Archive for the Chainsaw Category

A Simple Plea

Posted in Chainsaw with tags , , , , on Tuesday, May 13 by Chainsaw

It’s that time of year again. Time to buy your tickets for Burning Man before the price increases another fifty bucks (due to posting delays this jump has already happened). Now I know what you’re thinking; but Spencer, I’m a huge square with a full-time job and even if I could get a week off I wouldn’t spend it at some hippie extravaganza. Or, in the case of Josh, but Spencer that will ruin my Cal Ripken-esque streak of consecutive Bumbershoots attended. Well before you completely close your mind to the possibility let me tell you a little about the life-changing experience that is Burning Man.

Last year I received perhaps the best birthday present of my life, a ticket to the Burning Man Festival, from myself. Following a week long, miserably unsuccessful attempt to convince someone I knew to attend as well I accepted the fact that I would be going solo. So I hit the road, fully loaded with both snacks and supplies, with my sights set towards Northern Nevada. I originally intended to take the drive easy and arrive at Burning Man in a couple days, but somewhere in Central Arizona after my third Old Glory Energy Drink (only 99 cents for 24 oz.!!) I threw my plans out the window and continued on my Neal Cassady style cracked-out marathon drive all the way to Black Rock City (the name of the fake city formed by Burning Man participants) in one crazy day. Driving through Nevada at night is truly a surreal experience. I traveled at 90 mph on a two-lane highway for six hours without seeing anything but the occasional shanty/ghost town and oncoming semi that appeared to be attempting to run me off the road. I made it to within a hundred miles of Black Rock City before the insanity caused by sixteen hours on the road by myself made me rethink my safety and pull over for a catnap in a Motel 6 parking lot. The following morning I arrived at Burning Man not really knowing what to expect, yet incredibly excited by the possibilities.

Prior to making my pro-Burning Man decision a friend of my informed me that the event “has absolutely everything that anyone could be in to.” I would soon discover that his incredibly small scope of things a person could possibly be in to included only fire dancing, electronic music and naked old men…pause for laughter…but seriously, there were a lot of those things. It is beyond my abilities to accurately describe Burning Man, but if you can imagine a barren dessert converted into a makeshift city constructed and inhabited by 50,000 of the weirdest people you have met you will begin to have an idea. I guess the closest comparison would be Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome with less horrific violence and more all-loving new agery. In fact, there is even a Thunderdome replica in which contestants battle with Nerf swords, surrounded by a screaming mob of freaks. By night the city becomes illuminated entirely by glow sticks and glow stick-like light sources. Electronic music permeates the city leaving no refuge from its thumping, pulsing robot beats. In a matter of hours you have gone from being surrounded by awe-inspiring structures, sculptures and people to being trapped in the heart of the largest rave on the planet. While I am not the biggest fan of the rave scene and was definitely not in the right mind state to fully enjoy the experience (some combination of coke and horse tranquilizers would be about right) I still found myself amazed by the sheer magnitude of partying, plus the ubiquitous fire dancers that were pretty awesome to watch. Speaking of drugs I am fairly ashamed to admit that, due to the unreliability of mushroom salesmen, I was more than likely the biggest square at Burning Man last year, consuming just half of a joint and a case of Natural Light. However, I found that drugs weren’t exactly necessary as throughout the week just walking around Black Rock City feels as if you are constantly riding a wave of hallucinogenic euphoria (this doesn’t mean that I won’t be taking any drug I can get my hands on this year though). For the majority of the week I experienced an inner peace and feeling of perfect contentedness for no real reason except that I truly enjoyed being in the midst of insanity.

Despite the sensory overload of wackiness, the best aspect of Burning Man was the sense of unconditional acceptance. In place of the feeling of being constantly watched and judged while walking the streets of a civilized city is a welcome feeling of brotherly love. Never before have I been around so many people who are ecstatic for no other reason than the fact that they are a part of this world. People are unrestrained by social norms and free to be whoever the fuck they want to be. Burning Man is a “gift” economy, meaning that you can’t buy or sell things within the city (unless, of course, you are Burning Man itself which allows it self to peddle ice and coffee) so one can trade some beers to get one’s bike fixed, receive dinner for camp construction assistance, or be given a grilled cheese sandwich for absolutely no reason while walking back to one’s tent. Greed is replaced by generosity; rigid individualism is replaced by the caring community so lacking from modern society. Yes, there are some glaring flaws, sanitation comes to mind, and sustainability is near impossible but overall Burning Man is a city re-imagined, an example of what humanity is truly capable of creating. Plus, you can get super fucked up and climb on crazy shit. And if my meandering, overly positive thoughts on Burning Man aren’t enough to convince you to come with me, perhaps the possibility that you could run into people like this will.

So, who’s in?

If interested, Burning Man 2008 will be held from August 25th to September 1st, outside of Reno, Nevada. Tickets are $295 and can be purchased at http://tickets.burningman.com. If, like me, that’s a little outside your price range you can apply for a low income ticket for $145 before May 31st. Instructions are on the same page. If you need some more convincing, talk to Cojo.

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MLS in Seattle

Posted in Chainsaw with tags , , on Tuesday, February 5 by Chainsaw

Apparently this was public knowledge a few months ago but it’s news to me. Next year my under-ambitious dreams will come true: Seattle will finally be home to an MLS team of their very own. While I realize that this is non-news to most of you, I can hardly contain my excitement. I love Seattle sports but I don’t really love the actual sports themselves. I enjoy football despite my view that it represents many of the flaws of America. I tolerate basketball. Baseball was fun to watch that one season when the Mariners won a bunch of games. It is an extremely rare occasion when I can sit down and watch an entire non-playoff/championship game of any major sport when I have no emotional investment in either team. Not so with soccer. I’ll watch anything, from a Champion’s League final down to a U-19 friendly between Botswana and Panama. I’ll scour the channels for highlights of a league I didn’t even know existed. So move the Sonics to Oklahoma and take the fucking Mariners with them too (I’m not quite ready to let go of my beloved Storm). I couldn’t care less. Professional sports in America have become just another topic for people to express their opinions about. Yes, there are innumerable die-hard fans and the experience of a full capacity Qwest Field is awe-inspiring, but I still get the funny feeling that many fans would rather see the team do poorly so they could bring up how they would have traded so and so or employed a different defensive strategy. If not that then they are rooting for the opposing quarterback who they are playing this week in a very important fantasy league match-up. No other sport provides the raw, unbridled passion and emotional intensity that soccer does. The sense of community and camaraderie between soccer fans is an unparalleled phenomenon. No other sport pushes the majority of the world to near insanity when played. Sure this isn’t always a positive thing (see English soccer hooligans) but it sure is exciting.*

Soccer is coming to Seattle! Sure the MLS is lackluster right now but I sense a huge non-Beckham related breakthrough is looming on the horizon. Soccer is growing steadily in popularity and although it will never surpass baseball, basketball or football (or probably even NASCAR) it will become much more important to American sports fans in the near future. As an already established Sounders fanatic (Trevor and Ryder can attest to the fact that I took a Bear Paw punch to the face due to over-aggressively rooting for my favorite USL team) I can’t wait for Seattle soccer to take the next step to the largest stage that America has to offer. Go Sounders (or whatever team name they decide to change it to)!!!

If you can’t get behind our new MLS team based on the merits of soccer alone then maybe you can appreciate the fact that Drew Carey will be part owner and is requiring that the team acquires its own marching band.

*Don’t give me any bullshit about soccer not being exciting enough. It is a 90-minute game of pure excitement and anticipation that can be busted open and completely changed in a matter of seconds. It is a game generally free of retarded, ticky-tack fouls and TV timeouts. Plus there’s no way you can call it boring while the sport of baseball still exists (although I probably think baseball is boring for the same reason most Americans find soccer boring; I never played it and don’t appreciate its nuances).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_Major_League_Soccer_team

Death

Posted in Chainsaw with tags , , , , on Friday, February 1 by Chainsaw

“Death is another part of life…”
-Immortal Technique, supremely talented MC/conspiracy theorist

Since Eric brought it up in his mind-blowing meaning of life comment I’d like to take a moment to share my thoughts on death. Hopefully it will serve as a catalyst for everyone to weigh in on/refute my ideas. Among the many aspects of American culture that I find baffling, backwards and completely fucking stupid (consumerism, fundamentalist Christianity, American Idol etc.), mainstream views on death are right up there. I’m not just talking about the Christian view that if you please god you will live an eternal life of pleasure and if you don’t you will be eternally damned, which is of course idiotic. I’m talking about the view of death that the majority of Americans hold as an overwhelmingly sorrowful event. Death, barring a major scientific breakthrough, is inevitable. So, if there is no way to halt the icy cold grip of death then isn’t it a pointless effort to dread the unavoidable? Why not embrace death? Why not expect the best from it? I’m far from an optimist but to go through life too afraid of the end to enjoy the present appears counterproductive and detrimental to a person’s mental health and happiness. This mindset is even more perplexing when taken with the fact that most of these people believe in the aforementioned heaven and hell scenario and since basically the only requirements for heaven are feeling sorry for your bad deeds and accepting Jesus into your heart, chances are pretty good that your loved one will make it through the pearly gates.

Why is it that we find death so unbearably sad? I admit that there is something inherently sad about someone you care for dying and the fact that you will never share time with them again. But our culture holds on to that sadness and never lets it go. We put our dead in the ground and build tiny monuments as reminders that they are indeed dead. The places in which they are buried become hallowed grounds permeated by an air of sorrow. To me, this is a selfish act because the reason you are upset is that you will never see these people again; you will no longer be able to enjoy their company. Either that, or you mourn the fact that someone died and will no longer be able to fulfill their true potential and live the rest of their years. We fail to consider the possibility that they went out on top. What if Chris Farley and Mitch Hedberg would have lived on only to become out of touch and unfunny, forced to live on the streets or make movies with Queen Latifah? I think I read somewhere that only the good die young, which I believe means that you should probably just go ahead and off yourself now in a blaze of glory.

From my years of high school Spanish I know that the Mexican tradition surrounding death is somewhat similar (in terms of burial and initial grief) but vastly different in attitude. To Mexico, a poverty-stricken nation surrounded by premature death, death is a clearly sad event but they choose the positive path to celebrate their dead rather than mourn them. Personally, I think we should take a page from the Vikings’ book and return to the art of funeral pyres. This would provide a sense of closure along with a pretty awesome spectacle/celebration.

In a slight shift of focus I’d like to discuss something a little more intriguing and likely to prompt conversation: the afterlife, so to speak. At the moment, my thoughts on what might actually occur once we shuffle off this mortal coil can be summed up best by fellow mescalin/e enthusiast Aldous Huxley:

Many schizophrenics have their times of heavenly happiness; but the fact that (unlike the mescalin taker) they do not know when, if ever, they will be permitted to return to the reassuring banality of everyday experience causes even heaven to seem appalling. But for those who, for whatever reason, are appalled, heaven turns into hell, bliss into horror, the Clear Light into the hateful glare of the land of lit-upness.
Something of the same kind may happen in the posthumous state. After having had a glimpse of the unbelievable splendor of ultimate Reality, and after having shuttled back and forth between heaven and hell, most souls find it possible to retreat into that more reassuring region of the mind, where they can use their own and other people’s wishes, memories and fancies to construct a world very like that in which they lived on earth.
Of those who die an infinitesimal minority are capable of immediate union with the divine Ground, a few are capable of supporting the visionary horrors of hell and are unable to escape; the great majority end up in the kind of world described by Swedenborg and the mediums. From this world it is doubtless possible to pass, when the necessary conditions have been fulfilled, to worlds of visionary bliss or the final enlightenment.
My own guess is that that modern spiritualism and ancient tradition are both correct. There is a posthumous state…but there is also a heaven of blissful visionary experience; there is also a hell of the same kind of appalling visionary experience as is suffered here by schizophrenics and some of those who take mescalin; and there is also an experience, beyond time, of union with the divine Ground.

In less intelligent terms, I believe at the time of death those who have transcended mortal life will join god/universal energy/everything, consumed yet still aware (kind of like that movie The Fountain). I see this as something like a profoundly strong psychedelic trip complete with struggles of insanity but eventually ending in pure joy and understanding (except of course in the tragic case of Reknap). Those who remain attached to terrestrial life, however, will revert back to that form of life with a hint of madness, being that the mind is everything and capable of creating this reality/inferno for them. I haven’t fully decided if this is the hell described by religion or some sort of purgatorial spiritual training ground for eventual transcendence, or even if I really believe any of this at all, but it seems to describe my current thoughts as closely as possible.

Regardless of my debatable thoughts on death and the afterlife, I do know that at the moment of death a healthy amount of DMT is secreted from the pineal gland. And isn’t a free drug handout something we should look forward to rather than fear?

Side note: This was a lot more focused and directed in my head, hopefully it sparks good conversation or at least buffers a small portion of Kevin’s homophobic rage. Also, Corey, if you’re wondering the answer is yes, my thoughts on the devil are forthcoming.

My South American Journey, Part 1

Posted in Chainsaw with tags , , on Tuesday, January 15 by Chainsaw

A little more than a year ago I went through a series of experiences in South America that changed the way I view the world and my relation to it. It was the closest I had ever come to tangible spirituality with each event occurring at the exact time I needed it to. Yes, it involved psychedelic drugs, but it also involved much more than that. Anyways for the past year I have been slowly trying to put my experience into words and my hope is that if I post this first part it will push me to finish the rest. Let me know what you think, even if it is just that you would rather not have me write on this blog anymore.

What the fuck am I doing here? What the fuck have I gotten myself into? These were the thoughts running through my head as I sat cross-legged on a sleeping bag surrounded by five of the most eccentric people I had ever encountered. Admittedly, I have made some pretty poor decisions in my life, but this was clearly the worst decision a person could possibly make. I was completely convinced that the small cup of vomitesque “medicine” I just imbibed had given me the South American Bird Flu. I was seriously considering the possibility of death or at the very least long-term hospitalization. Why the fuck did I listen to a guy who referred to himself as Medicine Wolf?

I had met Medicine Wolf around two weeks earlier in a small mountain town north of Lima. I was enjoying some pizza with some fellow travelers when we overheard a curly-mulleted individual loudly and expressively telling a story about being in Alaska overlooking a river high on peyote when a “goddamned octopus arm with an eye on the end comes out of the water to greet me with a blink then instantly vanishes” (only about every fourth word is an attempted translation into Spanish despite the fact that the people being told speak absolutely no English). My friend and I immediately joined in the conversation and soon learned that after a few years of solitary shaman work in Alaska (during which he would consume a daily ration of mushrooms) Medicine Wolf moved to Peru, got a woman pregnant out of wedlock, and is now involved in legal troubles preventing him from leaving the country. Also, he had been running a Shamanic Tours Adventure Program for the past two years in order to raise child support money. So far he had given three of these shamanic tours but received full payment from just one. To get by Medicine Wolf does massage therapy and attempts to get bartenders to give him free drinks. He also tries to find peoples coke stashes on the logic that, “if I find it they have the obligation to share.” He wears a colorful poncho, and a tad too much patchouli oil, has a tattoo of a cartoon devil on his bicep and (as we soon found out) is not welcome in the majority of the small town’s bars. Throughout a long night of bar hopping we learned many valuable tidbits from Medicine Wolf but most valuable was that the bartender at the local pizza place had a bottle of his San Pedro brew (a Peruvian cactus containing mescaline) that he was trying to sell and he gave me the email address of a shaman friend he knew in Cuzco that made the mixture if that didn’t work out.

The next day my friend and I had lunch at the pizza place, discussed some details and walked back to our hostel the proud new owners of a large drinkable yogurt bottle full of a green, supposedly mescaline-containing liquid. I split the contents into two containers giving my friend her portion as she was leaving and went to bed giddy as a schoolboy. The next day I woke up fairly early and marched down to the closest store to buy some water and snacks. On the way back I ran into the bartender’s friend who told me how to get to the giant cross overlooking town at which I intended to drink the brew. Unsure of my navigational skills while on mescaline I invited him to come along. Luckily he had nothing better to do than watch some stupid gringo drink San Pedro by himself and agreed to accompany me. After arriving at the cross we climbed on an abandoned lookout structure that previously served as a hideout of the Shining Path guerrilla army. I decided to share the contents of the yogurt bottle with him then waited for around 10 minutes before concluding that it wasn’t going to do anything and smoked a joint. I spent the rest of the day in a weird daze, not really sure of what to do or what to feel. I was disappointed that the San Pedro hadn’t given me the desired hallucinations but was nevertheless content with my detachment from reality. Shortly after I hopped on a bus to Lima and forgot about my foray into the next level of psychedelics.

Soon enough I would find myself in an experience so crazy and profound that this “trip” would be rendered inconsequential. In fact, nothing I have since experienced (not even that time I did three Richards and looked at my hand through a kaleidoscope) has even come close.