22 June 2007

Summer's Always Gone Too Soon

The first full day of summer (the solstice was yesterday afternoon), the longest day of the year, and already there's an autumnal nip in the air.

Actually, summer hasn't gotten properly started so far. There've been a few days here and there when it was genuinely hot (usually days I was stuck indoors for some reason or another), but we still haven't got to the point where I can safely throw all my jackets and sweaters and even long sleeve shirts in a cupboard and forget about them for a few months.

Today, in fact, is genuinely cool, with a stiff wind blowing down from Connecticut or some place similarly chilly; not the best conditions for tonight's boat cruise featuring the Weakerthans, which it looks as though I'll be attending solo, despite having bought an extra ticket for an unspecified someone who I was sure would be thrilled to come along.

Several unspecified someones, actually; I think at this point I've asked at least seven people if they wanted to go and all had "other plans." New York is a city awash in and replete with plans, it's true, but in the darker recesses of my soul I still can't help wondering whether it's me or the Weakerthans that's the offputting factor.

It's up early tomorrow morning, too, for the first day of the MoCCA convention, featuring - at the ungodly hour of 11 am - a Drawn and Quarterly showcase of Anders Nilsen, Kevin Huizenga, and the ever-fabulous Gabrielle Bell. A host of other events await this weekend as well, leaving me little breathing space between now and Monday morning, but I'm still feeling a little flat and melancholic at the thought of summer rushing by so fast and leaving me with nothing to show for it.

What are you supposed to have to show for summer anyway, the rational side of me asks, apart from a suntan and some happy memories (and even the suntan should be dispensed with these days if your dermatologist is to be believed)? At any rate, my angst, my Weltschmerz is more than seasonally related, I suspect, having been building up for some weeks or even months now.

One symptom of it has been a disinclination to write anything here (or anywhere). As many of you no doubt already know, Punk Planet magazine, which I've written a column for since it first launched in 1994, has announced it was shutting down, and I'm kind of ashamed to admit that my first reaction was, "Well, there's one less deadline to worry about." Not my only reaction, true, but my first, almost instinctive one. And it's not as though I've overwhelmed with deadlines, either; the bimonthly one for Punk Planet was one of only a handful I've had to contend with in recent years.

But having had a few weeks to think about it, it finally occurred to me (I'm a slow thinker) that this is the first time in over 20 years that I haven't a commitment to write for some publication or other on a regular basis. And, distressingly enough, the question that insinuates itself into my mind is: does it matter? Do I really have anything to say that isn't already being said and re-said by millions of writers and bloggers and drunks falling off barstools across the land?

I know that when I first published Lookout magazine back in the mid-80s, producing that amateurish little mess of stapled-together xeroxes felt vitally important, as though I had some absolutely essential message that might never get out to the world except through my efforts. What exactly that message was supposed to be, apart from some cobbled-together rehashes of some Dead Kennedys lyrics and Earth First propaganda, I'm not sure, but I never doubted that people needed to hear it.

Now here I am with a good deal more experience and education, and hopefully with some more developed writing skills, wondering if there's anything I can tell you that isn't already being told just as well or better by someone else. Or several someone elses.

I guess the certitude of youth - not that I was exactly a kid in the 80s, either - lends itself nicely to the output of polemics and vituperation which seemed to be what my readers most appreciated in those days (I even got a note from the late great Herb Caen complimenting me on my abundance of vitriol, which he contended journalism needed more of), and I just don't possess that certitude today.

Opinionated, I may be, but my opinions are subject to constant and rapid change in response to new information, whereas during my time as a firebrand and rabble-rouser, I was more wont to follow the old journalist's dictum of never letting the facts get in the way of a good story. "Your articles are this crazy mix of truth and made-up stuff, and it's almost impossible to tell which is which," one admirer wrote to Lookout. "It's just like Time magazine!"

Anyway, I've got a pile of stuff on my desk that I've been intending to write about for the last week or two. The usual stuff: hippies, transportation, the Middle East, blah blah blah. I had all sorts of things I wanted to say about them, but not, apparently, enough to actually say it. Maybe I've got to take some time off to really reflect on just what the point of my writing is, or even if there is a point. I mean, it's not as though there's a shortage of writers, is it?

Enough of that; I'm off to see the Weakerthans now on a boat sailing around New York harbor. Despite all my misgivings and self-doubt, don't be surprised if I'm back in a few hours to tell you all about it.

P.S. The title "Summer's Always Gone Too Soon," while having its own appropriateness and pertinence to the subject matter, is also a nod to the song of that name on the new Ben Weasel album, which I believe is coming out in the next few days. Last time I checked, it was being streamed here.


erika said...

My thought, once you finish school forever, the notion of "summer" ceases to exist. And then you don't have to worry about it. Or move back to the bay area where summer doesn't really happen ever.

Anonymous said...

Punk Planet had to go. It was inevitable. Number one, subscription-based print publishing (of any type), primarily due to the Internet, is a business of declining financial merit and feasibility.

Number two, the music business (the primary source on which Punk Planet relied for financial sustenance) is a dying and declining enterprise. Moreover, this decline is most acute with independents, which was Punk Planet's focus. With few limited exceptions such as Amoeba, stores that sell music, large and small, are dying, contracting, or declining. Distributors that distribute music, large and small, are disappearing. Labels that produce and market music, large and small, are dying. So it is predictable that those whose sustenance depends on generating revenue from the above sources (independent magazines, independent PR people, etc.) also suffer proportionally.

Until someone makes it more difficult to reproduce and distribute MP3s, the entire music industry food chain will retract and regress to its bare bones. That means less stores, less distributors, fewer and smaller labels, less media, and less income, overall, for those in the business of music.

But at least now we can get 100,000 songs (a lifetime's worth of collecting music) from someone else's external hardrive, for free, in just a few hours. Which I guess is not a bad thing, if you're not the one who relies on selling music for a living. So it's a give and take, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

You call it Green Day's whole catalog and life's work. I call it 142 songs, 7.2 hours, 400.2 MB.

Jersey Beat said...

So how were the Weakerthans?

I heard you ran into Blake Schwarzenbach on board.