From the Desk of Phil Honululu...
Did you have a rough childhood? Tragedy? Trauma? Loneliness? Depression? Did you have a bunch of friends? Did you belong to a group? Were you the only punker at your school? Did you have a bunch of like-minded friends who were also fuckups? Did you take too many drugs? Were you a teenage drunk? Love lost? Love regained? Unrequited? Vandalism? Mayhem? Made lifelong friends? Couldnít wait to leave? Went as far as possible? Was it okay? Tolerable? Did it start good then go downhill? Was it the opposite? How was your self-esteem? The ego is a muscle. If it doesnít get the occasional exercise, itís going to atrophy and die. On the other hand, too much flexing, and itís going to become bloated and overpowering (I have a name and a recent column I could mention, but the Editorial Powers That Be Have a very specific rule). For me, my ego atrophied somewhere around elementary school. It recovered around the time I turned 26. I was a late bloomer. Itís fine now. I got over it. Iím not proud of it. Itís hard to relate genuine autobiographical discontent without the dramatic arc the reader is looking for. Tough childhood? De rigueur. Itís become a competition Ė whose childhood/adolescences/teens was tougher? Sexual abuse vs. father that beat you? Drug addiction vs. best friend dying? Is it really a four hanky weeper? Does it make you sympathies with the narrator? We lack shame. Society loves confessionals. Rags to riches is the accepted narrative, whether the literal or emotional context. Stories of hitting rock bottom abound. Unhappiness and dissatisfaction have gradually managed to become synonymous with credibility. Hep cynicism and groovy nihilism have deep sixed objectivity around the same time irony finished off sincerity. So, please do me a favor here: donít think I am taking some perverse pride in, or glorifying being a maladjusted outcast, because it wasnít much fun at the time. I donít recommend it. I imagine a lot of you are in the same boat. I was a stupid, immature kid that should have gotten over his own bullshit, but was far too stupid, weak, and cowardly. I enjoyed being by myself, but tried to rectify that when I was made fun of for being a loaner. I hated the groups of half assed Ďpunksí and Ďartistsí and Ďhippiesí and group of people who took pride in being individualist outcasts, even though they were in a group of like-minded people. I hated people who thought that they were different from the other groups, when the only real differences were visual. The people I didnít want anything to do with, criticized me, someone they didnít like, for not wanting to be more like them. I took everything too seriously. Everything was grave. Everything was a conclusive moment. My problem boiled down to the fact it took me far too long to confront this: otherís peopleís perceptionís of you doesnít really matter. I had heard such through the grapevine, but I didnít believe it. I was young; I was too busy trying to integrate myself with people who I couldnít have cared less about, because I was too dumb to know otherwise. When I was older, I was too immature to associate with people that didnít live up to a bizarre set of unreasonable standards, instead of just accepting them. You donít hear about the Electric Eels sans friends in a locale as isolated as Hawaii before the Internet unless youíve got some serious time on your hands. Lonely people make bad company. You donít develop creative urges and esoteric tastes through contentment. Happy, well adjusted with plenty of friends were too busy dodging social engagements and sticking their finger in the head cheerleader to do so. I wasnít one of those people who got set on the road to this corner of the underground through an older sibling or friend. Nobody spun me a record that sent me pin wheeling into the arms of a small subculture. I went searching around the fringes, without a guide, not knowing exactly what I was looking for, until I landed in this general ballpark. What do you get when you have a group of excitable, enthusiastic people, many of whom were social outcasts? It appears to be more conformity, just gussied up a little. Weíve got ourselves a nice little microcosm of the status quo, just with a shift in proportions and a better soundtrack. So my end reward was pretty dubious.
Anyway, contrary to popular perception, a gig writing a column for an outlet like Terminal Boredom isnít all gravy. Want to know what it is like writing for TB?
A. First and foremost, you get a mass email from Rich, addressed to all the folks on the staff, none of whom I have ever met, all of which seem to know each other, mentioning which columnists (which includes you, and truth be told, is usually most of them) still have a column, or article, or interview, that is due. So, you spend a frantic, unproofread hour or two crafting something out of ethereal mental wisps, desperately trying to craft something coherent. Then you read what you wrote, and a weight of deep shame and embarrassment settles on you, like a dark nuclear fallout cloud full of sharks, human shit, and the black plague. Then you try to improve what you just wrote, and it just ends up becoming more incoherent and scattershot. Then you give up, knowing that the patient has died long ago and nothing is going to bring them back to life, even as a vegetable. After the guilt of bad job, and the despair of reading what you wrote and having to confront your own painful lack of talent, miserably hacking through the impenetrable jungle of grammatical errors is almost welcome. Then you say, frustrated with all things, especially yourself, FUCK IT, and send it off to the TB HQ. You vow to put your nose to the grindstone and really craft a column that will knock your socks off. Think about a proper subject in the back of your mind, and then when you get it, really take the time to write a winner. Then real life invades, and you are too busy trying to come up with reasons not to kill yourself to put too much thought into your next column, because, well shit, thatís not going to be due for awhile, right? Then you get another mass email. The cycle is repeated, except the lows are lower. I wonder if the other columnists experience this? I wouldnít know, because:
B. I donít regularly correspond individually with anyone involved. Iíve gotten an email here of there, but thatís about it. I have no sense of personal animosity towards any of these folks, who all seem to know each other already. Save for the mass emails we get telling us for Christís sakes, just send in your goddamned writing already, I donít get any. So I donít get any feedback on my column. I donít even get the thin skinned, humorless buttfish that used to write to me to complain about unbelievably petty things to someone they have never met. Or the crybabies who got a bad review courtesy of my level of discernment, and have to write me to try salvage some dignity. Iím not writing for TB as a way of throwing out my lure and fishing for a ten-pound trophy compliment, but it remains disturbing. This is a personal problem of mine, one of many. I used to get quite a bit of email, but lately my email has dried of to a trickle. I only check it every few days because seeing that oppressive ZERO is a little much. Mostly it is my own fault; there has been a severe lack of writing activity on my blog (very tiring for me personally, especially when I havenít been in the fiscal position to buy records). Iíve been writing a novel, which (donít tell anyone) isnít very good, so that has been taking up much of my time when I could be making snide, uninformed, insulting remarks to people who are attempting to express themselves creatively (and had shitty childhoods). Also, people have become hip to my bullshit, and are now more hesitant to write. I guess I used to be a bit of a novelty, and said novelty has worn off. The last email I have got was this: someone in England asking me if I had a copy of the A-Frames cover of ĎBatmaní, and if so, could I send it to him. I did so. I never heard back. That isnít the email equivalent of hours of sophisticated conversation, but I have to take what I can get.
C. This has nothing to do with anything else in this barrel scrapping, sorry-assed excuse for a column, but I wanted to mention that: I DONíT LIKE ALL AGES SHOWS. I really donít. I donít like kids. I donít like teenagers. I donít like anybody. But I especially donít like large groups of young people. You canít get drinks. The opening act is a well intentioned but totally worthless band composed of teenagers who play for their friends, who love them. For every enterprising young whippersnapper who you know will still be buying records a decade from now, you get a few dozen more that are just killing time before they go off into the world and are telling their buddies at the Hooters how they used to go to punk shows in their rough and tumble youth, over a plate of buffalo wings. Kids lack critical facilities. They are bound to like anything, because of their elation at any seeing live music, lacking the more selective nature that comes across with maturity. You can try and sell me a line of shit about how kids are more open minded and there is a certain nice naivetť about liking everything, but I will ignore you, and mentally note to continue to do so in the future. Kids are pretty fucking stupid. Especially now. Look at them, you can tell. I donít have to mount a more detailed argument, when one solid point will sell it. Any aspiring punker type worth his weight in salt is gonna sneak in to the 21 and over shows, right? Thatís what I did. Thatís what most of us did. Thatís why we are reading this, instead of looking at our stock portfolio. And donít give me that shit about it being good for the Ďsceneí either, because the scene can lick me where even a dog wouldnít.
Next column will be better. A real winner.
- Phil Honululu, Letters Have No Arms
To read past columns by Phil go here.
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