Slingshots, Anyone? : The End of Slingshots… and the Shape of Spunk to Come…

Published  September 2012

“And when the day is done, and I look back / And the fact is I had fun, fumbling around /All the advice I shunned and I ran where they told me not to run / But I sure had fun” –Fiona Apple

“The possibilities are open / to create a new situation / surely we won’t know unless we try” –Stereolab

It’s over, y’all. This column, which in its lifetime has enjoyed a circulation of something like– oh, I dunno– ten billion copies, must now be laid to rest. Almost every month for the past three years I have agonized in front of a computer screen for days on end to produce something I felt worthy for the world’s eyes. If it wasn’t chronicling the riotous punk rock shows that have never ceased to nourish me, then it was deviously sneaking into concerts for the thrill. When I wasn’t bubbling over with excitement about taking to the streets and occupying public space, I was eviscerating myself onto the page with confessions of desperate longing. What began with a rather simple premise– stories from behind the Iron Rail table– truly came to encompass nearly every facet of my life. But of all 30+ published pieces forged from these internal tempests, all pale in comparison to the difficulty of executing this installment.

For weeks I’ve struggled to find my “angle” for this last transcript, the final communiqué to the masses. High and low, across thousands of miles, in dark café corners and huddled in strangers’ rooms, have I searched for that constellation of thoughts which would offer the perfect conclusion to my humble body of work. Something meaningful I could impart with these last dying gasps, to encapsulate where I have been and where I hope to go from here. I remember Daniel of Die Young, at one of their last shows, remarking how they had exhausted the limits of relevant subject matter for a hardcore band; to drag it out any more, he told the audience, would only mean repeating themselves. I cannot describe my feelings any more eloquently. As a contributor to this magazine, I am spent. Personally, I am ready to free up more time for other creative endeavors. So it is with a heaving sigh that I scrape the dregs of my mental reserve for that most timeless of formalities: a goodbye.

This column was and always has been an ode to another day not spent hiding from the world, cowering in fear, a reclamation of the time and potential that belongs to each of us. It is a snubbing of one’s nose at authority and a flagrant celebration of mischief.

If there’s been a central theme in my life and writing, it has been that of inertia. It is a sickness that has riddled me since my induction into “adulthood.” Time and again, I internally wove a tapestry of fictions detailing why I was incapable of overcoming obstacles to achieve what I wanted. I distracted myself with the left hand while with the right I erected barriers to my own happiness. Within this society they say there are two kinds of cop: the one in uniform and the other inside our head. While my self-esteem grew weaker, my self-defeatism gained strength. Excuses became my allies.

Finally one day, maybe while enjoying a particularly delicious bite of a tofu sandwich but probably by turns much more gradual, something clicked: it occurred to me that to expect fulfillment and validation externally, to wait patiently for fate to dole out inspiration, was to sow the seeds of disappointment and despair. With staggering implications, the DIY ethos that I’d professed for years hit home in this profound way: the power to affect the circumstances of my destiny, to inject my life with purpose, I must recognize within myself. That was it– just like that Amebix song said! Otherwise I may as well cast in my lot with the Christians, doomed as they are to their vocation of servitude, praying ever-meekly for salvation that’s just outside their reach.

I brooded on this newfound understanding for a while, as I’m wont to do, before resolving that it was time to prove my conviction with action. And so with a heavy heart, I pulled the posters off my wall and decided my time in New Orleans had run its course. That last afternoon stands out as particularly poignant: my dad and I sharing a tearful exchange and giving one last wistful look about the place I’d called home for so long before driving away and leaving it all behind.

And thus far my experiment has yielded a summer both eventful and erratic. I have travelled on a punk rock tour and protested outside five major animal research facilities in as many cities. I’ve plunged headlong into lakes and rivers, crashing hotel pools along the way. Childhood dreams came true. Significant friendships were forged. Complete strangers inspired me with their passion and– a few times here and there– I think I even inspired myself.

Meanwhile, other glimmers of wisdom have made themselves apparent. I am learning, slowly, to exude confidence and dispel that stranglehold of doubt. I take better care of myself and push my physical limits. I’ve stopped wasting energy trying to convince anyone to adopt my set of values or lifestyle choices; instead, I am embracing the value of reciprocity and leading by example. And fittingly enough, I’ve come to not place too much precedent on goodbyes; what’s expressed along the way holds much greater importance anyway. But lest I seem too self-assured, allow me to proclaim, in the words of the wise Operation Ivy, that the greatest lesson I’ve learned so far is that I, indeed, know nothing.

I suppose while I have the floor I could take this opportunity to explore the question of intention. What, as an idealistic 18-year-old kid struggling to understand the world and carve out my own habitable nook within it, did I set out to accomplish with this platform? The answers are elusive, but I will try to hammer some down. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t seeking some level of acceptance– perhaps I could even admit, notoriety? Or maybe I just relished the outlet for creative expression, somewhere I could feel listened to and empowered. A space all my own where I was restricted by only my imagination– well, and maybe in a couple instances the editors of AG– to write whatever I pleased. Maybe I wished, in the proud tradition of zinesters before me, to add my own voice to the documentation of the radical culture and history of New Orleans.

It was probably a combination of all of these motives that fueled me since the day Dan approached me with the offer, at the Turboslut show or wherever it was. In the end– along with the relief I imagine I will feel once I hit that final keystroke and collapse exhausted into my pillow here in Oakland– I can only look back on it all with satisfaction. I mean, don’t get me wrong: if these columns ever get published into some fancy book (not holding my breath for it), I’m not saying I wouldn’t opt to 86 some tasteless passages the way Minor Threat probably should have omitted “Guilty of Being White” from their compiled discography. Because I definitely would. There are parts that now make me cringe. But even so, the essence would remain: the struggle for liberation, the confusion and alienation, the delinquency, the really forced attempts at “humor”…

I hope people remember “Slingshots, Anyone?”, if it is remembered at all, not simply as a “scene report.” This column was and always has been an ode to another day not spent hiding from the world, cowering in fear, a reclamation of the time and potential that belongs to each of us. It is a snubbing of one’s nose at authority and a flagrant celebration of mischief. These are my last words to you all; it is here that my voice in your life flickers out like a fading star. A new chapter of my life is beginning. A world of experience and learning awaits.

I want to thank all of you for reading, especially those who ever shared their encouragement or criticism. Hopefully enough of those garish moments of self-reflection tempered what at times probably came off as an excessive amount of arrogance and self-righteousness. Thanks to Dan Fox for his unwavering support as an editor and for always going to bat for me whenever I caused a stir. To the Iron Rail Book Collective and my local anarchist comrades, for making the city a more inspiring place to be. A big shout out to my Nowe Miasto family, who taught me innumerable lessons and without whom I shudder to imagine the past four years and gaping hole that would exist in my life. To all the members of Thou for introducing me to many individuals I cherish as friends and for consistently (and patiently) allowing me to share in such wondrous experiences on the road; I love y’all. To Skylar Fein, for his fearless generosity and for always being a good friend. And lastly, thanks to all those booking shows, offering spaces and just generally keeping the all-ages punk rock community the vibrant and inclusive environment it should be. Don’t ever stop.

Alive, living, loving and searching–
Derek
8/25/12

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