Concluding the second year of my Seasonal Mixtape Series, it’s finally here: fall 2022//no autumn leaves. You may notice this sounds a lot better than every other tape in the series so far; that is because I switched to a double cassette set format in order to still bring you a thrilling two hour narrative about every season of my life, but with the increased audio fidelity of sixty minute high bias tapes. I had to order butterfly cases from Canada, and I decided that if I have to pay out the ass for shipping from a foreign nation for a product that weighs virtually nothing, that I’m not doing it again for another two years. So, if you like this project, thank the insane price of international mail for guaranteeing it through the end of 2024!
I made this tape for my friend, David Menestres. I’ve never met David in real life, but he is one of my greatest pals and supporters on the internet. He is a bass player who has collaborated with lots of other extremely talented individuals. Once he sent me a picture of him with Luke Stewart, for example. Most recently, he dropped this live improvisation with Andrew Weathers and Christina Carter called Tamarisk on his new imprint, Waveform Alphabet. Tamarisk have more on the way on the other side of the new year, but this first release has been one of my favorites of the year and I really recommend checking it out.
Important things to know about David:
-He sends me jams (sonic) and more jams (edible).
-Once I told him I was going to talk about the incredible album Axes by Electrelane on a podcast and he responded with a gif of a cool lady in old school flight gear, and it made me realize that the music on that album is best understood as Amelia Earhart Music: soaring over all of the tragedy and comedy of life, looking down and back and having no regrets.
-He does not have any affinity for the cassette format, outside of the ability to make tune tapestries for our pals.
-He is a big fan of my tune tapestries, specifically.
-He offered to pay for my first three bass lessons after I received a beautiful bass last night from my friend, Neil Jendon, who makes a lot of guitars and cabinets and things in his spare time. David says he is in an unusually great and generous mood after spending time with a nice doggo his colleague brought to work and that he would like for me to at least learn enough baseline stuff that I do not injure myself playing animal bass after 9pm every night and never sleeping again. (I made up the last part, but he wants me to learn enough form to not get hurt, which is very thoughtful.)
-He loves my dog, Lucy Parsons II, and specially requested the art to involve Lucy working with me on the tape. In figuring out how to do this, I discovered this webstore where you can have little prints of photos printed on nice 3×3 or 4×4 cardstock specifically. This is a boon, since I’m now buying my own huge stacks of high bias cassettes and individual cases–no more prepackaged tapes that come with a j-card and labels. Plus, I want to keep patronizing this shop that is catering so specifically to the dimensions of the j-card! I put the Lucy images on the inside of the covers, and used the blank side to make the art which would face out on either side. I used images from the same book about weather I have used in all of my mixtape art this year, made a huge graveyard of old Sharpies blacking out most of the main cover image, and I also cut up a print-out of the poem “A Storm Shall Break” by East Cleveland concrete poet, Russell Atkins. (David also loves concrete poetry.)
This tape was forged out of enormous stress and anxiety that hit me hard in the late summer. It’s written as a kind of guided meditation through chaos. The title comes from the Tripod Jimmie song which is the culminating blast at the end of first side, opening up the rest of the tape; “autumn leaves” is used to describe something enjoyable or exciting here, and it occurred to me that there being “no autumn leaves” even in the autumn of my life most of the time is actually quite poignant. The good news is that by the time I finished this mixtape and my enormously talented friend, Matt Christensen, released these gorgeous synth soothers in mid-October, I was actually able to enjoy the leaves. They paired very well with Matt’s soundtrack. And after I decided to just be present and stop living in anxiety about the future and was finally in good spirits, everything I had been stressed about reared their heads in exactly the ways I was worried about, but because I had already processed everything emotionally making this tape, I was ready to go all the way into it. “It:” the future I never totally know, but have found my way into through these tapes each season with increasing determination and power. “This is the time, and this is the record of the time.” I am the captain.
That first side covers a period in which my complex PTSD had already hit peak levels right before I discovered I may have to declare bankruptcy to get out of a horrific business contract I signed out of economic desperation right before the pandemic hit. It was the first major blow to the mode of survival I have been in since lockdown began and this business I had just taken over was largely decimated quite swiftly. This dude I bought the business from basically expects me to take the economic hit of the pandemic, despite the fact that he made tons of money from this business when it was really profitable and I–a person who lives check to check and has lots of debt and no savings–continue to not make much beyond what is necessary to survive in a basic way. So, that really destabilized my whole world. I can’t continue just doing the same things that I have been doing now. I have to figure out a new path forward. It’s still unclear as I write this what that path is, but by this point in the season, I have faith despite my continued ignorance of what the future will bring. It’s obvious the way is being cleared for something, and the only thing left to do is write my book proposal, so what the fuck else could it be?
But the receipts on this completely insane business contract coming for me was only the beginning. I’m in the midst of some kind of major purge right now. All of these different threads of my life and my process of healing from trauma are converging at the same: dealing with the bankruptcy meant opening up to my lawyer uncle about the realities of how I struggle to survive with complex PTSD, how owning my own small dogwalking company is the only job I have been able to survive on consistently and sustain long-term since I graduated college a decade ago and my trauma became something I couldn’t push down and ignore anymore. It would have been nice if people encouraged me to go to therapy instead of college, so I wouldn’t have worked so hard for this degree that I can’t use. (Something which also made the student debt debate of the summer particularly triggering for me. Economic entrapment is at the core of my trauma and being too disabled to use the degree I worked harder than anything for as a first-generation college student is high on my list of the damages I’ve suffered and everything that makes me irate as hell most of the time.)
This really brought to light the fact that I need to address this and seek real solutions rather than continue struggling to survive living independently without economic support. I can’t keep masking my trauma forever. So, in a weird turn of events, instead of being afraid of a potential law suit, I actually made the first moves toward one of my own. I don’t know if you noticed, but the US government passed a law extending the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases at the federal level recently. There’s a lot of stipulations that make it extremely hard to ever prosecute these cases, and the whole way it works is extremely stupid and fucked up (especially given the gravity of these crimes), but it makes it possible for me to pursue a civil suit against my abuser and maybe not have to struggle so hard to survive forever–something that remains impossible at the state level in Ohio. It may not be successful, but since I didn’t realize the magnitude of the damage done to me until I had aged out of a civil suit at the state level, it’s inspiring to even have a chance.
And so then, another thread: a book about Northeast Ohio. I’m kind of reclaiming my own history and birthright here. I’m taking where I’m from back from the traumatic ass childhood I had there. I’m going to spend time there to create this; I’m going to see people and things that conjure memories and forge new ones; I’m going to write the most important book yet composed about where I’m from and how we played the greatest hand in the last half-century of culture in America. A lot of trauma is probably going to resurface along the way, and you know what? It does regardless of what I do, so why not go all the way in? Maybe it will shut the fuck up, finally, after it’s really heard. Or at least not need to scream so much all the time. Plus, I’m from Cleveland, and we’re pretty much all traumatized there. The most healing thing to me is to be around people who actually understand.
A point which pulls in an additional yarn: it’s about to be twenty years since I first discovered Black Eyes, a band that were central to me becoming a writer, and who ran power to my heart and lungs when I was a teenage girl with serious mental and emotional health problems she didn’t understand at all. You should read my essay linked there about how their debut album is highly specifically and unequivocally my sixteenth birthday present from the universe; it was even released the day before my sixteenth birthday. Through this essay, I have become friends with some of the members of the band, and two post-Black Eyes projects are featured on this tape: Mi Ami and Earthen Sea. They’re getting back together for some reunion shows Easter weekend next year, which is basically my dream come true. I’m about half-way through a chest piece based on the central image in the cover art of their debut album.
The whole tattoo and the process of getting is like a literal and figurative mirroring of the image and what it means to me and it feels extremely healing to me even though it’s painful…just like their music has always felt calming even though it’s very dark, noisy, and abrasive. I’ve actually been surprised by how little this one has hurt; I was bracing myself for pretty extreme pain. It’s the most expensive tattoo I have ever gotten, but it feels absolutely worth it. It looks stunning and sharp as hell, and in a time where the future (especially economically) is extremely uncertain, this brings me joy and connects me to my own power every day. It has increased my care for my body and feels so affirming. And in the future, I get to see Black Eyes, something I never thought would be possible…so I have to believe in the future. Resolutely. I don’t know how totally yet, but I’m going to leave my extremely anxious dog, who I’ve never been away from for more than twelve hours since I got her at the beginning of lockdown, for thirty six hours to see Black Eyes in a church on Easter Sunday. The best Easter since Sheila E-aster. One hour away from my usual life for every year of consciousness I will have endured. I have an airplane ticket and a show ticket and it’s happening. I’ll finish the tattoo in a week and a half with Louis Barak, who is incredible and absolutely the perfect artist to scar this beautifully into my flesh. I only have one other album tattoo: it’s an honor reserved for albums that have been integral to my healing process over a long period of time.
And I guess maybe the last interwoven theme in this glorious, chaotic inferno in which my future is being forged is that I tried to address issues I was having with my editor which had been causing me a lot of anxiety, frustration, and economic struggle all year and got the boot. But you know what? Even though music journalism is seen as being a “cool” job, it’s still a job. I don’t want a job that causes me fairly constant anxiety, frustration, and confusion, regardless of what it is or how coveted it may be. This isn’t about status or access to free shit for me. I don’t want to generate content somewhere I have no real voice. And I’m capital-‘T’-Tired of writing things for “clickability” and having to do so in these prescriptive ways. I’ve mastered that form of writing. It’s no longer challenging or interesting, and it doesn’t help me advance as a writer in terms of my craft. It just generates content for the machine, and while I enjoy greatly improving the content, I have a book to write and this just cleared my desk. It got me off the hamster wheel of freelancing, and while I was really looking forward to my next couple of pieces, I would have inevitably gone deep into them and not gotten my book proposal done. My book proposal has already been trying to get off the back burner for half of the year, and I’m certain this is what I have to do right now, while many of the people the book is about are still with us. A lot of them are already gone. The book is primarily about the late sixties and seventies, so most of the people I need to talk to are now in the late sixties and seventies of their own lives now. Everything else I want to write about eventually will have to wait.
The fact is, too, that I go way deeper into researching and writing everything I publish than I’m really compensated to, and I’d prefer to spend my time deep in study and composition and then go through editing at the end than remain in this constant cycle of pitching and composing and editing, where I am relying on communication from other people all of the time to move things forward and get things done, or failing to due to things totally out of my control. Freelancing helps me find readers, but readers don’t enjoy my work because of where it is published; if I do great work, I will receive opportunities to do more great work. I have to believe it, because I just wrote my first thousand dollar essay and it’s going to be printed on nice paper in a full color catalog for an art exhibit at a prestigious gallery. There’s nothing to sell; anyone can come by and grab one. If you want one, I will mail one to you. No one will gauge its value on how many clicks it got; there’s nothing to click. You hold it in your hands. I’m redirecting my intentions as a writer: I want to be in your hands. More and more people are writing to me saying my name keeps popping up in different places: they’re putting it together, they’re forming a prior knowledge of me and my work, they’re subscribing to my newsletter swiftly as Twitter burns. They will follow me wherever my writing goes, presumably. They like what I offer.
Oh, but how could I forget? The real final element: a heavy cockroach infestation of my house… the physical purge. I have to deep clean every room. I have to take an account of things. I have to decide what is worth holding onto and what to let go. And honestly, it feels good, but I don’t think I’ve ever really deep cleaned anything? It’s physically exhausting and it’s taking me forever, because I have to take breaks and accomplish a lot of other things along the way. But I’m certain that when I get to the end of this process, I will be able to sit down and totally focus on my book proposal. This book the world needs as soon as possible.
It begins with the announcement of doom, and from there it goes out into many instrumental explorations of the emotions elicited by looming catastrophe. There’s a lot of siren-like sounds, a sense of urgency, danger, but also calculation and reflection…meditating in the chaos, everything a busy, geometric hive that’s breathing and in constant flux like a mushroom hallucination, the certainty that space opens up for relief when it is necessary. Revolutionary ambulance music. But also: this strange spaciousness of the investigation, what happens when the interiority of a boat becomes a mess of lumber in an open sea under an endless and uncertain sky: I’m in a room, but the space shifts, the walls are slowly caving in, but the bass being in two separate channels is creating the illusion of space. Or maybe the space is actual, because there’s no ceiling or floor anymore. And it’s all spinning in the uncertainty of time.
Does Mark Robinson say “hi; hi, hi, hi” or “high–high, high, high” before he says “low, lower than you’ll ever know?” When I imagine it, that’s when I come out from an extremely dark corner to the center of the collapsing room to let you know that I am still here, and I finally have words again. I’m ready to put what I’ve been experiencing into language, opening up into Mi Ami…the admission that I can’t continue living with this constant pressure coming down and around me all the time. But I’m ready to put my work boots on and keep moving: “you gotta do what you gotta do.” And what I have to do is keep my small business afloat until I know what to do next. One front in front of the other.
And now I’m deep inside of music I love, I’m thinking about all the writing I want to do about it…the NE Ohio book, a book about how 90s Boston was an oasis of gender egalitarianism in the 90s and had no real need for the riot grrl movement and how it connects to Margaret Fuller and the region’s long history of valuing education and creative work as an intrinsic part of a self-actualized human life for any gender, and of fucking democracy, right?! I’m following the “Glow in the Dark,” I’m ready to explore, take risks, and see some fucking leaves while they’re still here changing before our eyes. “Skeleton” definitely exorcizes some of the trauma-based rage I was feeling while I was making this. “Make Hay” is when I started smoking a lot of weed–unusual for me, but the stress was making me want to smoke, and I refuse to go back to cigarettes–and committed myself to trying to enjoy myself in the time I have despite the uncertainty, letting time pass without anxiety about its passing, sending it to others (via tapes), letting my heart go out to them. Time becomes my child that I’m shepherding off to school, so I can be alone with my music. Then Women of the Pore’s endless corridors of maze-like doors and walls opening and closing around me culminate in a clearing: “The Flats, 1975.” All of a sudden, I know the way from here.
On the second tape, I go to Cleveland and recommit to the work I have to do there. Some songs recount events: the passing of jaimie branch; the revelation that twenty years since getting in trouble at work for blasting Black Eyes max vol at my first job, I’m still getting in trouble for listening to rebellious and incendiary music super loud. (I got banned from a client’s house by the landlord for banging the je’raf song included on here in the backyard with the dogs one day. I’m in communication with the band about putting stickers that say “RICH PEOPLE HATE IT” on the tapes.) A reason to rejoice: two decades of suffering under capitalism hasn’t broken my spirit or made me any less fighting mad.
On the last side, I’m searching, chasing…the past and the future are starting to collide in the present moment. Old releases from C-Clamp and Sonora Pine get new life via well-deserved reissues, and I’m a part of it, I wrote about these people this year! It’s all a part of the story that’s constantly unfolding. More My Dad is Dead reissues coming soon, and I’m a part of that, too. We slow down and remember how beautiful and strange it is to be alive at all. We get some “Tips on Filmmaking;” we set the stage for a new, ambitious work. We return to the recent past, Omnivore, who was the framework for my summer mixtape and has a great little a capella song about the mythical “Gnarwarblers,” whose call can be heard from mid-to-late fall, struggling to express experience or locate meaning…doing it anyway. It doesn’t always sound beautiful, but Glenna Van Nostrand does recounting it. Zelienople–whose drummer I wrote about recently–lead the closing of this epic, and we make a “Soft Return” to the beginning of the kranky label, as well as to being calm and ready to keep rotating around the sun into whatever is next. My interview with kranky co-founder, Bruce Adams, about his new book was the last thing I had to complete to sit down to write one of my own, which is exactly the kind of figurative passing of the torch that I love. Cycle complete.
Thank you for reading this and for listening to the tape, if you did. I hope you get something out of it. What I got out of making it was invaluable.
© COME AWAY WITH EMD 2022