Libraries Are Cooler Than You

Right now I’ve got Leonard Cohen’s Death of a Ladies’ Man spinning in my computer, soon to be secured in my iTunes for my future listening pleasure. Death of a Ladies’ Man joins about a hundred other albums I’ve transferred via Compact Disc to my music library, thanks to gift that keeps on giving, the actual library.

You can rock your skinny jeans and scarves or flat-brim caps and Lonzo Ball sneakers all day long, but you’ll never be as legit as a library. As the old adage goes, it’s what’s in the inside that counts, not the outside- or whatever.

I was recently interviewed for a documentary on libraries whilst at the 7th Annual Gonzo Fest in Louisville, and I was reminded just how badass libraries really are. No, I’m not necessarily talking about the hush hush environment, lack of activity around you or perhaps the pungent old man in a muscle shirt and gym shorts next to you. But just consider all of the information and content stirring that might as well be alive within the library walls. Thousands of books of all kinds both in text and audio, rows and rows of free music via CD to help you drift downstream, and the plethora of FREE movies and TV shows on Digital Video Discs to capture your eyeballs and brains. A wealth of free entertainment that will help you forget the world, your job, your lame boyfriend, your debt, your dog that wakes you up multiple times throughout the night to go to the bathroom (that may or may not be specific to me) and so on. There is much knowledge to behold. And again in case you didn’t catch that it’s all FREE FREE FREE.

Just don’t forget to return them on time or you’ll wind up with a casino-sized debt like me. The library pit bosses are still on my ass about Good Will Hunting and Mrs. Doubtfire.

And don’t give me that new age rubbish that books, DVDs and CDs are out of style and value. To hell with your iPods, iPads, Kindles, MP3s, Laser Discs, Tamagotchi and so forth. It doesn’t get much more convenient than getting a seemingly endless supply of media and information for no cost, and little moving. I know how lazy us Americans are and we want our Game of Cards and House of Thrones with a half-click of a button, but come on. Libraries need more recognition for their infinite power, wisdom, and resource.

Now I use my phone and computer plenty, but you don’t need to be a slave to Apple and Verizon. Challenge yourself, and make a conscious effort to take a break from the screens and their infinite and often useless distractions. Set up a hammock and get lost in a book. The library will lend you that book, and heck, maybe even the hammock.

Not to mention that libraries are a fantastic haven to focus and work. It’s a solid place to collect your thoughts and “work from home.” If you feel cooped up, just take a stroll to your neighborhood library. No distractions from your dogs or cats or birds or frogs or children, nor temptation to pop on some Sportscenter or Price is Right “in the background.” Yeah coffee shops are okay for that too, but they won’t have any Roy Orbison CDs for you to put on your computer.

It’s time to give libraries their due, and recognize them for the quiet fortresses of stimulation they really are.

In the Louisville library interview, I was asked multiple questions, the last being do I think libraries should remain free and open to the public, or privatized and require a nominal fee. That was an absolute no-brainer. Charge the bastards an arm and a leg.

Just kidding.

It would be a sad, sad day if libraries turn to the dark side and pull such a move. We’d truly be facing the end of times. I hope that isn’t even a legitimate option, but seeing what’s transpired in recent history, anything is possible. Pigs will fly in no time. In fact they already have…

So do yourself a favor, and next time you pay your Direct TV bill, splurge on iTunes and at Barnes and Noble, finding yourself without extra spending money, remember: your neighborhood library will welcome you with open doors. (unless they’re closed)




No Shame in Second Hand Recycling

A majority of people might feel funny about second hand recycling, or as it’s more commonly referred to, dumpster diving, but the truth is it can be a frickin’ treasure hunt with a bounty of (mostly) conventional rewards. Of course I’m not talking any old dumpster in any old part of town, no. The gold mine comes around this time of year, and the locale is college campuses. Those college kids love to throw shit out.

Printers, mini-refrigerators, cameras, computers, wet suits, pesos, bongs, and all kinds of gear can be obtained simply by looking in and around college campus dumpsters. Then you have things like totes, bags, racks, and furniture of all kinds. Now I’m not advocating one to grab a shovel and start digging to the bottom of an industrial dumpster. Heck you can, but that’s not what I’m suggesting. Most kids leave their useful “trash” to the side of the dumpster even, or you can likely get a good view of things just right on the top.

And to hell with feeling uncomfortable like it affects some false sense of pride, like one is too good to collect perfectly useful items once operated by another. Or you can’t be seen by a dumpster cause girls or guys won’t go out with you or something. You can and should avoid the TV covered in coffee grounds and condoms, but there’s plenty of reasonably clean gear in easy reach. That is to assume it hasn’t been sitting long, and hasn’t endured harsh weather conditions. Of course plenty of things can withstand the elements for a short period and be okay. Textbooks are another find which can prove to be easy cash, assuming the condition is adequate. You won’t break the bank but it’s some good spending money.

I like to think most people recycle in their daily life, though I’m probably wrong. Those who do, toss their La Croix cans, beer bottles, and milk jugs etc. in the environmentally kind blue bin, to then be picked up and taken off to the magical recycling factories where they re-spawn and begin anew in one form or another. Undoubtedly a very positive thing to do for the earth and environment.

So why not recycle like this?

The benefits and possibilities are abundant. Mother Earth will smile upon you and you’ll hold a temporary slot on her scroll of the environmentally savvy. You could even start a little pawn style business with the treasures you find. Or even put on a dumpster art show. Nobody is stopping you from letting “trash” be your creative outlet.

Food is another, though far more questionable, commodity to be retrieved from dumpsters. This isn’t so much college campuses (though it can be) as it is grocery chains and markets, which obviously comes as no surprise. While I gravitate more towards household items, there certainly are people who find perfectly fine packaged food out back, other than your run of the mill hobo. In fact, I recently saw an American Ninja Warrior episode (I was in a Chicago hotel room with limited channels get off my back) and the dude who won the challenge was an avid dumpster diver from California, primarily for food. If an American Ninja Warrior advocates it, you know it’s legit.

Not only does dumpster diving serve a useful purpose by saving you money on daily products, you make that much of a difference at the dumps and landfills for things that work perfectly fine. If you’re creative and willing you could even salvage and utilized broken items for other purposes. Knowing so much working “trash” is tossed out by the tons at the end of every school year is a shame. But there’s no shame in being in the thick of the recycling hustle, and doing good for you and for Spaceship Earth.


Gonzo Fest Revisited

This past weekend marked the 7th annual Gonzo Fest in Louisville, Kentucky, which celebrated the life of literary renegade and local hero Hunter S. Thompson. It was held at the Louisville Public Library, as opposed to the Big Four Lawn of Waterfront Park like previous years. It was another strange affair, as anticipated, though not as strange as last year.

Upon learning of this festival dedicated to one of my literary idols, I knew I had to go. My co-pilot then was Oregon Neal, one of my first roommates upon moving to Nashville a few years back. For clarification sake, I lived with two Neal’s/Neil’s, the other being Wisconsin Neil. I found this to be the easiest way to refer to them. Two very different but very chill Neal’s/Neil’s.

A few things stand out from last year’s Gonzo Fest. One being the moment I got crushed in the head with a football immediately after purchasing an $8 beer, spilling half of it on myself. Things got off to a rocky start despite the beautiful day and scenery of the Ohio River and bridges abound. The day progressed with the usual activities of live music, spoken word, and tales of Hunter via his son Juan F. Thompson, Ron Whitehead, and others that knew and worked with him. People gallivanted through the park in their finest Gonzo apparel, clown makeup, dinosaur costumes, and other freakshow attire. It was a fine day.

But the most disturbing and memorable moment would come when Oregon Neal and I decided to take a stroll across the bridge and over the river.

As we soaked in the aesthetics of the Louisville skyline, we noticed an obese woman on a motorized scooter slowly but surely cresting up the incline as we descended. Unfortunate, I thought. As our paths began to cross, we noticed a young girl, maybe 9 or 10, clutching to the back of the scooter, riding up with what seemed to be her mother. This poor girl’s face was terribly, terribly disfigured. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Her face looked to be swollen 10 times over, with her eyes sunk deep into her head, and what looked like a face incapable of expression. Her incredibly large face was pockmarked and misshapen, and all I thought of was The Elephant Man. It was truly a disheartening sight.

But the worst was yet to come.

When we exited the bridge, we noticed a small ice cream shop littered with folks inside and out, so we decided to make like school children and indulge. We relaxed for a bit, and then decided to hoof back to the festival. As we were about halfway across, we both looked at each other with a “you gotta be kidding me face.” At one end of the width of the bridge was the obese woman staring blankly at the other end, in which the poor disfigured girl danced to some modern pop music with a little bucket with a $ symbol on it. Oregon Neal and I were greatly disturbed at this sad exploitation. The girl waved her arms in the air, put her hands on her hips, twirled around and so on in her little polka dot dress.

This was the defining moment of the festival, and it was fitting given the nature of the event. Luckily this past year was void of unfortunate incidents.

I drove north on I-65 from Nashville with the warm southern air swirling through the cracks in my windows as I sipped Private Selection coffee from my Grassroots ’15 mug. With a head full of wonder and ears full of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, I sped past exit signs for Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Horse Cave, and other obscure Kentucky towns. Massive billboard signs for chicken, gas, whiskey, fireworks, and casinos scattered among the rolling hill landscape, penetrating the sky with its enticing and inevitable offers.

They moved the festival to the Louisville Library this year, which was far less scenic and far less spacious. It was a bit more watered down, but still an interesting endeavor. I found a parking lot nearby that costed $1.50 for all day parking. I thought for sure I drove into a time warp.

As an author greatly influenced by Hunter, it was exceptionally enjoyable, especially hearing from people who knew him and worked with him. The most intriguing I found to be was his son Juan, whom I met and got an autographed copy of his book, Stories I Tell Myself, about his life growing up as Thompson’s one and only child. Juan seemed to be the polar opposite of Hunter: meek, mild, respectful, kind, balanced- normal.

Another interesting character was Ron Whitehead, another local Louisville hero who has published books, poetry, and music of all kinds. He was a friend of Hunter, and just one look at Ron and you could see why they were comrades. His appearance demanded attention what with his whitish-grayish long hair, bejeweled white braids hanging from his chin, custom designed denim jackets, and overall funky attire. He spoke loudly and passionately, with a fierce southern twang in his voice.

Gonzo Fest is an interesting and intriguing festival for fans of Hunter S. Thompson, and though it’s a moderate affair, I would recommend it for his fans that may not know about it. There are all kinds of nifty Gonzo crafts being sold at little vendor booths, all kinds of food and drink, and good bands setting the tone. But to reiterate, the discussion panels with those akin to him are likely to be the meat and potatoes to true HST heads.

Football season is never over with the existence of Gonzo Fest.


Separating Music From Character

There’s long been debate and uncertainty around how we should feel about legendary (or not so legendary) musicians who have made some poor life decisions.

I recently read an article that brings to light character issues of iconic musicians, paralleled with their musical accomplishments and view in the public eye. It discussed people holding high praise for certain musicians while ignoring their personal wrongdoings. But here’s the thing: the praise is generally for the music, not necessarily the person. Sure it differs, but the general consensus is BECAUSE of the music, they earn the praise. Nobody would give a shit about Elvis if he didn’t make groundbreaking music. The article didn’t sit well with me, so I was compelled to write this.

It’s pretty damn hard to hate timeless music, period. Especially if you are someone heavily steeped in the music world, be it a diehard fan and/or fellow musician or whatever. Some (weirdos) like music as much as they like a cup of tea- they can take it or leave it.


A lot of people grow close with music, and get the wind knocked out of them when they find out a particular musician they love does something bad, if not heinous. It can suck. The trouble is the gray area of what’s forgivable and what’s not.

I believe the right thing to do is to acknowledge a separation of music and character, just like church and state. It’s a bummer when you love somebody’s music and find out later they married their 13 year old cousin (looking at you Jerry Lee Lewis) or allegedly molested children (no need for a name drop there) or whatever. Musicians can do things that are awful and often times unforgivable, just like anybody else. That can and will often hinder an artist’s fan base and general outlook on that individual, and rightfully so, and if you love their music, you’re in a pickle.

Bask in the pickle.

Accept that people aren’t perfect and make mistakes. You don’t have to defend these people in court to enjoy their music. Not to mention much of what we hear are allegations, and we have little idea of the reality of said situations that can make a person, in this case a musician, “a bad person.”

This isn’t to say people should embrace or condone their behavior.

If you’re really put off by the actions of a musician you love, maybe stop buying T-shirts, concert tickets, hats, pins, buttons, cufflinks, MP3s, cassettes or whatever people get these days. Either way, you don’t have to like their character to like their music, as synonymous as the two can be.

Picture this: you’re at a wedding, or maybe a bar with your friends, and Michael Jackson plays. You love to drink and dance and be merry. Are you going to sit and protest? If you’re at a rock n’ roll club and the band plays a Stones cover, are you going to protest and sit down because Mick was a serial womanizer? Will you, hypocrite who lives to criticize and judge? Doubtful.

The “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” perception exists for a reason, folks. More often than not, music isn’t about being a boy scout/ girl scout. Lord knows these people aren’t saints otherwise they might’ve chosen the convent or monastery.

Per usual, it all boils down to individual choice. Just like every debate there ever was. The perceptions of the person. The individual. They either will be swayed or not. It can be a mental conflict, but it is what it is. Either you stop liking the music or you don’t. Either way, take comfort in knowing your opinion likely isn’t worth a dime. Just like mine.

So. Does it make you a bad person because you like music of somebody who did bad things? No and who cares. It’s about the music. Good people make good music. Good people make bad music. Bad people make bad music. Bad people make good music. That’s just the way it is. Now scram I gotta eat dinner.

A Silver Lining

The election season from hell has come to a close, and Satan is having a toast with his minions as I write this. As this particular Election Day incited much dread and hysteria among the masses, the final result does have fruit to bear, and that fruit has some sweet god damn juice.

Sure, progression and compassion fell short to regression and hate. Ignorance and arrogance toppled understanding and humility. People are deeply fearful for the first time probably ever in regards to the safety and security of our country and themselves due to an elected American leader (president). It’s a depressing reality and it appears many will wake up every morning dreading to hear what President Trump is doing/has done. (Typing “President Trump” feels so unnatural and downright sinful)

But check this shit out.

We could very well find ourselves at the beginning of a rare golden era of art and music and creation and inspiration. People will be inspired on a whole new level to make incredible music, drawings, paintings, sculptures, books, movies, and everything else. There is no reason not to think we couldn’t muster up another era like the 1960’s in terms of powerful reform and art that reaches a sea of like-minded people. People can unify and find that common bond in their despair about this potential land mine of a decision and work together to bring about change. That change can be channeled in so many ways from simply just being kind to the people you see on a daily basis, to making the next fucking Abbey Road.

This is the time for inspiration.

Also let’s be honest for a second: if Hillary won, many people would be happy happy happy just like when Obama won and history would be made and life would be great and people would sing their praises from the rooftops. That’s all well and good, but would her winning inspire people? I mean REALLY inspire people? I think it would’ve caused a great wave of relief and comfort, but I don’t think it’d make people want to actively make change and extra efforts to express themselves like it likely will with this Trump victory. People (the not racist, not sexist, progressive-minded kind) would likely live much more at peace, but would we be extra motivated to get our asses up and use whatever talents we have to make some kind of change? Would we forget about this election in a handful of months and just say, “thank God” and continue living our lives without the extra frustration to force us to do something different and progressive? At least with this result we can be angrily motivated to be a change that distracts us from the reality of these next four years.

In the words of Cosmic Charlie himself, every silver lining has a touch of grey. We will survive…