Taking Stock

A testimonial, of sorts, by Zach Elmblad
Sunday, 26 December 2010. 21:00, 123 hours until 2011.

I've parked my car outside a twenty-four hour grocery North of Chicago. I'm listening to some wicked accordion playing on some Mexican radio station, drinking Starbucks from across the parking lot. Got a few hours to kill, and a bit of writing to do. I was going through the rough draft of my newest book, and I got to thinking. Procrastinating, maybe, or 'getting the juices flowing' or whatever euphemism you want to pick. At least I'm typing. Anyway, I'm here in Chicago with some time on my hands. Naturally, writing is what I do in these instances. I drove around for the better part of an hour after dropping off my brothers at a club for a concert they'd been planning to attend for months. I figured I might find a bar, which would have been the normal course of action, but drinking just hasn't been doing it for me lately. I don't know why, maybe I'm getting old, maybe I'm just in one of my 'not drunk' phases. Either way, I've been putting a great deal of thought into the last year, and all the paths I ventured down. The holiday season pisses me off to a large extent, but there's no sense in opening that can of worms at this juncture. I'm not trying to work that angle right now. Driving around the streets of Chicago on the day after Christmas, my mind has turned to reflection on the past year.

It's time for the New Year's resolutions. Last year, my resolution was to make a bid for personal sovereignty. I wanted to live on my terms, as the self-actualized human meat unit you all refer to as Zachary Kyle Elmblad. To practice my preaching; to regret nothing, and to cherish every new experience. To remember not to live for the sake of any man; and not to ask them to live for mine. To show those who know me best that I'm not playing around any more. I got well on my way, but not quite as far as I had anticipated. I'll set the scene: January had come again, another drunken year spent sleeping all day and working all night had passed. I hadn't seen the sun in a few days, and my roommate had been gone for a few days visiting his girlfriend out of town. The house was a mess, of course, and I was in my bedroom finishing up the final touches on the print edition of my first book. I probably hadn't showered in a while, either. I finished the last of my pint of Jager nearing seven or eight in the morning, and I found my brain wandering away from my work. I started poking around on the internet, looking around for my dead buddy Stan's brief foray into the burgeoning world of then-new 'social media.' I was browsing one of these pages, and found a name from the past that had been posting faithfully in memoriam. Being just drunk enough to ignore the part of my brain telling me to stop, I sent a cursory message asking to talk. The next afternoon, I woke up to a response. It was a girl he had been dating between the time I had kicked him out of the house, and the time he had died. It was the time in his life that I was most interested in hearing about. I was never sure whether or not Stan had killed himself, and I also wanted to know exactly where it was that he had died; because I was pretty sure that I had lived across the street for a stretch, which is kind of spooky. She was living in Washington, D.C., and I had been planning on visiting Hooper felonious in North Carolina, so I offered to stop and meet up with her some time in the next couple weeks. It's hard to really describe my state of mind last December, but the easiest way to put it would be 'depressed.' I had spent the previous three years wandering aimlessly around the country, and working way too much when I was back in town. I didn't really leave the house except to go to the bar, which would function as a few extra drinks on top of the impressive daily regimen of alcohol consumption I was already accustomed to. I was looking for a place to put my energy. I was growing more and more anxious to make a change. There were girls I was trying to date, girls I was trying to be friends with, and girls I was trying to love. Girls were definitely on my mind, even more so than usual. Because, of course, girls are always on my mind. It was particularly bad at that time, though, as I recall. This was one of those areas of life I was trying to keep as neutral gray as possible. I had been run down pretty hard by the Hannah situation, for those who remember that mess, and it was now four long years after that whole thing went down. I guess it was time for me to come out of my dumb little shell. I wanted to close out the whole story, to end that chapter of my life. Finally getting the book into print was a large part of that, and I was trying to figure out what to do next. Closure is a word that people use in these contexts, and I'll use that one myself in this instance. I needed closure, and I was hoping to get it from this girl in Washington D.C. She was a girl I wanted to be friends with, but most of all I wanted her to answer a few questions.

Mainly, was it suicide? Secondly, did he ever mention me? Thirdly, was it in a good light? Lastly, did he die in the halfway house on Ranney? I had to wait to find out, because my car's engine seized en route, but I eventually got the answers to my questions. No, yes, yes, yes. Accidental drug overdose. As in, an actual accident. He had started popping pills, 'using' as she put it, presumably because he couldn't drink or find any weed to smoke. I needed to know that. Most of all though, I wanted to hear that he looked back upon our adventures as fondly as I had. From what I gathered, he had. I still miss Stan dearly, and I despise Hannah as much now as I did then. If I actually saw her today, I don't know if I would vomit, run away, or rip off her face. Something in me just wants that part of my life to be gone forever. I'm older now. A lot has happened in what has now become damn near five years since all of that shit went down. At first glance, that seems like a long time, but it's all gone by in a flash. I've learned so much, been through so many more tests and triumphs, sang so many sad songs and gave up on so many dreams. These days I think back on those days in my disgusting apartment, with Jared and Tarek, and Stan slobbing it up in the corner; and I see a different person on the couch there watching it all. It doesn't even seem real to me anymore, even though I lived through it. When I look in the mirror, I see someone that is the same person I saw back then, only a whole lot more equipped to deal with the shit-sea around him. I really wish Stan was still around. There's so much that's happened that I wish I could tell him about. All the new episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force that we could quote. All the bars I've found all over the country that we could have gone to, all the bottles of beers I wish he could have tried. All the concerts I wish he could have seen, all the jokes I know he would have laughed at. All the crazy shit going on in politics that he wouldn't have been surprised about one bit. He was saying “Hilary Clinton is going to the President during the apocalypse,” back before Obamarama swept the scene. The whole apocalypse thing was tongue in cheek, you know, I think we just wanted that to happen so that we could watch it go down. Because, of course, we were were invincible and we would live through the apocalypse. Because we were awesome. Stan is dead. So are some of your friends, I'm sure. We have to remember those who have gone before us, but we can't let the grief consume our lives. We have to bury the dead, and keep their spirits alive, but that does not mean we have to sacrifice ourselves to sanctify their missed opportunities. I used to say that I had to celebrate for two. I guess that's why I've long had a tendency to overdo things. I want to do and see everything there is in this world around me, and sometimes I think a large part of that is because that's what I always talked to Stan about doing. Back then, we were the kind of people that would sit around and talk about doing things that we would never actually do. When Stan died, I promised myself I would go out and do all of those things. Not just for me, and not just for him, but for everybody I knew that died before they got a chance to make their dreams a reality. My brother, my friend's brother Ryan, Moe, my uncle Dan; everybody, really. There's no reason to sit around and scheme your whole life, you have to set out one day and get things done. Five years down the line, and I've done most of them. I finished the book. Hell, I even wrote a few more. I stayed in the band. I found another job. I fixed the old house Stan destroyed, moved out, and got another one. I went to California. I went to Las Vegas, I went to New York. I kept up to date

with all of our friends. I kept on living the dreams we dreamed up getting high on the couch and watching T.V. I did all of that shit. I did it, and I had a great time; but there wasn't a single day that went by without me thinking about what Stan might have to say about what was going on. I just wish he had a chance to do all these things, things I know he would have loved to do. . As I was driving around downtown Chicago today, passing a train platform, a memory flashed into my mind that I hadn't thought about in a while. I drove out here with a girl-friend of mine, once, for a day trip. I have to say girl-friend with a hyphen because the official status of that relationship was never determined. She was definitely my friend, definitely a girl. That's about as far as we ever got in figuring out which relationship label we were going to apply to ourselves. Life is crazy, you know. I had embarrassed the shit out of myself, which isn't much of a surprise. We had taken a few rips off of a bowl of some highly potent stuff I had gotten a hold of and saved for the trip, and had just boarded the blue line train headed downtown from O'Hare. She was sitting, I was standing. As I looked down the train car, out a window, we passed under an over-pass. In the darkness, the window became more like a mirror, and I saw a girl's face looking at me in the reflection. For more than a split second, I stared back, wondering where I knew the face from. It was Hannah. I swore to god it was her face. She had been on my mind for a while before the trip, who knows why, and I was convinced she was on that train, staring at me in the window's reflection. I clammed up, stuttering, bordering on the edge of freaking the hell out. That's some crazy person shit right there, dude. Seeing things that aren't there, knowing you're wrong, and still being convinced. I mean, it could have been her, but I'm pretty sure we all know it wasn't. It was a long time before I ever got close to a girl after I went through that whole ordeal. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out my first book: “Whatever Happens, Happens.” I'm not trying to plug it, well, I guess I am; but I just don't feel like laying out the whole story right here. I've already done that. Anyway, we get off the train and I get a better look at the girl, realizing it's not her. Of course, the girl I'm with at the time was looking at me like I'm completely insane. In that moment, she might not have been that far off. I was so embarrassed. I didn't know what to say, so I just kept apologizing. She just said, “That girl really messed you up, didn't she?” and she gave me a hug. Maybe that's all I really needed. Some kind of human contact in a world that felt so cold to me. Ugh, I'm not trying to get sentimental here. It was just weird to think of that particular situation just now. The cars are all starting to leave the parking lot, I might have to leave soon. Hard to say, but the people moving all over the place are distracting me. So, yeah, New Year's resolutions. This past September, I made a special calendar for myself. I like to think about it as a big New Year's resolution. My plans for making this next year an improvement on what has already been the biggest year of my life. I'm looking down the barrel of an exciting year, let me tell you. If life is really only what you make of it, I plan to make this year of it one worth remembering. I set up deadlines for myself along the way, benchmarks to track my progress. You could call it a twelve-month plan for success. There will be no more alcoholic in-glass-house rock-throwing. No more self-recrimination, no more pity parties, and no more excuses. Anyone in my way will be trampled over if they don't step aside or grab a hold.

As it stands, I've got plans to do some world traveling, plans for another two or three books, shows to play with several bands, a handful of albums coming out, road trips to be taken, new friendships to cultivate, and seemingly limitless stores of energy to devote to self-improvement. In the last year, I've published two books, lost nearly forty pounds, moved to the nicest house I've ever rented, recorded hundreds of hours of music, got a new job, traveled thousands of miles, and enjoyed countless good times with the people I care about. As far as I'm concerned, I made good on my resolution from last year. This year: No more games. If 2010 was for sovereignty, 2011 is for mastery. I have to keep my eyes on the prize, I have to think ten steps ahead, I have to stop drinking and smoking, I have to get in shape, I have to save my money, and I have to stop trying to fall in love with girls. I think I know what it takes to live a good life, and the only reason I don't have one yet is because I haven't made it for myself. In 2011, this will change. If it works, I'll tell everybody how I did it. When I figure out the secret, I won't keep it from anybody. We're all in this together. Upcoming Projects: New Book, “Borderline Vagabond – Stories from the Road” - Spring/Summer 2011 New Novella, “Reckless Abandon,” an addendum to Borderline Vagabond – Summer/Fall 2011 New Three Mile Island recordings and shows – Spring 2011 TheNewScum.ORG overhaul – Summer 2011 Disconnect Kalamazoo – Online/Real World Art Gallery and Information Exchange - Summer 2011 Expanding The New Scum Productions - Fall 2011 Debut DigiTHC full-length – Fall 2011 Now Available: “Whatever Happens, Happens: A True Story About Coming to Grips with Reality.” A novel by Zachary Kyle Elmblad with Excerpts from the Diary of Stanley Louis Slavin – ISBN 978-0-55724289-4 Available now on Amazon.com, LuLu.com, TheNewScum.ORG, and ZachElmblad.com. “A New Way Home” by Zachary Kyle Elmblad – ISBN 978-0-557-51807-4 Available now on Amazon.com, LuLu.com, TheNewScum.ORG, and ZachElmblad.com. “Pyramids, Paradise, and Paradigms,” and “Opiate of the Masses” available now at TheTheNewScum.ORG and ZachElmblad.com Three Mile Island albums now available via ThreeMileIsland.Bandcamp.com “Jellies, Jams, and Rarities Vol. 1 – 2005-2010” “Transcendental Hamburger” “PRETEN$E” “World War II” DigiTHC “High on Music” EP now available via digithc.bandcamp.com And many more surprises along the way, you can be sure.

Words.Art.Music Zachary Kyle Elmblad TheNewScum.ORG ZachElmblad.COM

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