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  • Writer's pictureNikolis Clark

The Crunchy Center of the Thing: One Year Later

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

The unthinkable often happens when we are least expecting it. Almost a year ago, I found myself in a precarious situation. I had to, for the first time in a long time, actually perform the introspective. Like that odd waxy film that sticks to the top of your palate, when you eat some sort of cheap candy, something was bothering me. My breakup had at the time simply brought this waxiness to my attention, and rightfully so I believed that working through it would remove this awful proverbial texture from my proverbial mouth. It did not, but the ensuing year did.

Music often serves at the most underrated part of a film. It is not uncommon for people to love a movie, but fail to remember any of its score. I myself do the same, though there are exceptions. Two of which involve Beck, and love stories involving cycles of poor decision making in relationships. Yet, I digress, the unpleasantness of the proverbial waxiness was something that weighed greatly on my mind. Since, I see my life as a movie, the story arcs of my life requires a soundtrack as well, and across the last year, I have made sure to remember the albums that got me here.

February - April: A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead

Radiohead's saddest album, serves in my story addled mind as a eulogy for Thom Yorke's dead former partner of twenty-three years, Rachel Owen. It is characterized by a sense of loneliness,

somber melancholy, and heartbreak. I had many years earlier in October of 2018, listened to the song Daydreaming for the first time while going on a midnight walk, my first semester of my junior year of college. I would walk with my eyes closed in a straight line from one end of red square to the other, because I believed that this process brought me closer to the dead and I was contemplating my own death. Many years before that evening in October of 2018, I had felt at fault for the death of a friend, in June of 2015. I felt in that moment with "Daydreaming" playing, the same feeling that I had felt when he died, and I didn't, that "maybe, just maybe he deserved to be here today, a lot more than I did."

"I couldn't love another, if I did not love myself."

That erstwhile feeling would not leave my mind till December of the year 2019, the same month I began a relationship that would texture the next two years of my life. Two years later, I would celebrate my two year anniversary, get sick for a few weeks, kind of celebrate my birthday, then be dumped the day after. Often little things serve as markers for bigger things, that night in 2018, served as the first moment I ever thought about maybe actually trying to get help.

In early February of 2022, I began this blog, posted a few okay articles, made a few mediocre Youtube videos, and in a blink of an eye March had arrived. March was at the very least, very complicated. First and foremost, I had begun medication that helped with my mental health but did not agree with my use of alcohol. I worried that in my depression I would begin mixing the two intentionally to disassociate through my depression, however this medication had potentially life threatening consequences if I messed with the dosage unlike the Prozac, or Zoloft before it. Second, I had just applied to law school, an experience that I will write about in further detail in a later post, much like my trip to Germany. It was while I sat the Hotel MIO bar in Munich, that I had an epiphany, "Maybe it's about time, I quit drinking by myself." "True Love Waits" played in my head.

I got back from Germany and started therapy for the second time in my life April of 2022. The first time was October of 2019, when I declared that "I couldn't love another, if I did not love myself." Despite my hesitation, I found the experience helpful enough that I still go almost weekly even now. Somewhere in the time since, my friend's death in 2015 and the spring of 2022, I had lost something that existed within me, and I had been using alcohol to get back to it. That thing was a wild spark of creativity that existed, deep down and I couldn't find it sober. I had to find the me that I was, in order to reach the me I want to become. Finished out April with a walk around my neighborhood, and I found myself at a park, the same park that my friends at I would frequent during high school. So I sat down and stared at the moon, listened to A Moon Shaped Pool in its entirety one last time, and read through my law school acceptance letter again.

May & June: Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys

Pet Sounds is, dare I say, one of the most important albums in the history of music. It fuses a whimsical love of music, with innovative production techniques that would set the standard for records to come. At the same time Brian Wilson, the mind behind the 1966 masterpiece, would fall victim to mental illness that was barely understood until many years later. Despite its lukewarm reception Pet Sounds would go on to be one of the most influential albums ever created.

"Authenticity, it's in high demand, and low supply."

For me who was dealing with a less severe offshoot of the same type of mental illness, I became enthralled with the album. It was a product of genuine love created by a man that loved his craft more than anything. Now many months away from my breakup, I had finally healed. With the pain gone, I went about enjoying life again. My work as a seafood clerk felt meaningful, and the waxy texture on the roof of my proverbial mouth began to fade. Life felt like it was beginning to feel vibrant again. The mono-chromatic perspective that I had viewed life from, for most of my life, began to give way to color for the first time since my childhood. In the album, I found something that I could not find in my own life, a glimpse into the joyful feelings of another. It was around this time that I began quoting the journalist, Tim Rodgers, quite a bit. I started thinking that "authenticity is something in high demand, but low supply." I felt as through this feeling that bothered me came from the fact that I had not been my authentic self for a long time.

I am a strange fellow, I have many quirky habits, and odd beliefs. The first time I saw a dead bird, my first instinct was to pick up it up, to the chagrin of my concerned Mother. I treat cooking like a religion, and I treat spiritualism like a buffet. Hidden sadness is beautiful, normal people are boring, suffering is as important to life as peace, and almost all modern music is trash, especially K-pop. Every locked door must be checked at least twice before bed, act dumb until being smart is necessary, and always answer honestly unless it involves someone's secret. I am not perfect person, but I needed to become perfectly fine with that. To the bewilderment of those that know me, I spent much of June in a very good mood. I worked hard, I picked back up on some hobbies, and I enjoyed time with my sibling. Often I would walk outside at night, and would look up at the stars as songs like "That's Not Me", "Caroline, No", and "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times", filled my daydreams with nighttime wonder.

July: Wetleg by Wetleg

I remember a day in the year 2016 where, I stated simply in response to my friend playing "Heathens" by Twenty-One Pilots, "Dude what is that? That sucks, music died in like the 2000s. Turn that trash off." I was as you may assume a dumb highschooler, as we all were at some point in time. And yes, I know you may think, "well I wasn't that dumb, I was really just immature." no my friend you were dumb too. New music can slap, in fact while I dislike most of it I enjoy how much others enjoy it. Wetleg by Wetleg is an album from 2021 that I very much enjoyed.

"Dude what is that? That sucks, music died in like the 2000s. Turn that trash off."

Often in my time working as a seafood clerk, I would find myself listening to either a podcast, or album while cleaning up at night. July was my last month at the store, so a sense of invulnerability washed over me. In a lot of ways songs like "Angelica", "Wet Dream", and "Too Late Now", felt right. Long ago I hung my ragged rebel jacket up, and replaced it with only sweaters that acted as a soft prison for my rebellious spirit. And that spirit was ready to be let out. Moving with momentum, I felt like I was ready to get back out and into the world. July was a time for goodbyes. Seafood clerk had been a title I took out of desperation, and it was one I enjoyed with pride. I had to rebuild my self-esteem, and my resolve was steeled by my return to my retail roots. It wasn't just about returning to who I was before, but it was about being proud of who I was becoming now.

August & September: Mezzanine by Massive Attack

People who know me well, know that Mezzanine is one of my favorite albums of all time. Its deeper, darker tone, marked a departure from Massive Attack's previous albums. The 1998 masterpiece was created following the departure of bandmate, Tricky, from the group. I first became cognizant of the album when I watched Snatch for the first time in 2019. The song "Angel" became a favorite of mine. It was not uncommon for songs from the album to be heard playing on my old radio show, The Witching Hour, some Friday nights. Those really were magical days.

In much the same way that no one person can feel nostalgia in the same way that another can, the feelings I had starting law school dumbfounded me. As if the novelty disappeared immediately I found myself, staring down the barrel of three more years of school and for that matter debt. Yet, my brow not sweat. Mezzanine is an album that holds an ethereal swagger to it. The dark sound carries a confidence, as if one is not scared of the darkness, but is in fact ready for its embrace. This is how I felt beginning school again, after my hiatus. I had underperformed in high school, over performed in undergrad, and adequately performed I guess in my masters. In the latter's case I did so not because of difficulty, but because of distraction.

It reminds me of a hazy spring in the year of 2019. A person who at the time was something more than a friend, but something less than a romantic interest was sitting on my bed holding my hand. Things had proceeded in a way that indicated that maybe our friendship could very quickly become complicated in a way that many often remember as these invasive things known as regrets. I was nervous, "Dissolved Girl" had been playing in my room before they had come over, but for my friend, Roulette by System of a Down will always be what I associate them with. Though that album, the mixtape representing all the love and strong bonds I've built up in my life, is better saved for a different time. I never did engage in romantic or otherwise relations with that friend, however we still remain close. Law school represented for me very much that same feeling. The tenseness of the unknown filled my head, but I felt ready to more forward anyways.

October & November: Rubberneck by Toadies

The 1994 first album by Toadies, has never been mentioned to me in any form by anyone in my age group. I like to pretend that this hidden gem is reserved for only the coolest of random music nerds, but I know "Possum Kingdom" is used by some movie or show on a semi-yearly basis. True mavens agree, Rubberneck rocks, or at the very least has more than a few songs on it that rock.

It was the fall of 2009, I was a 6th grader. Most of my life up to this point had been spent trying to be a tough kid, albeit one with some heart . I thought I was tough, I wore cool jackets, while other kids wore hoodies. I wasn't scared of any other kid, not even the 7th grader who smoked cigarettes. Though to this day, I wonder, why and how did that 7th grader have cigarettes. Nonetheless, this façade was to hide the fact that first, I was a nerd, and second that I was a crier. That fall we read "The Outsiders", and my Mother with sage like advice said "Hey Nik, you should probably finish the book

at home, before you finish it in class." At the time I did not understand what this meant, inside me was an animal that loved the jr. varsity equivalent to AMC's larger than life Mob Week, that I found in this assigned reading for class. With rebellious spirit, I finished that book at home instead of playing Ratchet & Clank, and began sobbing. Like Vito Corleone looking down at his dead son, Sonny, in the 1972 classic "The Godfather", a movie that I would not see for 10 years after I read "The Outsiders", I thought non-verbatimly "look at how they massacred my boy." In response to the death of Johnny during the climax of the book.

In my journey to re-find myself for the first time since, a genetic disorder turned off the color of the world in 7th grade. I had found that same feeling of "tough with some heart" that I internally felt as a child., in what some would call Texas grunge. Finding some tough to go with my family sized portion of heart, I reacclimated myself in time for both Halloween time, and for slowly becoming confortable with my classmates. In 2022, Nerds are cool, and men who can cry are seen as a good thing, the barriers that worried before are gone now. Like the song "I Burn", I allowed my old husk to burn away so that the deep rooted metaphorical flesh could reemerge like a skinless zombie not ready to rest. Real mavens agree, "Possum Kingdom" is a certified banger.

December & January: Zeit by Rammstein

Rammstein is probably the most overrated and underrated band on Earth. On the diametric opposite end of the musical spectrum from K-pop, German Metal forged in ugliness. The East German band Rammstein formed in 1994 from the remains of formatively important East German Punk Bands. Over the last almost thirty years their sound has taken a large variety of shapes. With raw haunting vocals from Till Lindemann, the band has a sound like no other. Zeit their 2022 album represents a change of tone, towards something more introspective.

My time listening to Rammstein takes me full circle. Time, is the great arbiter between experience and wisdom. Since childhood I have always been one that uses music to landmark events. I remember listening to Blackstar by David Bowie in the shower in January of 2016, and thinking that 2016 was going to be a turning point in my life. It would not be until Spring of 2019 that I would listen to Rammstein's discography and become a fan. I was struggling with the want to be loved, and I used drugs and alcohol to numb that pain. Feeling nothing felt a lot better than feeling something, but feeling things is what makes us human. So in an attempt to find that humanity again, I used music to replace the natural production of emotions that my brain was struggling with while under the influence. At the time Mutter by Rammstein and Hypnotize/Mesmerize by System of a Down served this purpose. I only enjoyed one song from Steal This Album!, so it will not be included. I had listened to Reise, Reise and Rosenrot many times while in Studying in Northern Ireland in January of 2020, but that is a story for a different time as well. I would have to put my Rammstein listening on pause somewhat during a two year span in which I was subjected to K-Pop. This time period ended in 2022. At the end of a long tedious time in my life, I was welcomed to a new Rammstein Album filled with humor, like "Dicke Titten", and introspection like "Zeit." For the first time, Rammstein did not serve as a replacement for some sort of emotion that I struggled to feel, but rather it was a conduit for all of the emotions I wanted to feel. And as I marched my way towards finals and the end of 2022, I awakened again fully for the first time in years. Returning from the ash heap, like a goblin pretending to be a phoenix, I had finally found the me I was looking for. So to myself one year ago, adieu, goodbye, auf wiedersehen, you have to go this path alone. To the self, I left behind, I had a nice time with you along the path to now.

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1 comentário

Lisa Meads Casey
Lisa Meads Casey
03 de fev. de 2023

Nik I absolutely love what you said here. It's brilliant, it's beautiful and it's relatable.

"I am a strange fellow, I have many quirky habits, and odd beliefs. The first time I saw a dead bird, my first instinct was to pick up it up, to the chagrin of my concerned Mother. I treat cooking like a religion, and I treat spiritualism like a buffet. Hidden sadness is beautiful, normal people are boring, suffering is as important to life as peace, and almost all modern music is trash, especially K-pop. Every locked door must be checked at least twice before bed, act dumb until being smart is necessary, and always answer honestly unless it involves someone's secret. I am not…

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