March 2012

 

Once a month on Fridays we have men’s group at 6:00 in the morning. We get around and talk about trucks, weight lifting, and our wild hearts. We watch UFC, use war analogies—you know all the usuals.  Really what we do is meet together, have breakfast and coffee, and discuss the misused diction of Christian linguistics. What does it actually mean to be saved? What does the word “calling” really mean? Can we question the calling of others when they say, “God called me here,” and we think that perhaps this is just a nice Christian excuse to do what you want to do? Today we talked about being born-again and what that means. I asked whether or not it is natural to want to punch someone in the face when they use this word on CNN. No one acknowledged me.

After breakfast and our chat I go outside to smoke a cigarette. I am preparing to head up to the U to fight my arch nemesis—math—over a two-hour test. Tomorrow I am leaving for Bend, Oregon with my girlfriend to visit her sister, and so I had to take a math test, roast about 15 lbs. of coffee, pack, and see if the pair of shoes I ordered had finally come in. I’d been a nervous wreck the whole week, not sure if I should go through with the purchase of said shoes, when would be the right time to commit my life to such a heavy, and unchangeable path of wearing these shoes.

I looked at the Wasatch Mountains behind the office. They were hazy, blue and shafts of light began to peak through the canyons. I took another drag from my cigarette and felt the dull, indistinguishable rumble of an upset stomach. I thought about how much I drank last night. Not that much. I took a deep breath and tried to pull myself together. Kyle and Jeremy were talking across the street and I didn’t want them to see me if I started, when, suddenly becoming a more appropriate word.

I couldn’t take it. This morning’s breakfast of pancakes and sausage and coffee and orange juice all came out swiftly and relatively quietly. I made it to behind the dumpster in just enough time that no one saw. I stood up for a second and knew there was still more to come. I leaned over again, but this time it felt different, more fluid, less chunky. And as my esophagus wrenched I saw the bright, rich liquid of what I knew to be blood come spraying out on top of my recent pile of vomit. I threw up some more. It was rich, burgundy, nearly sparkling, a purple wine color. It had to have been more than a cup. I placed my hand against the white brick wall and knew that my day was about to get much, much, harder.

I didn’t know what throwing up blood meant. Did I somehow get alcohol poisoning? Or an ulcer? Alcohol poisoning was not a rational thought, since I had only had four drinks last night, but still, I wondered.

I went back inside and my friend and La Barba Coffee Roasting business partner Tim Walzer was still there.

“You have blood on your beard,” he said.

I wiped it off.

 

Two days ago I finally decided to buy myself a pair of shoes. Why not? Does the why not make it sound less romantic? Probably. But realistically, I don’t have my hopes up for anything much in the purchase of shoes. I am operating out of three basic assumptions about the buying of shoes 1) These shoes will not make me happier. 2) These shoes will never fulfill me in the way I want them to. 3) These shoes will expose my own hypocrisy, selfishness, and ultimately be about my own sanctification and the glory of God. Therefore, though I love these shoes, though I am choosing to be with these shoes forever, though I know it will be hard, that the buying of these shoes makes the most sense, and that I will buy them without unrealistic expectations of what they can do, it just makes sense. Also, the temptation of wanting to wear the shoes without buying them is a little too much for me, so I’m thinking for my own purity (and the shoes) it will be better for the both of us if I buy them soon and then we can both go home and get inside each other whenever we want.

 

            I can’t say it’s been an un-stressful, blissful experience, this choice of settling down with this pair of shoes.

Inside the office:

“Yeah, I just threw up,” I said to Tim.

“Wow…that sucks.”

“I threw up blood.”

A pause.

“Blood?

“Blood.”

“I saw it on your beard.”

“I know. What does that mean?”

“It might be an ulcer, your stomach may be bleeding. Have you been stressed?”

I think about this question, this question of whether or not I have been stressed. I am in the last semester of what’s turning out to be my hardest semester of college, I am starting a business, which has the potential to fail at any moment, I am constantly trying harder to pull myself up by my bootstraps to be a better Christian, and yes, I have just bought a pair of shoes two days ago, and am still unsure of whether I am making the right decision, or perhaps sure, but scared, and nervous for what I am getting myself into. 

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The Raw Honesty of Louis C.K.

 

 Image 

When I was growing up, I once heard my pastor that God didn’t have a sense of humor. Humor, he said, was based on imperfections, and therefore nothing of God could coincide with anything less than perfection. Whatever the theological reality of this statement may be, humor is indeed based on the imperfection of life.

            And there is no man who knows imperfection better than Louis C.K. The Boston born actor, director, and writer, has been hailed as the best stand-up comedian of today. He gets his title not from magazines or media outlets, but from fellow stand-up comics. His show Louie on FX has been critically appraised and he’s written and acted in movies with the likes of Ricky Gervais and Chris Rock.

            What Louis C.K. does best is unearth the façade of decency we live under and delve into the darkest workings of the soul. His act is crude, depressing, and self-deprecating, but it is also touching, raw, and incredibly honest. C.K. will get on stage and talk about anything from masturbation, to his recent divorce, from his own self worth, to raising his two daughters.

The common claim about C.K. is that he says what we’re all thinking, but are too afraid to say. The reason I can’t but help love Louis C.K., even though it may not be the “cleanest” act in the bunch, is that on the one hand, C.K. can get up and do a show about how incredibly depraved he is, and in the next breath enable you to laugh at the jacked up world in which we live. In many ways he is merely a mid-forties struggling parent who loves their kids very much.

There is a contrast however, between the rude and crude Louie and the real life incredibly thoughtful soul. If you merely watched his act, you might think the guy was utterly depraved, as I guess we all are. However C.K. recently gave away three fourths of the million dollars he made on his latest stand up act. He released the show on his website (it’s still there) for five bucks and after it did really well, he decided to give a fourth to charity, a fourth as bonuses to the people who made him make the video, a fourth to cover expenses for the video and the website, and a fourth for him and his girls, which he claims he will do “terrible things with but none of that is any of your business.” On his website he makes an almost prophetic statement about money, saying, “I never viewed my money as being ‘my money’ I always saw it as ‘The money.’ It’s a resource. If it pools up around me than it needs to be flushed back out into the system.”

            This contrast, between crude comedian and a generous, aware soul, gives Louie’s comedy something other comedians don’t have, personal exploration. It’s easy to take pot shots at religion or politics as many comedians do, but it’s much harder to be almost unbearably honest with yourself. Yet, Louie never strays too far into the cruel. Most comedians would rail against their ex-wife, but he has yet to do so, claiming in one interview that it’s her privacy and he doesn’t feel right exploiting that.

            In a world of bi-partisan divides and moral failings of pastors caused by a lack of honesty and confession, it’s refreshing to hear something as confessional and raw as Louie’s comedy. Writer Joel Lovell said it best in an interview with Louis C.K. in GQ, “There’s a deep anti–moral-hypocrisy vein running through C.K.’s work, which is organized as much as anything around the idea that to not speak openly about our capacity for ugliness is to further enable it.”

In many ways, this has been a fundamental problem in the Christian church. Many of us refuse to acknowledge our ugliness and this leads to nothing more than hypocrisy and moral failures. Honesty is a hard currency to come by within Christianity. 

 

 

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Welcome to the State of Utah

The Following is a public service announcement from the Utah Tourism Agency

 

Welcome to the state of Utah!

 

You might have just gotten lost on your way to Vegas from Denver, but we don’t think it’s an accident.

 

You’ll love our world famous postmodern architecture and French cuisine.

 

Our picturesque mountains and wide-open desert.

 

We have rocks so red they entirely sway the political leaning of our state

 

We have so much desert, we make Saudi Arabia look like the Pacific Northwest

 

 

But come,

Visit the city of Lehi, a quaint little European town famous for their Belgian waffles and crepes

Or take a romantic boat ride down the canals of Orem.

 

Come on out to the Great Salt Lake and lounge on our fly ridden, rocky beaches. Is that a woman’s hand on your thigh? No, it’s a dead birds spine.

 

If you like women, well then you’re in luck, because its true you can marry as many as you want, as long as at least one of them is below the age of

 

18 feet of snow is how much snow we get in Utah and that’s just before thanksgiving. Have back problems, well good luck shoveling.

 

Visit the bohemian town of Sandy where hippies and crust punks alike decorate the streets with Rembrandt-like graffiti.

 

Did I say graffiti? I meant to say ads for breast implants!

 

Did I say hippies? I meant to say people who drive hummers.

 

Like alcohol? So do we, which is why we made sure you can purchase alcohol at any of our three state-run liquor stores. Besides Sunday they’re open at least 12 hours a week.

 

We’ve also made sure that you can no longer get daily discounts on liquor or higher than 3.2 alcohol percentage in your beer, because we want everyone to see how great our Wasatch mountain river water makes the beer taste.

 

Sure, you could go skiing on the mountains or climbing in the desert, but who wants to do that when you could be waiting in line to get your very own nude Republicans calendar signed and autographed by Glenn Beck himself, while he holds a baby, an American flag and a shotgun in the same hand.

 

Do you like socialism? Liberal politics? You’ll love our progressive legislature, run by some of the most forward thinking individuals since the USSR.

 

These rich white men always have the best interests of the people in mind, especially the poor.

 

Do you like shopping centers and strip malls that look exactly like other shopping centers and strip malls halfway across the country

 

 

Do you like diversity? Or handguns? Well we only have lots of one of these and I can guarantee you that most people are scared more by one than the other.

 

Our state symbol is the beehive, because we’re the only state north of Guatemala to have, that’s right, killer bees.

 

Are you 16 and looking to get married? Come to Utah!

 

The 24th of July is more of a celebration than the fourth of July, but neither of these are anything compared to the amount of fireworks that’ll shoot off in your head when you discover the T.V. show Touched by an Angel was filmed right here. 

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Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen

 

The bottle says four

in the morning, two

before the dawn hits mother,

 

nature—cracking grey branches.

Skeletal. Stretched.

A conceit picked up

by these arthritic arteries

 

thumb towards heaven

the blood drains

 

I want it to stay

there, right there

but I might need six more in the chamber till it thins,

thins like it’s December first

 

All wind and no hair.

run a comb through.

nothing sticks. Maybe

 

ten mixed with a tenth

times two. This skin—

permeable, a grater,

 

To: the blowing dark air, only colder, larger

            with more slits

acetaminophen can’t thicken

 

I don’t want to remember

 

Let’s all do oxycodone in December

Spit our blood to make a mural.

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“Ten Stories” Review, Interview with Aaron Weiss

 

 

On May 15th mewithoutYou released their new album “Ten Stories.” For many old mewithoutYou fans the album is a welcome return to their former raucous post-hardcore sound. Lyrically, mewithoutYou has never been better. Aaron Weiss’s lyrics are complex, poetic fables, but still retain a fairy-tailish simplicity. The poetic wanderings of Weiss’s continue to make mewithoutYou what they are today. At once confessional and mystic, concrete and wandering.

The best song on the album is undoubtedly “Fox’s Dream of the Log Flume,” which not only highlights Aaron’s lyrical genius, but brother Michael’s and Kleinberg’s guitar skills and Mazzota’s wonderful drums. There’s even a Sausurre reference to the sign and signified in the song for the nerdy English majors out there (don’t worry about it). “Provisionally eyed, practically alive,” Weiss sings “Mistook sign for signified, and so sins have tried to run him off a cliff like Gadarene swine.”

We were able to get an interview with front man and singer Aaron Weiss about the new album and touring in their bio-diesel veggie bus.

Tell me about the inspiration behind the new album.

Well, I can’t say exactly what inspired everyone else’s contributions, but I can say a bit about mine. The beginning of the story was loosely based on a true event, a menagerie train crash where a tiger opted out of escaping. Once I heard that, I figured the rest of the narrative would come relatively easily. Also, our cat Blizzard had kittens as the band was writing the songs. Having them around the house put me in a silly mood, and kept animals on my mind.

Do you consider Ten Stories a return to the previous Mewithoutyou sound?

Yes, to some extent. Mind you, we’ve always tried to challenge ourselves & change with every record, so I don’t think we really have a single sound that we could return to – but some of the stylistic elements we had abandoned with our previous release are revisited on the newest one.

What is your favorite new song on the album?

At the moment probably the one called “East Enders Wives.”

Have you made a conscious effort on the last two albums to write fables instead of exploring more personal issues? It seems you’ve moved away from a more confessional writing style to third person storyteller.

I can’t remember how conscious an effort it was, but I agree that things have moved away from a confessional style and toward fables – but of course that doesn’t mean I’m not still exploring personal issues…they’re just veiled nowadays, but thinly so.

Maybe a tired question about the whole Christian thing, but I know some Christians have criticized your use of Sufi imagery and stories on the last album, how do you see yourself balancing different religious ideas and stories in your writing?

I don’t think that’s a tired question at all – I think it’s a great question. Unfortunately, I don’t really know the answer. I’m not sure I understand what I’ve been writing about all this time, or even my own intentions or thought processes.

Are you guys still touring around in your veggie bus?

Yes, we’ve had the same bus for the past 6 years or so, but used vegetable oil is hard to come by these days.

I admire your honesty and interactions with fans at the show, is it ever annoying to have fans coming up all the time asking you questions? How do you deal with it?

I’m afraid I’m pretty easily bothered, and find some way to be dissatisfied with almost anything that happens. If I have too many interactions at a show, yes, it can  be draining – but if no one wants to talk, that can be upsetting in a different way. But as for how to deal with it (with either, for that matter), my main trick for maintaining some semblance of sanity is to let go, to whatever extent possible, of any agenda I might bring to a given interaction.

 

mewithoutYou will be playing at In the Venue on July 20th at 6 p.m with Kevin Devine, Buried Beds, and local Salt Lake band L’anarchiste. Tickets are $12.50.

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Hello world!

I have chosen to keep the WordPress title caption for my first post because I will probably never write a sentence that says HELLO WORLD! with an exclamation point again. The days are rare and the mornings few when I wake up and think to myself HELLO WORLD!

In an effort to actually make something out of my writing I have started this blog. I used to have a blog, it was an old clunky thing, rarely updated, limping along like a sad old dog ready to be shot. So I shot it. And made this new thing so I would look more professional. If that’s possible.

Here is where you will find my poems, writings, newspaper articles, and rough chapters for books I’m working on.  Read on, if you will, if you won’t, that’s okay too I guess.

Cheers,

Levi

 

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