It makes the pain go away until tomorrow

If you appreciated yesterday’s Hell World on drinking and not-drinking you might also like this interview I did with the newsletter The Small Bow last month.

You can find more from them here. Highly recommended if you’re sober or sober-curious or just like to read good writing on substance-related issues.

This intro below is theirs and then they ask me some questions. ok Bye.

There's a peak newsletter  moment happening in media right now – which I think is inching up on the peak podcast moment we were just in a few months ago – and there seem to be new ones popping up each week, which is great. Newsletters make me excited and inspired in a way that most of the social media-driven internet does not. If they're done properly, I forget about the pull (or pall) of social media altogether. I can just check my email, read something once or twice, and will not read anything else online that may cause me to throw my phone out the window.

One of the newsletters I pay for is Luke O'Neil's "Welcome to Hell World" which on some days is bleaker than everything on the internet. I'd describe it as a hybrid of Rotten Dot Com and some of Charles Pierce's later Esquire writing. Luke has this unique ability to make upsetting news-story-recaps poignant and funny–oftentimes waaay more than 3,000 words with maybe three commas, tops. I think that mostly has to do with it being in newsletter format which helps in illuminating his particular brand of stunt-writing, and far better than if it were just slapped up on Word Press, overcooked and uncared for.  

Luke's history with this site is this: I asked him to contribute to our "Why I'm Probably a Drunk" feature, which challenges writers still  indentured  by problem drinking to talk about it, hopefully with genuine self-awareness. He submitted his essay and after a thorough back-and-forth we produced something we both liked as did Aisha Tyler comedian and host of "Whose Line is It Anyway?" which was kinda random and fun. 

His book editors also liked it, and I'm very happy they selected it as part of his newly-released "Welcome to Hell World" essay collection which you can buy here.

I followed up with Luke for a quick q-and-a to see if his drinking had changed since the essay came out. Here's what he said. — AJD

TSB: Since you wrote the essay  "What It's Like Over Here, What's It's Like Over There?" for The Small Bow last January, have you reconsidered sobriety?

I want to make clear, right up front, that I'm self-conscious about talking about this stuff in front of people who are in recovery because I'm sure they've heard every version of every story and it can all sound cliche and maybe I'm deluded here, but in a word, yes. I think my thing is weird in that, I'm 42, and I don't think anyone would have ever considered me an alcoholic, certainly not myself, until about three or so years ago when I started drinking every night to deal with some shit. I have been three things in my life: a waiter, a musician, and a journalist, so naturally being in those fields you tend to be able to drink more than maybe the average person does, and the consequences of hangovers and being sort of a mess aren't quite as apparent and immediate, but I just wasn't a life-ruining drinker or anything close to it. I'm not even sure if I'm an alcoholic now, I think I'm probably [just] a compulsive and depressed person with a tenuous attachment to the idea of being alive and an aptitude for addiction. I've cycled through all sorts of different addictions over the years. I used to spend a lot of time in my twenties and early thirties doing cocaine. I used to love to gamble at casinos and on sports, whatever. And in almost every case of addiction I've moved on from, I did the things for a while longer after they stopped being enjoyable, then realized I wasn't getting any pleasure out of them anymore and I stopped pretty easily. Every now and again since then I will take a bump of coke or gone to a casino and realized almost immediately: Yeah, this isn't for me anymore. 

Still, one likes to check back in on the old addictions from time to time to remind yourself that they don’t have anything left to offer you. They usually do not.

Drinking may or may not be the same thing for me, we'll see. I have winnowed down the amount I drink on a regular basis significantly since I wrote that piece for a number of reasons, but chiefly because it just isn’t fun for me anymore. I’m not even enjoying the grim aspect of it, and I think people here probably know what I mean: that 'romantic' lie of self-destruction stopped working on me, and I realized I was just putting myself in a bad mood for nothing. More important than all that it was making me fat, and not wanting to be fat is my overarching prime addiction that supersedes and probably drives all the other ones.  The past six months or so I started taking some nights off then going to more nights off than not. There has certainly been a shitty week or two strewn into the midst where I went at it steadily, but at the moment I've drank like five of the last 20 nights, and on all of those times there was actually an occasion to drink, not just an obligation. I love it: it's so nice going to bed early reading a book and then waking up early and being able to write with a clear head.

TSB: That’s largely overlooked by most people when they stop drinking/smoking/drugging. Is that a reason for you to not get sober? Fear of getting fat?

It's crazy how many calories there are in whiskey. I don't think it ever even occurred to me until the past couple years that liquor has calories because it was rare that I ever drank enough that they would add up. On top of that, I eat so much more when I'm drinking.

One interesting thing, and this is sort of a side note, is that when I used to binge on coke for a night or two in my twenties I got pretty fat because when you get that hungover all you want to do is eat an entire pizza or whatever to fill up the hole inside your soul. I don't think it would be responsible of me to give my honest answer to the question about being sober versus gaining a lot of weight in front of people because it's definitely an unhealthy one. In the hypothetical where I'm doing on-the-brink-of-death-type drinking and destroying my life and relationships, then ok, that is one thing, and sure I'd rather be out of shape and alive than dead or close to it. But if my drinking is at the level it is now, I'd prefer to stay this way if the alternative is getting really out of shape. 

My problem is, one thing your therapist (or whoever) will say as a tactic to stop doing unhealthy behaviors is to exercise. But I over-exercised myself every day of my life into these fucking recurring injuries I write about a lot because of my eating issues, and I finally had to stop really doing anything a couple years ago because I kept hurting myself over and over, and the depression from not being able to do that anymore led me to drink. Plus drinking is a great muscle relaxer in the short term. Terrible for healing in the long term, of course, but it makes the pain go away until tomorrow. 

TSB: How is your mental state? Do you think your newsletter can only be written in a depressive state?

I am very conscious when writing Hell World and I hope this comes through, that despite some of my mental health and physical issues I've been dealing with and writing about regularly, the fact of the matter is that I haven't suffered anything beyond the run-of-the-mill-type of personal or existential calamities that almost everyone goes through at one point or another in their lives. Neither myself nor anyone I love has been shot to death or incarcerated or crushed under the wheels of predatory capitalism.

I have suffered no more than a person's fair share of loss and death in my life to this point and, amazingly, magically, unjustly one could easily argue, I am able to make a decent living, at least judging by 2019 middle-class freelancing standards by writing about whatever I want; and I am lucky enough to have an audience that seems to want to read it. This is weird, but every day I go to swim laps at the pool--something I write about a lot in Hell World--and I think about the lifeguard they have there whose job it is to be responsible for fifty people's lives at once. Some kid making, I don't know, $10 an hour if that, and their job is to drag my body out of the water someday. My wife works 10 hours a day molding children's minds. My job is to write 5,000 words a day about how the news made me depressed and my back hurting. I live the life of a relative king. 

That said, it's impossible not to feel depressed writing about a lot of the subject matter I steep myself in, and I am generally miserable most days thinking about it. That's why it's important to me, and I really relish it when people say this to me, that Hell World is also funny. I don't know why, but it somehow seems to work. No one would read it if there wasn't a sense that we were all in on this together and doing our best to find humor where we can.

Another reason I've really tried to dial the drinking back the past six months is that I've developed a real anger problem if I drink past a certain level. I've lashed out at friends a few times in the past year or two over petty crap that didn't deserve anger and have certainly started a lot of fights on Twitter over things I really could have just let go. 

TSB: What does anger look like for you? What does anger look like when you drink?

Anger for me takes the shape of not letting something small go. In my normal life I'm indifferent about pretty much everything--to an annoying degree. "Not my problem," I used to say all the time as a joke, but then in the way that things you say ironically become reality, that is sort of my mantra now. I almost never fight with my wife, but if I'm drunk I'll belabor some minor disagreement over nothing into a whole fucking thing. I also might be a dick to, say, a security guard at a show asking me not to stand in a certain place or whatever, as any minor expression of petty tyranny like that gets conflated to a grave injustice in my mind. I don't love it. I revert to a sort of younger, tougher version of myself that no longer exists. I was never any sort of badass tough guy or anything, but I had that attitude in me. I'm honestly surprised I haven't gotten my ass kicked more often by this point now that I'm older and less strong. 

TSB: How do you plan on eliminating those angry-drunk-guy moments?

I think the 'harm reduction' process I've been trying out this year as opposed to full-stop abstinence has greatly reduced those moments. I've also pretty much stopped staying out late. I used to be out seeing bands 3-4 nights a week until around 40, but now it's a lot more rare. It's a byproduct of just getting older, but also not wanting to be in situations where I don't need to be at this point of my life. There's also an ego regulation aspect to it. Who am I? I'm no one. It's important to remind myself of that because it can be easy to lose track of when I'm a pint of scotch deep. And it's easy to start thinking that I'm some swashbuckling teller-of-truths-type guy and getting a little bit of praise for my writing can sometimes gives me an inflated sense of self-importance. Maybe some of my anger at minor sleights comes from that. But I know that I'm no one. I'm just a guy with a blog. 

TSB: Do you fear if you become totally abstinent that you’ll have to confront a bigger, less manageable chemical imbalance?

I don't know the answer. I think, and I mentioned this earlier, that the body-image stuff is the underlying bedrock of all my other things; I've had that since I was a child, and I didn't even really touch a drink until I was 21. I was pretty militantly straight-edge growing up, in part because of a history of addiction in my family. But no, I am not worried there is some new layer of mental illness waiting to be unlocked were I to become completely sober, because how many more can there be? If anything, times when I'm sober make me happier to be alive. I read something recently where a writer was like I only ever wanted to kill myself when I was drinking so I stopped drinking and stopped wanting to kill myself all the time. 

I think that applies to me, too. I don't want to die at all! I reserve the right to change my mind on that, though. 

TSB: Are you happy with your career now?Is this WTHW book and newsletter success validating?

Sort of. It's certainly great to have complete autonomy and be on my own schedule and not have to ask permission to cover things I'm interested in and to deliberately work against everything I came to hate about the daily web-writing ecosystem. But I feel like I'm not quite at a point where I can relax or take anything for granted. The newsletter is still growing: I have devoted readers and make a pretty decent living, but it could all disappear tomorrow if everyone stops being interested or if I fuck it up somehow. I feel like there's a sword hanging over my head. It's thrilling in a way but also a lot of pressure. 

The book, too, is very exciting, and people keep sending me excited photos of them getting their copy, and it should be a dream come true, but in reality I'm gonna sell a few thousand copies and it's going to disappear like most books do within a couple months, and then it's going to be like now what? That now what is what I wake up with every day though, I guess, and it's what makes me still try hard. I don't have to impress an editor, but I do  have to impress the people who directly support me, the ones paying for the newsletter and book, so it's a mix of contentment and pressure. It's enough to drive a man to drink!I wrote this in a recent Hell World but, again, these are all pretty luxurious problems for a person to have. I write and tweet a lot about how journalists are routinely taken advantage of and underpaid and undervalued, but at the same time, whether or not writing is a real job or not fluctuates for me depending on who I am talking to. If it’s an editor or a publisher or someone like that, then yes, above all else pay me, but if it’s a person who actually has to work for a living, saying you’re a writer is embarrassing. It’s like saying you’re a delicate foppish princeling who lives in a golden palace on the moon and needs his butterscotch pudding or he’ll be ever so morose.

TSB: When did the no comma stream-of-conscious thing begin and is that just for the newsletter?

It started a few editions into the newsletter, about a year ago exactly, and I think it was probably in the one that's the first chapter in the book about John McCain's sainthood juxtaposed with the story of a young woman in Iraq whose family we murdered. The subject matter sent me into a state of despair and anger and made me sort of breathless and made my face hot and I was writing real fast and I thought it would be interesting if I could try to get readers to feel the same way and I think it worked, at least from what fans and readers have told me, but then again as I mentioned those people are not trustworthy. 

There were commas for a while, and there are some in the book in a few chapters, but for the most part I just really started to hate the way they look and fuck up a sentence like speed bumps. Proper grammar has so many fucking pointless commas that are supposed to go in places that just don't make sense where someone should pause. The stream-of-consciousness thing dates back to my early days of trying to be the cliched young literary man and reading lots of Barthelme and post-modern works like that, but I had to set that aside, obviously, when writing for places like the Boston Globe, Esquire et al. Last year I read a book called Cherry by Nico Walker -- highly recommended for addicts! -- and it had this sort of matter-of-fact effect about really grim stuff and it unlocked something in my brain and I decided I wanted to write something that makes people feel like that book made me feel. 

TSB: And how did it make you feel?

Just because everything in your life has gone to hell, it doesn't mean it's not still funny.

The nicest guy at the racism store

I don’t know about the Parable of the Sower man

Every morning my idiot goldfish brain reboots to factory settings and I wake up thinking to myself I don’t know man people are basically decent overall aren’t they? then I spend 19 consecutive hours on Twitter unlearning that lesson and I will never stop going in.

This morning I woke up at 7 am with a refreshed brain and the ambition to write a really good Hell World for you nice people then I started fucking around with a top 25 emo songs of 2010s list and then it grew to over 100 and it sapped all my creative energy into a pointless diversion but I guess I’ll throw the list in here at the end of the post because who gives a shit. If you’re here for the emo content you may appreciate this post from a while back featuring interviews and essays from Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years, Geoff Rickley of Thursday, Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die and more.

Sometimes people say to me they’ll go Luke writing a newsletter where you compile the most devastating shit over and over again building a fruitless indictment against the unchecked cruelties of capitalism and on top of that smuggling into it your own struggles with addiction and depression seems like it should be a guaranteed hit why wouldn’t ten million people sign up to read that type of shit every day and I say I don’t know buddy.  But nonetheless well around 7,200 of you brain perverts are here and I am thankful for that. Now if I could just convince more of you to pay for it… I may despise capitalism but I am nonetheless still as of yet suffering under it so one has to make do.   

I'm doing a reading in Brooklyn at Dekalb Market Hall, DeKalb Stage on Monday 11/4 by the way and a book party type thing at Great Scott in Boston on Friday 11/8 so mark your calendars or whatever. Please don’t come and assassinate me. No refunds on Hell World subscriptions if I die.

If you’d like to read a chapter of the Hell World book in French you can do so here and in Spanish here.

I just read a story from ABC News about a man in Japan who was arrested for stalking and sexually assaulting a young pop star and apparently they say one of the ways he figured out how to find her was by studying the reflections in her pupils in the selfies she posted to see which train station she was at.

I’ve been trying to find a good dystopian or sci-fi or horror novel to read this week and I’ve tried samples so far of Ice by Anna Kavan and The Separation by Christopher Priest and Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo and Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler and I’m not sure why I even bother with that type of shit.

I don’t know about the Parable of the Sower man it’s bleak even for me and I write this newsletter. It’s set in what probably seemed like the impossible future year of 2024 at the time and it’s about Los Angeles after climate change and there’s no water and working people live in walled communities and the poor live naked and feral in the streets and the rich treat them all like disposable dirt and I guess there’s a fascist presidential candidate who I shit you know runs on the platform to “Make America great again.”

Here’s a passage from it when the protagonist a teenage girl and her family venture outside of their walled town to go be baptized in a church:

We rode past people stretched out, sleeping on the sidewalks, and a few just waking up, but they paid no attention to us. I saw at least three people who weren’t going to wake up again, ever. One of them was headless. I caught myself looking around for the head. After that, I tried not to look around at all.

A woman, young, naked, and filthy stumbled along past us. I got a look at her slack expression and realized that she was dazed or drunk or something.

Maybe she had been raped so much that she was crazy. I’d heard stories of that happening. Or maybe she was just high on drugs. The boys in our group almost fell off their bikes, staring at her. What wonderful religious thoughts they would be having for a while.

The naked woman never looked at us. I glanced back after we’d passed her and saw that she had settled down in the weeds against someone else’s neighborhood wall.

A lot of our ride was along one neighborhood wall after another; some a block long, some two blocks, some five. … Up toward the hills there were walled estates—one big house and a lot of shacky little dependencies where the servants lived. We didn’t pass anything like that today. In fact we passed a couple of neighborhoods so poor that their walls were made up of unmortared rocks, chunks of concrete, and trash. Then there were the pitiful, unwalled residential areas. A lot of the houses were trashed—burned, vandalized, infested with drunks or druggies or squatted-in by homeless families with their filthy, gaunt, half-naked children. Their kids were wide awake and watching us this morning. I feel sorry for the little ones, but the ones my age and older make me nervous. We ride down the middle of the cracked street, and the kids come out and stand along the curb to stare at us. They just stand and stare. I think if there were only one or two of us, or if they couldn’t see our guns, they might try to pull us down and steal our bikes, our clothes, our shoes, whatever. Then what? Rape? Murder? We could wind up like that naked woman, stumbling along, dazed, maybe hurt, sure to attract dangerous attention unless she could steal some clothing. I wish we could have given her something.

My stepmother says she and my father stopped to help an injured woman once, and the guys who had injured her jumped out from behind a wall and almost killed them.

I usually do most of my book reading before bed and I’m not sure I want to read too much more of that type of shit my dreams are bad enough as it is.

Splinter which was one of the only popular left-of-liberal news sites in existence was shut down out of nowhere this week by the latest in a series of finance ghouls who have been conspiring to ruin what was once Gawker for the past few years. I don’t know why they did it and they don’t either these equity vultures keep stepping on the same bag over and over and selling it on to the next dumbass who steps on it until it's nothing.

It reminded me of this piece I wrote a couple years ago about the future of journalism we have to look forward to:

Here is how it will go. Men with no fewer than four boats and at least as many divorces, whose monetary interests are best served by going entirely unreported on, will continue to purchase existing media properties, either gutting them, running them into the ground, or rendering them effectively toothless, as we’ve seen with numerous alt-weeklies and newspapers throughout the country in the past few years.

Sometimes we won’t even know whose hand it is pulling the lever on the guillotine. The publications who would’ve reported on who bought the publications won’t exist anymore.

Ah we offered like $400k of some bank's money that we definitely don't have for an Arrested Development model home looking ass condo in Salem next to a hospital an hour plus commute to Boston and it wasn't enough for the people selling it who don’t live there and never did. Guess we'll go fuck ourselves. I worry sometimes it’s going to make it seem like I’m rich on here because I’ve been talking about trying to buy a house but it’s not like we have the money for a house we just have to take out a loan that is the equivalent of paying to go to Harvard for ten years in a row.

Amber Guyger a former Dallas cop was sentenced to ten years in prison for shooting Botham Jean to death inside his own apartment earlier this month. A neighbor named Joshua Brown was one of the witnesses to testify against Guyger and weirdly he was shot to death himself about a week later outside his building. The Dallas police got to the bottom of that shit real fast though because they said they had a suspect in custody a couple days later who admitted that he and two friends had driven all the way to Dallas from Louisiana to purchase weed from Brown. Brown’s alleged past as a drug dealer never came up from either the defense or prosecution who used him as a witness against Guyger but never mind.

So Brown did the deal out in the open near where he lived and it went wrong somehow and he shot one of the guys during the giant weed deal he was conducting after being all over the news for testifying against a cop and the dudes took the gun off him and shot Brown and then took off. They dropped the one who had been shot at the hospital where he immediately copped to all of this.

Meanwhile the cops showed up and found a bunch of cash and twelve pounds of weed in Brown’s apartment that — again — he was selling drugs out of a few days after a trial where he was one of the most famous witnesses against a police murderer in recent memory. Seems real as hell.

That same week there was what I guess was a meeting of Dallas’s new Community Police Oversight Board and apparently they didn’t want to open up comments to the public at first so things sort of got hectic and you can watch it in videos here in this thread.

People were naturally upset about what’s going on with the Dallas cops there in the aftermath of the Brown shooting. The reason I bring it up is because in one of the videos you can see this cop pushing around a guy who’s like I’m an elected official get your hands off me and at one point you can see that the cop has a Punisher skull on his hat.

If you’re unfamiliar the Punisher is a comic book vigilante who murders at will whomever he considers to be the bad guy in any given situation based on the whims of his PTSD derived psychopathy and paranoia and cops and troops everywhere just fucking love putting the scary skeleton drawing he wears on his comic book tights on their equipment and cars and that would be funny if it weren’t a perfect illustration of how professional gun havers perceive what their job is. Only way it would be weirder is if we lived in an alternate universe where cops decided for some reason to start wearing the Spider-Man logo on their shit. Ay I’m Spider-Man over here don’t disrespect me.

Speaking of comic books I finally saw the macabre twisted nightmare film we all know about and it instantly short-circuited my brain like I was a racist in a Lovecraft story.

jk I thought it was fine overall. Phoenix was predictably excellent and it was tense throughout most of it and it looked good but ultimately it just seemed like a dull guy’s idea of what a smart film is supposed to be like or maybe more like a cynical guy’s idea of what a dull guy who thinks he’s a smart guy thinks a film should be like?

Sometimes when I think about having children I know that I would love them more than anything else in the world obviously but then I think about how it takes like twenty years of intense labor all to just send some random putz out into the world and it doesn’t seem worth it. You spend two decades paying for them to stay alive every single day and the rest of your life being shaken down to your very bones about the wellbeing of what in the best case scenario is gonna turn out to be some fucking nerd and worst case is a total chode.

Yesterday I filed this piece to the Guardian about how criticism of Trump from Fox News and other rightwing outlets like Drudge seems to be increasing and my genius thesis was hmmm maybe the right is starting to hedge their bets by floating out post-Trump trial balloons to their audience of red-assed Uncle Coaches and yard sale nanas whose 9 and 1 have been worn off their phones from overuse.

“As fractures within the Fox network have grown, and many of their news anchors have become more stridently critical of Trump following the revelations of the impeachment inquiry, it may well be that Fox News, and other conservative media, are starting to wonder if it might be wise to make plans for a post-Trump future,” I wrote and then literally less than an hour after it was published Shep Smith was apparently pushed out because he twisted Tucker Carlson’s bowtie sideways too many times and I guess I should just go ahead and shut the fuck up forever now when it comes to trying to divine the political winds in the Trump era.

In any case RIP in peace to Shepard Smith the nicest guy at the racism store.

Ok here’s the list of my personal favorite 118 emo(ish) songs from the 2010s. A couple things to keep in mind:

I probably forgot like ten obvious bands and I’ll go ahh fuck and add them in later.

Lists like this aren’t real and outside of say the top 25 nothing matters. Obviously there is not much of a measurable difference between song 74 and song 75 for example. Some of these aren’t technically emo or even what we mean when we say emo now but everyone who likes emo likes or will like all of these songs so leave me alone. I was gonna make a Spotify playlist of all these but then I remembered I didn’t feel like it.

Mostly this is just a list of a lot of great shit you should listen to if you’ve never heard of a lot of these bands. If I’m being honest my real top 30 is basically everything off of Koi No Yokan and Diamond Eyes by Deftones and Body Talk by Robyn.

120 Take Me Home – Blis

119 The Sunshine Bus – Prince Daddy & the Hyena

118 You Just Won’t Be the Same – Stars Hollow

117 Life – awakebutstillinbed

116 Thread – Now, Now

115 Always Hazy – Macseal

114 Heart of Gold – Field Mouse

113 Distant – Like Pacific

112 Mr. C’s Amazing Trip – Save Ends

111 Brilliant Dancer – Lemuria

110 That Kind of Girl – All Dogs

109 Teen Challenge – Great Grandpa

108 Shit Twins — Dads

107 Southern Comfort – Michael Cera Palin

106 Fed Up – Gouge Away

105 Nearer My God -- Foxing

104 Tire Swing – Dad Punchers

103 Kill My Compass – Daytrader

102 Untitled – Half Hearted Hero

101 Collector – I Kill Giants

100 Disdain – Knuckle Puck

99 Don’t Need to Be Them – The Sun Days

98 Wut I Liek ABt U – Jank

97 I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore – The Menzingers

96 Pash Rash – Jeff Rosenstock

95 Creature – It Looks Sad

94 Words That Rhyme With Different, Etc. – sports.

93 Resevoir – PUP

92 Cinco De Mayo Shitshow – Marietta

91 Smother – Frameworks

90 In Colour – Departures

89 Luck Has A Name -- Crash of Rhinos

88 Unless – Pentimento

87 Most of the Time – Turnover

86 Time Capsules – Misser

85 In Love Or Whatever – Future Teens

84 No Below — Speedy Ortiz

83 Serenity – WATERMEDOWN

82 Scotty Get the Van, I’m Moving – Cayetana

81 Still Into You – Paramore

80 Killin It – Polar Bear Club

79 Skipping Stone – Transit

78 War – Brutus

77 Tail Whip, Struffle – Free Throw

76 I Was Sixteen Ten Years Ago – Joi De Vivre

75 Tough Love – Forth Wanderers

74 Edward 40Hands – Mom Jeans

73 Always Focused – Tiny Moving Parts

72 Sister Cities – The Wonder Years

71 So I Shotgunned a Beer and Went To Bed -- Snowing

70 Two Year Plan – Such Gold

69 Real Thing – Turnstile

68 Smooth – Tiny Moving Parts

67 Flicker, Fade – Taking Back Sunday

66 Apology Not Fucking Accepted – Dikembe

65 Zero Day – Nothing

64 Youth Cars – Secret & Whisper

63 Montrose – Man Overboard

62 Scud Running – Prawn

61 Aftermath – Rolo Tomassi

60 Dead Wrong – Somos

59 Something About Lemons – Chumped

58 ~ -- Touche Amore

57 Catalina Fight Song – Joyce Manor

56 Irrevocable, Motherfucker – Glocca Morra

55 DVP – Pup

54 Whatever – All Get Out

53 Overly Verbose Email Series Pt. III – Pool Kids

52 The Downfall of Us All – A Day to Remember

51 Safety, Football, Etc.

50 We All Float Down Here – Four Year Strong

49 Your Clothes – Can’t Swim

48 Their/ They’re/ Therapy – Their/ They’re/ There

47 Dizzy On the Comedown – Turnover

46 Be Here Now – Basement

45 Head in the Ceiling Fan – Title Fight

44 Let’s Talk About Your Hair – Have Mercy

43 I’ve Given Up On You – Real Friends

42 Saturday – Remember Sports

41 Uncomfortably Numb – American Football

40 Lost (Season One) -- Camp Cope

39 An Introduction to the Album – The Hotelier

38 The Silver String -- Saosin

37 Asleep – Makthaverskan

36 I Tore You Apart In My Head – Balance and Composure

35 No Good – Knuckle Puck

34 A Thousand Miles Away From Here – Hostage Calm

33 Award of the Year Award – You Blew It!

32 Passing Through a Screen Door – The Wonder Years

31 Quitting – Donovan Wolfington

30 Scott Street – Phoebe Bridgers

29 Map Change – Every Time I Die

28 Roam – The Story So Far

27 Guardian – Tigers Jaw

26 In On It – Superheaven

35 Daydreaming – Paramore

34 Ambulance – Eisley

33 The Knock – Hop Along

32  Architects – Rise Against

31 Be Here Now – Basement

30 Say Nothing – Pianos Become the Teeth

29 Your Graduation – Modern Baseball

28 Sleepless Nights – Turnover

27 There, There – The Wonder Years

26 Twin Sized Mattress - The Front Bottoms

25 Plane Vs. Tank Vs. Submarine – Tigers Jaw

24 Rapture – Touche Amore 

23 Repine – Pianos Become the Teeth

22 Reindeer Games – Oso Oso

21 Storm och längtan -- Vi som älskade varandra så mycket

20 Right Back At It Again – A Day to Remember

19 Lost Your Name – Balance and Composure

18 A Satisfactory World For Reasonable People – Pity Sex

17 The House That Heaven Built – Japandroids

16 Reach Out To You -- Adventures

15 The Sun – Tigers Jaw  

14 The Summer – Citizen

13 Save That Shit – Lil Peep

12 Dirty Laundry – Cayetana

11 Covet -- Basement

10 Quicksand – The Story So Far

9 Two Beers In – Free Throw

8 Funny You Should Ask – The Front Bottoms

7 Your Deep Rest – The Hotelier

6 Came Out Swinging – The Wonder Years

5 Hiding – Pianos Become the Teeth

4 Au Revoir – The Front Bottoms 

3 Archie, Marry Me – Alvvays

2 If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will – Pup

1 Constant Headache – Joyce Manor

Better to be consumed in the nuclear blast than to live rummaging among the ruins

I wrote this piece below a couple years ago for a thing on predictions for the future of journalism and it seems to sadly apply once again to news today that Splinter will be closing. And then at the bottom of the piece it said “Luke O’Neil is a writer-at-large for Esquire” and after it came out I had to take a call from my bosses at the time saying what the fuck was that you gotta let us know when you say some true shit about the industry we work in because it makes us look bad and then I didn’t work for Esquire for too much longer after that.

Anyway RIP to Splinter it was a very good website. RIP to us all.

The End Is Already Here

Here is how it will go. Men with no fewer than four boats and at least as many divorces, whose monetary interests are best served by going entirely unreported on, will continue to purchase existing media properties, either gutting them, running them into the ground, or rendering them effectively toothless, as we’ve seen with numerous alt-weeklies and newspapers throughout the country in the past few years.

Sometimes we won’t even know whose hand it is pulling the lever on the guillotine. The publications who would’ve reported on who bought the publications won’t exist anymore.

Dailies who aren’t already well ahead of the game in terms of reverting back to subscription models, or of significant enough national prominence, or don’t find their own relatively benevolent billionaire owner, will continue to either be neutered or flattened out by conglomerates into content distributors. The ones that don’t will buy some time, but will ultimately become vanity projects read only by people wealthy enough to remain interested in the superficial comings and goings of other wealthy people.

The internet will continue to become increasingly polarized to the point where we no longer merely dismiss the reporting from the other side that we find inconvenient, but we don’t even realize it exists anymore because they won’t penetrate our microscopically focused self-selected social media cocoons.

The last remaining source of local news will be the neighborhood-based Facebook groups people go to right now to complain about leaf-blowing imbroglios. Instead of asking what night of the week street parking is allowed, we’ll ask if anyone knows whether or not the rumors about the mayor’s horse-fucking dungeon are real, then we’ll be suspended for posting profanity.

With fewer checks on the remorseless, shameless, broke dicks on the local level, the worst people alive will graduate from their local grifting operations to the national stage unmolested by conscience or scandal, populating the halls of power with an even worse species of villain than we’ve previously imagined. Nothing anyone of us can now do will stop it. It’s too late. We’re pivoting and pivoting in a widening gyre.

There’s a trope in dystopian fiction and apocalyptic films where it’s almost worse to have survived for just a little longer than everyone else wiped out in the original disaster. Better to be consumed in the nuclear blast than to live rummaging among the ruins. Those of us still left in the business are the poor survivors. We’ve peered into the cannibals’ cellar.

What’s worse is that we are still pretending it didn’t happen. We’re fighting over pools of shit-water that have settled into the craters and bartering with dog meat under the mistaken impression we’re carrying the fire. On the plus side, there will be a lot more Stranger Things posts.

Q’importe où vous buvez, le lieu sera toujours le mȇme

Je me souviens la première fois que j’ai eu peur dans ma vie

The following is a chapter of my book Welcome to Hell World: Dispatches from the American Dystopia available here. If you’d like to read it in Spanish you can do so here or English here.

Traduit par Angelika Pokovba

Ma sœur qui dorénavant ne boit plus a écrit une histoire vraie il y a quelques années à propos de notre grand-mère. Shirley Madden passait souvent ses vacances dans une petite ville appelée Round Pond en Maine. Elle et mon grand-père avaient achetés une petite maison là-bas après s’être mariées. Mon grand-père est mort relativement jeune donc je n’ai pas trop de souvenirs lorsque j’essaie de penser à lui je me souviens du jour où, petit, j’ai été malade dans leur vielle grande ferme. Il m’avait acheté du ginger ale pour calmer mon estomac et je me suis endormi sur le canapé près de la cheminée, là où les corbeaux venaient. Je me souviens m’être réveillé pour prendre une gorgée, la canette était remplie de fourmis. Il m’a fallu un instant pour comprendre ce qui se passait et j’en ai recraché autant que je le pouvais mais beaucoup d’entre elles avaient déjà été avalées.

Je pense que mon grand-père était le deuxième homme qu’elle a aimé. Jusqu’à ses
80 ans elle nous parlait de son premier amour qu’elle n’avait jamais épousé. Elle mourut dans un lit d’hôpital dans notre maison proche non loin de la maison lieu où elle avait passé sa dernière décennie à boire du gin. Je crois qu’elle s’est demandée toute sa vie comment les choses auraient pu être différentes. Je n’ai pas de photo de mon grand-père avec moi mais j’en ai une de ma grand-mère avec son premier amour dans un petit cadre qu’elle m’a envoyé ce qui me fait penser à une sorte de trahison, désolé mais tel est mon sentiment. On les voit tenir tout deux tenir un ukulélé et elle a une fleur dans les cheveux. Je ne pense pas qu’elle n’ait jamais eu l’occasion de voyager beaucoup mais je pense qu’elle est allée en Californie une fois. C’est peut-être de là que vient la photo. C’était le plus loin où elle n’est jamais allée.

Au dos du cadre il y a un morceau de papier attaché qu’elle a dû couper dans ​Reader’s Digest ou quelque chose du genre où il est écrit : « La vie n’est pas un voyage vers la tombe avec l’intention d’arriver en toute sécurité dans un corps aussi joli que bien préservé. Mais plutôt que ce dernier soit usé et totalement épuisé en proclamant : Wow, quel tour ! »

Elle m’a toujours envoyé des conneries comme ça, des affirmations positives, sorte de pensées magiques. Je n’y ai jamais prêté attention car je n’apprécie jamais les gens de mon entourage tant qu’ils sont encore en vie.

Parfois je parle avec des gens qui ont vécu jusqu’à leur grand âge de la même manière que lorsque l’on vient de terminer un marathon ou de gravir une montagne. Oh wow, cela doit être beaucoup d’efforts. Et ensuite, ils vous expliquent à quel point c’est une expérience aussi difficile qu’enrichissante. Vous dites que vous le ferez un jour même si vous savez éperdument que vous ne le ferez pas mais vous le dites quand même.

L’été nous allions dans le Maine quand nous étions petits et j’ai eu l’habitude d’y retourner régulièrement. Je n’y ai pas été depuis des années, ma mère et ma tante me
disent à chaque fois que ma femme et moi devrions venir car c’est tellement différent maintenant. Je réponds que nous viendrons mais nous n’irons pas alors que pourtant je n’ai pas de raisons particulières pour ne pas y aller.

Une année ils ont filmé là-bas un film intitulé ​Message In a Bottle​ avec Kevin Costner ce qui était très excitant pour eux vous pouvez l’imaginer car il n’y avait même pas des feux de circulation en ville et ils avaient maintenant un type qui connaissait Julia Roberts. Ma grand- mère encouragerait ma sœur pendant des années à essayer d’écrire un message dans une bouteille avec ses propres enfants comme ils l’ont fait dans le film. Elle ne l’a jamais fait parce que personne n’écoute leurs grands-parents tant qu’ils sont en vie.

Je me souviens la première fois que j’ai eu peur dans ma vie, c’était ce moment où je buvais les fourmis. J’étais chez mon autre grand-mère, mes cousins et moi avions décidé de regarder le film ​Poltergeist.​ Je me souviens de la crainte que tout ce qui étaient l’intérieur de la maison ne s’animent et tentent de nous entraîner dans le cimetière. C’était la chose la plus horrible que je puisse imaginer. Avec cette poupée. Cette putain de poupée.

J’ai couru dehors paniqué et la porte a claqué sur mon pied laissant une cicatrice, qui peut ne plus être là maintenant je n’ai jamais pensé à vérifier. Cette grand-mère est morte relativement jeune suite à la cigarette et son mari était mort avant que je ne le connaisse mais apparemment c’était une vraie merde alors ce n’est pas mon problème. Bon en vrai c’est mon problème mais vous voyez ce que je veux dire. Trois de ses enfants incluant mon père sont tous morts vers l’âge de 60 ans à cause d’une trop grosse consommation d’alcool, de drogues et d’autres merdes accumulées. L’un de ses enfants, a connu le succès, nous étions tous fiers de lui. Il est mort dans une piscine alors que toutes ces merdes ne l’ont pas tué pas directement, il meurt tragiquement se noyant. Du côté de la famille de mon beau-père, tout le

monde a tendance à vivre dans les 90 ans mais beaucoup d’entre eux semblent avoir la leucémie. Avec ce capital de gènes pas facile de choisir les meilleures options.

Parfois je parle avec les gens de mon entourage qui ont eu le cancer de la même manière que lorsque quelqu’un revient d’un endroit horrible et vous ne leur posez pas trop de questions parce que vous n’êtes pas sûr de vouloir savoir : Oh wow comment était l’enfer ?

J’ai eu la chance de voyager dans quelques pays du monde pour le boulot d’y écrire, et c’est en théorie, c’est ce qui vous sort de la routine. Vous découvrez de beaux endroits, vivez de nouvelles cultures et visitez des musées, des merveilles géologiques et tout ce que les sites de voyage annoncent. Cela est vrai d’une certaine manière mais plus encore, d’après mon expérience, il s’agit d’une série d’opportunités de boire les choses que je ne boirais pas normalement et d’une façon plus excitant que je n’aurais pu le faire. C’est peut-être parce que j’ai passé tant d’années à écrire sur la gnole et à essayer d’expliquer aux lecteurs son goût et sensations mais vous le savez déjà. Partout est le même endroit quand vous buvez, c’est l’endroit où il boit.

Une autre chose que je faisais à chaque fois voyage, c’est de trouver un moyen de continuer à faire de l’exercice de façon compulsive peu importe ce qu’il se passe. Si je ne fais pas attention je vais finir par me blesser de façon permanente, je me suis ruiné le dos et les abdominaux au point où je ne peux plus rien faire à part nager. Une chose qui fait du bien à la douleur c’est de boire je peux vous le dire. Vous sentez la douleur dans votre corps et vous versez une pinte de whisky dessus et elle s’en va jusqu’à demain.

Quand ma grand-mère est morte nous sommes allés à Round Pond pour disperser ses cendres sur la cote le long de la côte escarpée. Ma sœur et ses enfants ont finalement écrit la lettre qu’elle attendait et l’ont jetée à la mer. Cinq ans plus tard, à l’anniversaire de sa mort la bouteille s’échoua à Scituate, dans le Massachusetts, où elle avait passé le reste de sa vie. Un mec l’a trouvé et a appelé ma sœur et nous étions tous comme en mode « putain mais c’est quoi ce bordel ?! ». Quelques années plus tard le 9 novembre le jour même où ils ont trouvé la bouteille nous avons découvert notre sœur aînée que nous n’avions donc jamais connue, que notre grand-mère avait fait abandonner à ma mère 40 ans plus tôt. Elle pensait que ma mère était trop jeune pour avoir un enfant car elle était une enfant elle-même. Ma sœur aime boire comme moi et nos parents en fin de compte. ​Les chiens ne font pas des chats.

J’avais l’habitude de penser que boire et me droguer m’emmenait autre part. Pas dans le sens tripper, je n’ai jamais aimé ce type de drogue mais dans le sens où elle éveille une partie de moi qui vit à l’intérieur et qui pour gère la logistique pour moi. Une sorte d’agent de com’ ou d’agent de voyages qui me dit d’aller dans des endroits pour sociabiliser où je n’aurais pas été en temps normal. Mais cela ne dure pas longtemps et finalement je fais exactement le contraire, en reste assis à ma place. Je bois sous mon porche la nuit la plupart du temps seul et ma femme est assise à l’intérieur en buvant sur le canapé et ma mère est assise dans sa chambre en regardant la télévision en train de boire et mon beau-père est dans l’autre pièce en train de boire et personne ne va nulle part.

Les gens aiment parler de leurs projets et essayer des nouvelles choses. Mes amis comiques parlent souvent du nombre de personnes qui leur ont dit qu’ils devaient essayer du stand up. Les fans de musique sont fascinés par la vie de baroudeur et veulent savoir ce que cela fait de

jouer des spectacles. Les gens me disent qu’ils vont commencer à aller à la salle ou qu’ils envisagent de se faire tatouer quand ils voient un des miens. A cela je dis « Faites-le, arrêtez d’y penser et faites-le ». D’une manière plus agréable mais l’idée reste la même. Mais les gens ne le font pas. Ils ont peur de ce qu’ils pourraient découvrir sur eux-mêmes s’ils partent du même endroit où ils se trouvent actuellement.

A quoi ressemble là ou je ne suis pas ? Est-ce que les gens là-bas font des choses qui pourraient me plaire où pas? En tant que personne qui a écrit si souvent sur les voyages je sais qu’entendre cela de quelqu’un ce n’est pas le même chose si vous l’avez fait vous-même.

Parfois, je parle à mes amis qui sont sobres de la même manière que lorsque vous revenez de vacances d’un endroit sympa où vous avez toujours voulu aller. Oh wow comment était le Japon ? Et ils vous disent à quel point c’est formidable et vous dites que vous le ferez un jour même si vous savez éperdument que vous ne le ferez pas mais vous le dites quand même.

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