waiting room

Hello again! It’s been a minute. How are you? I’ve been better.

Last Friday night, I tripped on my way down the subway stairs, sprained my ankle and fractured the navicular bone in my left foot. The fracture typically takes about six weeks to heal, so for the next month or so I’ll be getting around on crutches. In New York City, this is no easy feat–the MTA is notoriously user-unfriendly to folks with mobility issues, and I rely on it for everyday transit from my apartment in Bushwick to my job in the East Village. My commute to my day job has effectively tripled in both time and cost. (I have to take a cab from my apartment to the nearest disability-accessible subway station.)

After just two days of this exhausting grind, I already have enormous empathy for New Yorkers with both short- and long-term mobility issues. Navigating this city is, as this Vice article bluntly puts it, “a nightmare for disabled people.” Fortunately, the people in this city have been, on the whole, remarkably kind and helpful in light of my situation. But the kindness of strangers can’t fix a horribly broken system.

In spite of all this, or perhaps because of it, I’m in surprisingly good spirits. In being forced to slow down, take it easy, and find things to do that don’t involve much walking around, I’ve run out of excuses not to write. So, welcome back! Let’s talk about Fugazi again.

“Waiting Room” is an iconic Fugazi single for a reason. In just the first few instrumental bars, the song establishes a powerful thesis statement. Joe Lally’s earworm bass line and the “tick, tick, tick” of Brendan Canty’s drum hits establish a claustrophobic groove that deftly telegraphs the song’s themes of boredom, frustration, restlessness and finally joyful defiance of the stultifying rhythms of everyday life. By the time Ian Mackaye crows, “Iiiiiyam a PATIENT boy,” his voice absolutely dripping with sarcasm, you almost already know what the song is about.

A waiting room can be a literal physical space–an orthopedist’s office, say–but in many ways, it’s also a frame of mind. The “waiting room” Mackaye describes is the realm of compliance, of simply marking time without wondering why the wait is so damn long. When Guy Picciotto urges the listener to “c’mon and GET UP,” he urges us to replace compliance with defiance and demand answers.

The waiting room is built to convince you that you’re alone in your struggle, just another patient waiting to be healed. But if you take a purely stoical approach to real problems, like, say, the fact that it takes forever and a day to get anywhere on crutches in this city, you miss out on the bigger picture: the shocking lack of disability-accessible public transit. You think that you’re the broken one, but really it’s the walls, the floor, the ceiling, and the whole damn building.

So, if you can, get up and get out. Another world is possible.

tattoosday mixtape

🎢 “…with knives in the back of me…” 🎢

Hello! Did everyone watch Chair Game Show this weekend? How ’bout them Storks(?)

I’m in the process of getting Baby’s First Tat – not literally right now, still working on the design, etc. – but, in anticipation of the event, I put together a playlist! It’s the in-store soundtrack to the imaginary cool tattoo parlor of my dreams. Share and enjoy.


“Fugazi capitalism” isn’t a thing.

In “Salad Days,” political commentator Rob Cox fills in the blanks of presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke’s policies on – well, most things – by attempting to wring substance out of one of O’Rourke’s favorite talking points: his punk rock past and professed “reverence” for the business ethics of Dischord Records founder and Fugazi frontman Ian Mackaye. Cox parlays Beto’s Fugazi fandom into a (theoretical) economic platform for the O’Rourke campaign, which he dubs “Fugazi capitalism.”

“Fugazi was effectively a startup from which valuable lessons in governance, business and sustainability might be inferred about the way an O’Rourke administration will approach the American economy,” Cox writes, “Fugazi capitalism would be inclusive, consumer-friendly and ethical. It would favor the interests of small businesses over corporations. It would reject cronyism.”

Cox is clearly familiar with the broad strokes of the Fugazi story: the $5 shows; the ethical practices including nonviolence, veganism, and a “straight edge” lifestyle. But if he is, as he implies, a Fugazi fan, it’s not clear that he’s listened very deeply to their lyrics or spent much time learning about the radical leftist politics of the ’90s D.C. punk scene as a whole. If he had, Cox might understand why “Fugazi capitalism” sounds like such hilarious contradiction in terms.

Merchandise, it keeps us in line
Common sense says it’s by design
What could a businessman ever want more
Than to have us sucking in his store?

“Merchandise” (Repeater, 1990)

If you were putting together “Anti-Capitalism: The Mixtape,” Fugazi’s “Merchandise” would be a solid choice for Side A, Track One. Clearly, Mackaye does not identify with the “businessman” here, nor is he a fan of what “keeps us in line.” He vehemently inveighs against the kind of consumer capitalism that attempts to atomize, isolate and strip-mine the complexities of human life. “We owe you nothing, you have no control” Mackaye sings, “You are not what you own.”

Did this kind of fiery rhetoric persist in Fugazi’s later years? Yes. Yes it did. Here’s Guy Picciotto on the final Fugazi album, 2001’s The Argument:

Number one in acquisitions
There is no foreign soil
Go global like a round thing
Go global like a hole
Every money matchmaker
Splicing green as fast as you can
Let’s break it down and start again

“Oh” (The Argument, 2001)

As Fugazi moved away from the brashly didactic lyricism the early hardcore scene, the more abstract and poetic approach they developed requires some effort to decode. But “Let’s break it down and start again” isn’t exactly subtle. Picciotto doesn’t literally say “Capitalism, as it exists now, is broken” because he doesn’t have to. It was implied by everything else Fugazi said and did. As journalist Spencer Ackerman tweeted, “Fugazi literally enforced price controls.”

Fugazi priced all their shows at $5 largely to their financial detriment (“It just became perverse to make it five,” Picciotto says in Our Band Could Be Your Life, “The idea that we could undercut it and make it work was comic and it was also kind of a statement.”) They never sold merch. Dischord Records began as a punk co-op, never held artists on contractual retainer, and never employed more than a dozen people, with the goal of keeping album prices fair and directing revenues primarily to their artists.

It’s true that a rock band is, from a capitalist perspective, a small business. Dischord Records certainly is. But a band is also an art project, an idea, and a node for collective action. Fugazi did business out of a sense of mission and necessity that had very little to do with greasing the wheels of industry. They operated within the confines of capitalism, sure, but like many of us, they did so in hope of finding a better way.