Life Harvester 33: Body-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody (Weekend Sensation Journal), Kelly's Turnstile Review
Life Harvester is written by Colin Hagendorf. This is the email version of a print publication available for low-cost individual subscription via Paypal or on Patreon. Life Harvester subscriptions are free to prisoners. If you know an incarcerated person who would like to receive a newsletter every month, get in touch with me directly and I’ll take care of it.
THEN THE FLOWERS BECAME VERY WILD
Hello, Livejournal. It’s me, Colin. Been a long time since I last wrote. I’ve been in New York for one month, living in my dear friend Reed’s apartment in Williamsburg with my elderly cat and emotionally disturbed pitbull, working at [unspecified restaurant], kissing every dyke in town. How many months in a row can I write an intro about how I don’t want to write? I’ll save it this month. It’s a new year, afterall. L’shanah tova to all my chosen people. Has a gay Jew ever explored the rich symbolism in comparing the Judaic concept of Chosen People to the queer concept of Chosen Family? I know it won’t be me.
This month I asked my friend Kelly Xio if I could publish a review she wrote of a Turnstile show. She’s a poet whose work I admire, and when I read her thoughts on the show, I was moved by how well she captured some of the more ineffable aspects of punk and hardcore. I don’t really like Turnstile, but they’re beloved by so many people I adore that it felt appropriate to discuss them on the hallowed single page of my gay newspaper.
I’ve since learned from some friends that a few years ago, Turnstile was booked to play a show in Jerusalem, and when they were made aware of the BDS Movement’s call to boycott all forms of entertainment within Israel until Palestinian liberation, they released a statement essentially saying that they agreed with BDS in principle, but that it didn’t apply to them. I’m not steeped enough in the world of International Hardcore to know or care much about the ins and outs of this situation. Maybe Turnstile has bad opinions about Israel, maybe they don’t. I’m not looking to a band that sounds like 311 with mosh parts to be my moral compass. I will, however, just take this moment as yet another opportunity to remind you that Life Harvester is and will always be in support of Palestinian autonomy from Israeli apartheid. BDS is something you either practice or you don’t, there’s no half-stepping.
Happy birthday Dee Dee Ramone, Claudette Colvin, Otis Redding
BODY-ODY-ODY-ODY-ODY-ODY-ODY (WEEKEND SENSATION JOURNAL)
Friday I had acupuncture for the first time. It was incredibly chill. My practitioner, Dr. Bae (“Doc, how do you pronounce your name?” “Well, the proper Korean pronunciation would be something like “beh,” but I pronounce it ‘bay,’ like the kids do. Who am I to stand in the way of unintended cultural relevance?”) Had me turn my phone off before the session began, then he asked me what was going on. “Well doc, I’m older and my body isn’t as resilient as it used to be. I’ve been schlepping a lot of heavy stuff at work, and my back hurts. My muscles are changing from hormones too, and I don’t know how that contributes, but if you know any puberty points, that could be cool.”
He did cupping on my lower back, then stuck me with needles, leaving me to lie still for 15 minute increments. I very rarely spend minutes at a time laying still with my eyes closed, feeling my body, letting myself think. My therapist says I should meditate, and when I do, my whole life feels negligibly better, but it’s not often that I actually get around to it.
Afterwards, I felt serene and wondered if maybe I was a better person now, but less than 5 minutes out the door and on my bike, I spotted a white man riding a C*t*bike straight towards me, going the wrong way in the bike lane, completely occupied with sending a text message. He was dressed like he had done a vehicular manslaughter while drunk driving a boat as a teen and his judge daddy made it disappear. I was blasting L7 out of my little speaker, fully expecting him to hear me coming and get out of the way, but when he didn’t seem to notice I decided to play a game of chicken. Swerving aside at the last minute, I shouted “BOO” in his ear. He looked shaken and I turned around as he rode away to call out “watch where you’re going yuppie!,” blissfully content that despite my newfound inner calm, I was still the same dumb bitch.
That night at work, I felt lighter on my feet than usual. My body moved more smoothly. Estrogen has made me softer and more supple. It has redistributed the fat around my figure. My butt is better, my thighs are thicker. It’s mostly good, but I’ve been experiencing the strange disjuncture of no longer knowing my shape. My thick thighs and bountiful behind bump against tabletops. I feel clumsier than usual. But after acupuncture, it was as if I had finally begun to learn my new shape.
Towards the end of my shift I got a text from the Rabbi I’m shtupping. “Come play shabbes bride with me?” Laying in her bed a couple hours later, we were talking about bodies and work and the coming year. I was kvetching that I hadn’t even started writing the September Harv and we were already 3 days into the month. She writes a monthly email about Jewish theology and world liberation, so I knew she could understand the obligation. She chuckled. “I didn’t write my newsletter last month and I’m not writing one this month, either,” she told me. “They’re being written in my body.”
Saturday afternoon I got a massage for the first time in a while. Earlier in the week I had been sitting on a bench between one of the most anxious people I know, and one of the chillest. I was complaining about my aching bod and bemoaning the fact that I needed a massage but didn’t know where to go. They both said “Graham Spa,” at the same time—a ringing endorsement—so I got home and made an appointment. My massage therapist, Jenny, absolutely manhandled me. She sat on the table and dug her knees and elbows into various acupressure points; she twisted my limbs into six different kinds of pretzel; she mashed me up and then spread me out. Afterwards I felt renewed. I still have a ways to go in untangling the knots in my back and legs, but at least now I can stretch again without it hurting too bad.
That night after work, I met some friends to go dancing at some End Times rave in a warehouse basement. It felt like the blood rave from Blade, minus the blood and also no one got shot by Wesley Snipes and then turned into bees. So maybe it wasn’t like the blood rave at all. What do I know? What I know is that I danced, and it felt so good to move my body in a room full of people. There’s a lot of internet discourse among young queers about not wanting to be perceived. There’s a whole subgenre of memes about the desire to be invisible. It just doesn’t land with me. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s the fact that I’m still relatively early in transition, maybe it’s just a part of my personality; but all I want is to be perceived, to be seen, to be witnessed. Learning how to dance again after I quit drinking was an enormous obstacle, and now I never take for granted the ability to completely lose myself in music, to move my body in a writhing mass. There’s enough rapturous odes to The Club by people far more invested in rave culture and far more qualified than me to write about it, but as a tourist in that world, I can say with certainty that dancing is one of my greatest joys.
Sunday I got my foot tattooed. It was one of these boutique stick & pokes the zoomers are doing now. Real artisanal shit. I’ve always thought stick & pokes hurt less than machine tattoos, but the last hour or so of this tattoo may have been the most acute pain I’ve ever been in. While it was happening I texted Hannah, my depraved noise bro girlfriend, to distract me. “I’m at dinner,” she wrote back. “You should just put your phone down and enter the pain vortex.” But readers, I was already in the pain vortex.
After the work was done, I sat on the fire escape smoking a cigarette with the artist. I was still coursing with adrenaline and endorphins from my time in the PV, but as soon as I left her studio, my whole body constricted. By the time I got home, I was sick. I puked for the first time in years. I don’t think I’ve ever vomited from pain before, but it honestly felt cleansing.
Hunched over the toilet, I realized that it was the last day of Elul, and so the last day of 5781. At Rosh Hashanah, many Jews partake in a practice called Tashlich, a ritual where we throw pieces of stale bread, representative of our sins, into a body of flowing water. It is believed that this casting away of sins is a necessary factor in starting the new year with a clean slate. All I’d eaten at the time that I puked had been a bagel, and what’s a toilet if not running water? So as I flushed, I said a modified Tashlich prayer.
Who is a G-d like You, who pardons iniquity and forgives transgression? You do not maintain Your wrath forever, for You desire kindness. You will show us mercy and You will cast our sins into the depths of the sea. In my time of distress I call to You. I come to you humbly, with love and grace, that You may forgive the sins of not just myself but of all of us.
KELLY’S TURNSTILE REVIEW
Everyone’s saying this seems impossible. I know they mean that we are elbow to elbow and that I’ve seen several girls show how their narcan fits into their tiny square purses. I think it’s easier to get into heaven than it is to get a doctor you trust. I figure if I get to heaven I’ll gofund my tuition, room & board. I can’t imagine that all dimensions aren’t in some kinda grind. “It’s impossible,” someone says, and I can’t tell if they mean that we have to fundraise year-round for things that shouldn’t happen to people, how there’s still empty houses a walk from Clifton Park and there’s much less benches and bus tops. I know they mean that we’re outside, that we’re exposed, that we’re booking testing appointments at the 24/hr rite aid while someone is trying to walk on skulls. I know they mean it feels impossible and it’s to describe the humidity, it’s to describe that one can only spend so much time alone but we’ve only refined our exclusionary devices.
We are eager about the unknown—anyone who doesn’t resemble something mirror-reflective and that we hate. I want to feel closer but I know I’m the type that fucks with the vibe, that droops the toothbrush-ed baby hairs from heart shaped faces. What feels impossible is life and knowing that in between the order and chaos theories is what we consider fun. It’s that we need more representation to build empathy.
We need to see gossip girls of color and I want you to know if you ever drive under that one underpass in DC off Blair Road l lived in a car across from the fast food joint. I always wonder how or why my biological mom didn’t and still cannot drive a car. I’m grateful that you can crowdfund healthcare and that people think the decay of another is their problem. The progress is shocking to me like living in a car when you can’t drive—I like to think when it comes to my mother she just made due. I would be dead if my friends hadn’t saved my life. If you don’t put a dollar in the bucket it won’t come back to you and yes, you’re a part of the circle, yes, the worst can happen to anyone. In DC now they call the area that underpass resides NOMA because all the transplants have a hard time saying street names until they’re mapped out on Strava.
It’s the way how around 3pm before the show my friends and I retreat into our homes, find our respective flat surface and lay flat, succumbing to dread. It seems like a memory when Farrah is lifting her camera and Owen hands me hot pink ear plugs. On a bench we sit exhausted, bike shorts are waterlogged, and we’re eating Ekiben and mumbling about Limp Bizkit and b9 boards.
A few hours from now I’ll revel in seeing youths dressed like a Delia's catalog and I’ll think “you weren’t even born then but hell, you’re alive right now.” Teri smells like fresh flowers. We aren’t sure if this will mean anything. What’s the point of listening to live music? Are we too old for this? Am I cool enough? Will I see anyone I know? Do you remember me? Titan picks me out of a crowd and says “damn girl, I know your face, I know your face, come here give me some love.” It’s dancing to Whitney Houston with Abbey before the hardcore show. How come it’s so easy to lose meaning, how come this life isn’t always so easy?
The sky looks like a misheard lyric like “Cotton candy, sweet as gold.” It’s all bubblegum and Laffy Taffy and when I looked up after throwing my body into the pit, the sky looked like it was throwing it back at me. Brendan is on stage and Franz has the bass growling and you know how Zappa said “describing music is like dancing about architecture” but maybe he didn’t ever go to a hardcore show and see people cannonball into gravel. It’s weird but for this moment we shared, we were born for this moment.
There’s something cinematic about how, inevitably, what we do we become. Who had a hand in this? I often ask Fate but the only reply is when the thread is cut. Scream, shout, strut. I didn’t expect the gig to be so tender. There’s an acrid smell of sweat and cigarette smoke for balance. There’s a bad fall, silence and a boot too close to my face. Rachel sipping soju and cow print bucket hats and Paris keying open a white claw. Sam’s missing his girl and I get it; I am missing the world. It’s everyone I missed and everyone I never knew. A live music missed connection.
Hours earlier: there’s this milky rendering of an emotion, fat separating, and it’s opaque. It sits and ferments in my stomach—sadness as a probiotic. It’s the way we push through hanging on the promise of connection—at very least we will donate, at very least we will get some sun, at very least we will hear some hits, at very least we will be in a different area code. The dread will hit differently, I swear. Let's get up and go. Every time I interact with someone I think about how much I want to be here on Earth and how much I want to be on the moon. The feelings don’t seem to coexist, they simply stratify like the atmosphere.
It’s how we are here right now and we could be anywhere else—I text that I want to see the carnage of the pit but most of all I want to catch people when they’re falling. I want to fall and miss the hands that are tired and hit rock bottom. The mosh pit is a metaphor. I want to struggle to get back up and think this seems familiar. A young man drove up from Roanoke, Virginia with his girlfriend and this is his first hardcore show. I say “you drove this far for this?” And he said something like “well I just wanted to support and everything seems impossible.”
For more of Kelly’s work, visit aloneinmyroom.substack.com.