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Clean

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It’s a Friday night in February. It’s the 16th. The weather is chilly, and the sky has been grey for about a week and a half. Yesterday was up in the 70s, while the rest of the stretch has been cold and rainy. I’ve done everything I can to convince the gods to correct this atmospheric trend. I tried doing my laundry, but it made no difference. I made a playlist, still nothing. I even tried journaling about my feelings, but the rain doesn’t seem to respond to that either. Recording the weather as fact right now feels real. It feels clean, like I can’t bullshit it. It’s just a thing that is, and it’s important to share because it’s also partially what’s inspired me to do this.

I went to McKay’s tonight and made two purchases, each with a particular intention, and the second item got me thinking… It led me here, actually, to revive a name that I came up with around 13 or 14 years ago when I was in college. I picked up a book and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Push the Sky Away. It was in the DVD section. I made the trip with the hopes of finding Doug Pray’s Hype!, but came up empty handed there. Instead, Cave’s album — a limited edition version, packaged in the form of a hardcover book with a DVD inserted in the back cover.

I’m now reading an explanation from Amazon of the release, touting it as “bound in linen with 32 stitched-in pages, containing beautifully reproduced hand typed lyrics & band imagery,” with the DVD featuring visuals by artists Iain Forysth and Jane Pollard. The primer ends with a quote from Cave about the album, “Well, if I were to use that threadbare metaphor of albums being like children, then Push the Sky Away is the ghost-baby in the incubator and Warren’s loops are its tiny, trembling heart-beat,” whatever the fuck that means.

Upon one of Henry Rollins’s many many recommendations throughout his spoken word releases and books, I got into Cave in the ’90s, and remember buying a copy of King Ink when I was in junior high. Its cover still seems cool to me, in that way that religious imagery is cool or dangerous because I haven’t the slightest clue what it means (so I just assume that it resonates with those more clued in than I as something incredibly subversive). The cover features a cropped image of Jesus on a crucifix — well, there’s no indication it’s Jesus, but if we’re talking The King’s “ink,” my hunch is we’re talking Jesus here — with his wounds draining over a pair of angels, one with their head in hands weeping, and the other collecting drips of blood in a bowl. I can’t recall a single thing from the book other than that I carried it around with me for a while, trying to force myself to read it, before giving up on the idea that reading Nick Cave books was going to be “my thing.” His music, though, really hit for me, starting with 1997’s The Boatman’s Call, which I must have picked up used at a Pawn America store in Minnesota around 2001 or 2002.

I felt for a moment, just now, that I was getting off topic, but really this is all on point. Culture Bully was something cool, for me, for a long time. It was a personal blog that, over the course of about 7 years, turned into a music blog, which turned into a music and pop culture and sports and whatever blog. It was a way for me to feel like I was a part of something larger than myself, a means of obtaining outside validation, and ultimately it helped me learn to write. The blog helped connect me with people, and it even granted me an income. But the regret I have, in looking back on that time, is that I didn’t write about the things I really wanted to write about. I didn’t write about the things I really cared about. I didn’t use it as a vehicle to connect with the things that connected deepest with me.

I was dating someone recently. We really enjoyed each other’s taste in music. I think it’s the first time that’s ever happened in my life — where I was genuinely open to suggestion and excited to hear what someone I was dating wanted to share with me, musically. Maybe that makes me an asshole, or something. The first time I remember connecting on a similar level was right around when I bought that Nick Cave album, and I was smitten by a System of a Down fan. I just really enjoyed the idea of someone who was into wacky heavy music like that. Back to a few weeks back, though, where — before my recent crush came crashing down — I suggested we share an album with each other that had a big impact on us — and if it was a good time, maybe we could share an album a week or something. All just as fun, to see what has helped make this other person who they are. Depending on which circles you run in, both of our choices are arguably questionable: M’s was Interpol’s 2002 Turn on the Bright Lights, and mine Type O Negative’s 1996 album October Rust. I can only speak for myself, but I don’t think we’d say either is our “favorite” album, just a good place to start. And tonight, after I got home and put my hard-bound linen Push the Sky Away on my dining table, a moment of inspiration struck. Why am I not doing this now? What am I waiting for?

Last night at an A.A. meeting, someone put to words what I often catch myself feeling — that, for them, happiness is right around the corner; the perfect woman is right around the corner; the ultimate job is right around the corner; the feeling of pure satisfaction is right around the corner… and on, and on, and on. For me, it’s living a better life is right around the corner. Or maybe, just living a life I actually want to live is right around the corner. The other day I was thinking that I want to be more intentional with what I watch and listen to. I want to get back to learning more about music. I really enjoy that stuff. Which is to say there’s one more set of examples of me enjoying the things I take pleasure in being right around the corner. Maybe there’s a long way between living a good life and contemplating the merits of a Type O Negative album, but the ache to help use the latter as a means to contribute to the former is active in me right now. And the words are flowing.

It’s 43 degrees in Nashville. Tomorrow calls for rain. It still feels clean.