Tori Amos appeared in my life back in 2010. In six years, she’s become so much ingrained in who I am musically, both as a listener and a musician myself, that her musical journey has become an inextricable part of mine. As I grow older (though still not particularly that much older, because I am now the same age Tori was when Little Earthquakes was released), I find myself understanding more of the songs I didn’t understand before. Tori’s music is filled with so many layers that people could probably spend lifetimes digging through the songs (numerous as they are, there are literally hundreds) and still glean new meaning as time goes on.

My first Tori album was her retrospective collection Tales Of A Librarian, which even now as a big fan I still don’t particularly like, both because the songs selected don’t really sound right to me when they’re paired together (for instance, Jackie’s Strength, Tear In Your Hand, Baker Baker, Bliss and Spark all sound completely out of place paired with Mary, Sweet Dreams, Angels and Snow Cherries From France), and because the new mixes weren’t remasters as much as they were so-called “reconditioned” versions of the songs, switching backing vocals with lead vocals, moving some instruments to the back and others forward, etc. On the whole album, I really only enjoyed three or four songs, and two of the songs I liked were a minute long each. I almost gave up, but I decided to keep trying and got American Doll Posse and Boys For Pele at roughly the same time. I chose these two because American Doll Posse was supposed to be a “new era,” and I thought that her new music might be more accessible than her old music, and because Boys For Pele was considered to be her most out-there album and I had a feeling I’d like it. American Doll Posse literally hurt my ears the first time I listened to it, and I don’t mean that statement as anything other than a reflection of what actually happened: the music had so much going on, so many layers of production, so many changes in genre from song to song without ever really changing, that it felt like one onslaught of sound that had no downtime and I couldn’t process it. The music all blended together and I couldn’t really grab a hook or a melody to remember from each song, and it made my head hurt.

Boys For Pele was another story, however. I still remember the day I got it, and that memory means something to me. I was agoraphobic at the time, or at least I was developing agoraphobia. I was home alone, which was the way I preferred it, and I was standing on the back deck of the house I lived in. That house was the nicest place I’ve ever lived, with a full back deck with a space for a (non-functional) hot tub, and an in ground pool. I always wanted to go swimming naked in that pool early in the morning when no one was home, but I don’t think I ever did (I did sometimes slip my shorts off and swim around naked when I was at home by myself, but usually came back to put them on after a few minutes of excitement. So, I was standing on the back deck opening a package that came from eBay. At first I was annoyed because when I pulled my copy of Boys For Pele from the package, though it was still factory sealed, the booklet inside had a big crease in it. This couldn’t technically have been the seller’s fault if my memory that the album was still plastic-sealed is correct, but it aggravated me. I pulled the booklet out and looked through the photos, the beautiful image of Tori suckling a piglet (the meaning of which, as far as Tori’s attempts at motherhood, was probably lost on me at the time, but I must have enjoyed some symbolism in it because I do remember thinking she looked like some Pagan goddess, and was reminded of the Fairy Goddess Lurline suckling an animal in her arm in the novel Wicked), a piano burning in the rain, and the words to the songs arranged vertically. The lyrics all seemed like strange gibberish to me, and I had sampled some bits of the album (I was terrified to listen to the song Father Lucifer, because I was just beginning to shake of the fear of the devil Christianity had instilled in me. I didn’t know it would later become one of my all time favorite songs), but I really didn’t know how big of an impact the album would have on me.

I put it in the CD player was sitting on the kitchen counter. My piano, whose maker was Marcellus, a piano maker based in New York circa the early nineteen-hundreds, sat in the living room. I still miss that piano. It was quiet and I was alone and the house was mine. I put the CD in and I seem to remember almost forgetting it, because Beauty Queen came on and it was so quiet, not much was happening, and I was walking around the room doing other things.

But then Horses started.

The piano began to sound like drops of rain, as Tori quietly sang “I got me some horses, to ride on, to ride on…” I fell in love with that song right there. And so it went on, I continued to listen to more Tori, to be completely spellbound by some songs and bored or confused by others, but even after six years I’ve only really managed to suggest maybe half of her catalog, and then there’s probably an infinite amount of reflection to be done on those hundreds of songs.

I discovered Tori bootlegs a little later, but not too much. The first one I ever heard was a live performance from 1996 and the Purple Rose in Berlin, with Tori playing American Pie and Smells Like Teen Spirit. It also had an interesting improv in Doughtnut Song I hadn’t heard before and Not The Red Baron, which would later become one of my favorites. Of the Tori shows that exist online (and mostly all of them exist in some form), my favorites are the 1996 Dew Drop Inn tour.

It’s hard to describe exactly how I feel when I listen to shows from that tour. But there is one in particular, Miami Florida, October 23, 1996. This was a night when Tori got sick on stage and ran off stage crying. She came back a bit later saying that she could either go to the hospital or finish the show, and she decided to finish the show. She took some of the pressure off of herself by not sticking to a set list for the majority of the rest of the show, and just playing what came to mind. What happened at that show, that night, is a part of who I am. It’s on my heart. It’s a part of me. That recording of that show has had an incredible impact on me.

She played so honestly on that tour, she was bleeding all over the stage (I say that as a metaphor, though one person online who says they were there that night claimed they could see Tori drooling on the piano because she was so sick), she was dying in front of everyone. I don’t know if it’s wrong, or cannablistic, or sadistic to ENJOY those performances, but I do. It’s not as simple as just hearing something that makes me cry, in fact I’m not sure that I ever really cry during Tori’s music. But it moves me on some very deep level, in something inexpressible, a dark place that I don’t have perfect access to, a place inside me that touches something, maybe magick, maybe other lives, maybe cosmic fabric. I don’t know. But Tori’s performances from that tour have stayed with me, and I’m still horrified (in a beautiful and very, very good way) and entranced, unable to leave those performances.

What I want. What I want is something that I don’t know if I can ever have. The way I feel listening to that Miami 1996 performance, it’s something I’ve never felt anywhere else. And what I wouldn’t give to be able to BE there. I don’t know what it was like there. In my mind, the concert was outside, Tori was up on stage and it was raining and overcast. It might not have looked like that at all. But I can just imagine what it might be like to stand there in that space, where someone whose connection to the divine, whose magickal power is so strong, to feel her aura, her sadness and her strength and her anger and her emptiness and her loneliness, swallowing me up, to be a part of that sound she created, that wave of fulfillment emanating from the piano and from the speakers and from the chamber of her own body, to hear it, to truly be there. To close my eyes as she sang and LISTEN, really listen. That’s what I want. That’s what I would like to experience. Tori still tours, and I hope to see her some day. But I don’t know that it could ever be like that.

I want to experience really being there. The best I have is one recording, the same bootleg that seems to have made it’s way around the internet. I would give so much just to have a perfect high quality recording of the show (and I don’t know if there’s any truth to it but I’ve heard that Tori records her shows, so maybe there IS a high quality recording of the show somewhere in the world). I keep hoping that when Tori’s promised remaster of Boys For Pele arrives, it will have some performances from that show, particularly Girl, or if I had my way, also Father Lucifer from the night before.

When I leave Tori behind and find other musical obsessions, she somehow finds her way back into my life. And you know, I don’t mean to sound like a person obsessed with Tori the PERSON, because I’m not. I love knowing the back story on the songs and how they affected her and where they came from and how her experiences made their way into the songs. And I would love to MEET Tori the person. But it’s Tori’s music itself that has such a strong presence for me. And that, I think, is an important distinction. It makes me a listener and not a stalker. I’m not obsessed with Tori the person, but I am infinitely fascinated, comforted, and inspired by Tori’s music. She made me believe that I was a musician, without ever speaking a word to me. She doesn’t even have a song in particular that feels like it bears a message that I can be a musician (although I suppose many of her songs, Silent All These Years probably being one, would come across with that message among their multitudes of messages, thoughts and concepts). It’s the music itself. It moves me so much that I HAVE to play music. I HAVE to sing and play piano. And it isn’t contrived or thought out or anything, it just happens. And that’s how I know it’s what I’m truly most passionate about. I don’t really have to think too much about it. It just happens naturally.

I never really thought I’d be a musician, or that it was in me. But it’s there.

 

Rain in Ireland