Brass Knuckle Volition
A religion that takes its name from Satan brings up important questions. Questions like “Why Satan?” and “What does Satan have to do with any of this?” If “Satan” were a literal being that we believed in, taken directly from the pages of the Bible, then the answers would be simple. They would also be idiotic. Fortunately, the atheism inherent to the Satanic religion complicates the answers. Our Satan is an archetype, a symbol, a focal point, and not a literal being. But what does that mean? Questions like these have a few answers and all of them are interlinked. The quick and dirty answer is that it’s appropriate.
Blanch Barton, former High Priestess of the Church of Satan, put it this way “The more complete answer is that Satanists find more strength in images of defiance, fortitude against all odds and self-determination than we do in the image of the guy hanging on the Cross. We are sickened by the complacency, hypocrisy, prejudice, and self-righteousness that most conventional religions (including “Wicca” and “paganism” as they are currently defined) encourage in people.” I’ve always been partial to this answer. It shows that what we’re driving at here is an ethic far more than an aesthetic preference for darkness or shock imagery. It also drives home the point that we’re concerned with an overarching mentality found in many worldviews, not merely Christianity as expounded by Catholics and Protestants. Mentalities that are independent of religion as it is commonly defined. This should also imply the obvious: our Satan is independent of the Christian literature and sermons that helped develop him.
Though the Christian worldview has, of course, provided Satan with ample ammunition to make his name a powerful word. John Milton’s Paradise Lost is an easily accessible example of this. In Paradise Lost, Satan rose up against a tyrannical creator deity in the spirit of self-determination. Fighting against a seemingly ultimate power that is stifling and arbitrary is the stuff of epic poetry. This version of Satan would have felt at home in Ancient Greece. He would have entered our way of talking about the world much as Prometheus and Sisyphus are still relevant metaphors. In such an alternate reality, where Milton had been an Athenian author, “Satanic” would be an honorific in the way that we see it. At least to those of us who read. This ultimate rebel ideal of Satan continues to resonate with Satanists and other dissidents. When Satanists embrace this version of “the devil” they are validating their position in the world as people who want true freedom and true self-determination.
Beyond sustaining a sovereign existence and maintaining a standard of pride, it also flies in the face of defeatist attitudes so popular among most kinds of “rebels.” The Satan of Paradise Lost didn’t say “nothing’s gonna change why bother.” His character would be more likely to ask “How do I war with it?” That being the case, the Satanist who wants to fight something, whether it be personal or societal, does more than change his haircut and define himself by his bangs. He plots, he strategizes, he gets creative. He does more than hold signs or take bong hits for peace, being that most “activism” is “active” insofar as it’s a bunch of running in place. He’d come to the same realpolitik conclusions that the people he’s fighting have come to and he’d use their tool sets whenever possible. He’d do that until lo and behold he had the power to use entirely different tools. He might do something more sophisticated and utilitarian than “rock the vote.” As Blanch Barton put it, we’re sickened by complacency. We’re sickened by it in more ways than one. Put up or shut up, we don’t have time for armchairs or useless whining or minivan magnets. Nothing saves the individual or the planet more than iron resolve. Half-measures, gestures similar to prayers insofar as they plead to apathetic authority, remain half-measures: they provide the illusion of personal or societal progress but the results remain the same.
Another way of looking at Satan is as a disavowing of fear. Many people rightly see Satan as a way for Christianity to propagate through the use of fear. It’s powerful to recognize this fact of Christian religion. Most religions couldn’t survive without a Satan or a Hell to back up their authority. Anton LaVey summed it up nicely when he said “Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!” That survival mechanism is failing, as we began to see in the later part of the 20th century. When Satanists publicly take on the mark of the devil and participate in society as rational and law abiding citizens he or she is disarming this Judeo-Christian weapon. If the Satanists are a bunch of nice people and the Christians are largely organized by annoying bigots then what does that say about the gospel of the cross? What does it say about organized evangelism? Satan, in this context, has been the continued appropriation of a weapon that was first undertaken by Anton LaVey in the 1960s. This is relevant but only an aside.
Satan is also seen as a symbol for all of the healthy and life-affirming behaviors that religion has tried to eradicate or occlude. Most ideologies concerning themselves with “enlightenment” and “transcendence” or “transfiguration” immediately make a target of the human animal. They seek to replace libido with litany, wine with wishful thinking, the savory with the bland, the provocative with the modest. Religion has done a fine job of associating many of the best things about humanity with the Prince of Darkness. As Anton LaVey put it, Satan represent all of the “so-called” sins. He represents moral aberrations like enjoying sex, having pride in yourself, being worldly, putting your enemies in their place, and above all else thinking for yourself rather than cowering – even in the dark corners of your brain – before some kind of irrational authoritarianism. When a Satanist embraces this version of Satan she is proclaiming the primacy of worldly values over the values of an imagined world. She is placing personal fulfillment above the mandates of a religion, secular or otherwise. This is vital existence instead of irrational values and life-denying principles.
On the most basic level, Satan can and should be seen for what it originally was: an ancient word that meant Adversary, Accuser, or Opposer. This definition of Satan fits very nicely with all of the above. Embracing this definition is affirming a set of values, an attitude towards the world, and an attitude towards people – both average and elite – and what they’d sure enough like to do with you and yours. It’s a stance against blind patriotism. It’s a mark of defiance against being an excruciating sycophant to common values or other people. Both blind patriotism and sycophancy are really the same thing but with different numbers involved.
Being adversarial, in this day and age, is especially the mark of not being a pollyanna who wants to see the world as all puppies and rainbows and shower-fresh vaginas. It’s the demand to level accusations despite a population who thinks that kind of thing is “negative vibes.” A population that desperately wants to believe everyone is biologically, spiritually, materially, and intellectually equal in value (even if we take race, sex, and sexual orientation out of the discussion). That would be fine if their ideas regarding value weren’t so horrifically vague. That works for them because they want to be off the hook for everything, even how they raise their children or treat their spouses. That’s why their Christianity is weak and their atheism is even weaker. Pathological “good vibes” and “good times” people are intensely negative to their surroundings. They sweep so many fundamental things under the rug. They do little more than create minefields with the results of their “drama free,” “hassle free,” “good aura” attitudes. Their attitudes are the sugar coating on the modern world’s deadly pill. Thinking things through and picking sides in a valid way is above them. Inversely, those who pick sides all too easily, who go about their anger to fill a personal void, people who build echoing chambers out of fear, they are a prime source of insensible bigotry in this world. The Satan in this case is the kind of devil that wants to light a fire under people’s asses, because if they can’t smell their own shit then maybe they could if it went up like napalm. This might be where the shock value of Satanism comes into play. But from where I’m standing it’s a warning to beware of people who can’t suffer the misery of seriousness, the misery of reflection, and have more in common with apathy than honor. It illustrates one aspect of who we ought to be spending our intimate moments with.
These are all useful ways of looking at Satan and provide a concise answer to the question “Why Satan?”. Real Satanists have been answering that question for the better part of a century at this point. People still can’t seem to wrap their head around it. That is, for the most part, fine. Satanism is not a religion for the masses but a religion for Satanists.
Though Satan is more than merely a symbolic representation of philosophical, political, or personal values that come from a disparate array of sources. The Satan of Satanism can clearly be defined as a philosophical and personal value in itself. That value is found in the word “volition.” But it is more than volition, it is brass knuckle volition. Volition with steely eyes and sharp teeth. It can be oversimplified in this way: Satan is a readiness to be evil. Not just evil like busting the heads of people that pose a real threat, but that’s there as well; it’s notable in societies of easily herded people always baaing for their nannies. It is volition that can not be removed by an exorcist.
Satan is the psychological willingness and ability to combine skepticism with amorality. Not the kind of amorality that is reckless and wanton and needlessly cruel. That kind of amorality is a lack of rational thought that inevitably backfires with a vengeance. Instead it’s an amorality within the mind that informs choices. These choices take place in a world where morality is at least ideologically or instinctively present and perhaps must be applied. The kind of amorality I’m talking about may produce results that appear moral in their structure and delivery if, it turns out, that this is what works. It creates nuance, innovation, and personal power. You may develop a morality out of it but never forget the genesis of it: on the first day you said “most rules are lies, many rules can be bent, some can not be broken,” and it was good. It’s about how you think and what you do with that. It’s a willingness to brave the sea of thoughts. It does require bravery.
Much of the “sin” in religious documents isn’t what you do but what you think and how you go about thinking it. Not a surprising outcome, whether by direct design or natural course. Religion is all thoughts and you have to control thoughts to sustain traditional religious constructs. It’s even the case, albeit in different forms, in more new age religions. So it goes that the most unforgivable sin in traditional religion is to disavow or, going further than that, to make a mockery of what you’re disavowing. The pedophile believer goes to heaven but the intransigent atheist with a peace prize burns in hell. It’s a common criticism of the Christian ethos. What people actively do on a regular basis matters less to believers than what they believe and what they say. To abandon this is to embrace another religion altogether even if similar in name. When we relinquish our obedience to notions of thought-crimes we are able to become the most atheist of all atheists, we become Satanists. In our minds we reign supreme.
In defining Satan this way we unshackle the entire concept from Abrahamic religion in general and from all other references to Satan throughout history. Those factors only matter insofar as they’ve made the word itself relevant or inspirational or poignant. But Satan could just as much be a word invented today, by yours truly, and still stand on its own. Thankfully the ammo has already been provided.
The readiness to be evil is a quality that most people lack. They are programmed, whether by nature or nurture, to follow the path of least resistance when it comes to how they process the world around them. That process defines how they act on their conclusions. Sometimes that has to do with their natural impulses as human beings and what is normally “evil” (disdainful, unpleasant, a kill-joy). It is, for instance, easier to believe that we live in a caring anthropocentric world than it is to believe we live in a largely indifferent and vastly inhospitable universe. The real mechanisms of nature are “dark forces.” Even the mechanisms of human nature, which are more occluded than any other kind of nature due to our bias. People ask “Where is your humanity?” without a hint of sarcasm, ignoring the fact that they might as well be asking “Where is your irrational aggression? Where is your Will to Laziness?” People don’t want to use volition, they’d rather give it up, it’s hard work and most people don’t like a hard day’s work. It is easier to believe that there’s “good in everyone” rather than define “good” in a comprehensive way and, of all the terrible things, accept the blame in full when we fall short of that definition. Not even Popes made into God Kings could forever restrain this human impulse against distasteful reality. People wanted their religion to become all the more sweet, generation by generation, until at long last it was no religion at all but a bunch of nice promises with minimum commitments and a few prejudices attached (baseless feelings of supremacy make people feel warm inside as well). Only when they destroy themselves do they really seek the comforting confines of an authoritarian creed. After they’ve been reassured by restriction and repentance they’ll drift back to vagueness about “good” and the “meaning of life,” and what’s worse is that the authority they sought had little to say about the real error of their ways. It’s easier to control people through lies, fear, carrots and sticks than guide them with truthful analysis of their simian condition. Probably because truly intelligent people are a slim minority. To firmly grasp this can be defined as Satanic thinking. It takes power away from social falsehoods and the irrational foundations of many a social institution. This is thinking that puts us in the mud, the blood, the guts, and the gloom rather than the kind that makes us feel chipper about everything. That’s evil. It defies the very impulses that have a major hand in developing spiritualities of varying degrees. These are the thoughts that make people squirm and if you’re a Satanist then you revel in them rather than reject them. Congratulations on being a mutant if you qualify.
But it goes deeper than accepting the things that naturally make most other people squirm. The readiness to be evil, a readiness for evil, is found in deviating from individual norms and societal norms. Satan or the “readiness to be evil” is not flinching within your “soul,” your deepest impulses, when society or a segment thereof claims that some thing or some thought is “evil.” You take that thought and you run with it to its natural conclusion. You determine what its value is and how you could practically and pragmatically apply it to your life’s routines or, sometimes as valuable, your understanding of the greater order of things.
It doesn’t take a spiritual God with a white beard to have a “Satan.” There are theistic religions and secular religions. Almost without fail they all develop a combination of “Satan” and “Sin” to browbeat people into submission. The examples of “evil” being used as a control mechanism are all around you, the examples are too plentiful to fully categorize. But large sections of the modern feminist paradigm provide a concise example of a secular religion with strong elements of a “Satan” and an idea of “sin.”
If a woman disagrees with a value of any given feminist sect she is displaying her “Internalized Misogyny” (Sin) due to the “Patriarchy” (Satan). Not unlike the old myth of Satan you have this pervasive demonic entity that controls peoples minds to the point where they can never, not in a million years, actually mean what they’re saying. They don’t really have valid reasons for saying it. They are, in effect, in the thrall of the Prince of Darkness. Every effort must be made to save them from their sinful ways. “Save” them to the point of publishing their addresses, assembling mobs, and maybe vandalizing their homes – it happens now just as then, no Jesus required.
Not to single out the wailing of modern feminists. There are “men’s” groups who paint men with sympathies for female causes as displaying “beta” or “white knight” behavior (sin). This behavior is due to their training by a woman-obsessed culture (Satan). Perhaps both have a few reasonable premises for developing these kinds of attitudes; there will be more on this later but that isn’t the point here. You will be shunned, exiled, banished, excommunicated, and maybe even offered some kind of exorcism (sensitivity training) if you question the many groups within any social or political paradigm. You become a “bad,” “terrible,” “unethical,” “sexist,” “racist,” “white trash,” “nigger,” “Zionist Jew,” “fucking psychopath,” and above all else an “evil person” if you think and process in a way that they don’t like. People without traditional religion are just as bad about it, people had this character defect before religion and that’s why it exists within religion. Asshole personalities precede asshole ideologies. What you actively do on a regular basis matters less to them than whether you’re on board with their Sloganized Worldview. As funny as it might seem those who have never had much concern for religion – one way or another – are the worst about it because they put so little work into systems of thought. They are the most brutal in responding to difference because they don’t even have a glossary, much less an encyclopedia, from which you could draw up a productive conversation or interaction. The non-religious, the marginally religious, they can be the worst monsters you have to contend with. Interested parties love it that way.
The key to thinking like a Satanist is to not let it all affect what goes on in the recesses of your mind. Instead, go about your daily life accumulating power and wielding it wherever possible and necessary. Never forget that many people want, whether by training or direct intent, to train you to respond more to accusations of “evil” rather than rational thought. They want you to respond to it even when it’s not being discussed. Look at the internet debates, it’s obvious as can be. Very few people with any power to their names want you to think and act untainted by an unnecessary amount of moral baggage. Shaming is a key component of cultural power over your life and over your mind, not to mention your wallet.
You can do this and not announce it to the world. I’d suggest you announce it as little as possible, just like you ought to be careful in announcing your Satanism, but I’m an outlandish artist type that’s good at what I do so I can get away with it. But deception is a Satanic value, usually labeled as evil by almost every culture known to man. Even if you pay lip service to an idea or an ideal you’re only paying lip service. A readiness to be evil, to embrace Satan, is not a readiness to expend a bunch of energy being treated as evil by your community of peers or the larger world. Not unless its useful to do that. Being evil means something profound: you can be an honest person with an honest view of your self and of life and still not tell the truth. You don’t have to tell everyone what you think and feel and, for the most part, you don’t have to tell them what you do. A readiness to be evil means being OK with deceiving people, because their value of “good” is usually that they always have you under their power in some way. They might not admit that but we’re dealing with ape people, don’t forget that. That power includes manipulating unfortunate people with a compulsion to be truth-tellers. In part, your value of “good” is or ought to be to have power over yourself and over others to whatever extent is necessary. That’s a big departure from the “brotherhood of man” bullshit. That’s Satanic. From paleolithic tribes to the modern office water cooler no one really wants you to be thinking this way. It’s also not an automatic talent. It’s not easy. It doesn’t go along nicely with belonging to a species that organizes itself in a very herd-like fashion: not lone predators, not even a pride, but someplace between a pack and a herd. In animal terms the Satanist is a lone predator that can, but doesn’t have to, form alliances with others and as such he is the exception to the rule. This has nothing to do with wearing black T-shirts or shitting on graves. This has nothing to do with merchandise with the word “Satan” on it. That will come as a surprise to those who have maligned Satanism as the angsty rebellion of wayward youths and people that want attention. The only kind of attention you should want is the kind that benefits you, otherwise duck and cover.
You have to be truly ready for evil if you want a well-rounded worldview. Most people will never have a well-rounded understanding of issues or of lifestyle options available to them. That’s because they’re afraid of Satan and they’re afraid of sin, they don’t need to know my definitions for it to be true. The Satanist is the kind of animal that can read Adolf Hitler for his insight and not just his madness. The Satanist doesn’t forget his madness, doesn’t idolize and become a fetishist, but the Satanist looks at the details and determines what’s useful and what isn’t. I like the fact that Adolf Hitler thought the rental market was a kind of debt slavery and that landlords produce nothing for the state or the “race.” This displayed his socialist leanings on that and other issues. People only remember the man for his nationalism and his barbarism, never his socialism. Merely saying that is breaking an untold number of social covenants in the modern world. But we can go beyond obvious sources of “forbidden wisdom.” African dictators might have a thing or two to say. An acerbic feminist might revolutionize your way of thinking about the world. So might nice people who have never gased, water-boarded, raped, maimed, publicly shamed or otherwise destroyed anyone. Indeed, the real Satanist is not so “unholier than thou” that he or she can’t find something of use in any religion or any secular source no matter how pious and self-righteous. I have favorite passages from both the Old and New Testaments. I have favorite lines from the Dhammapada (Buddhism) and from the works of Ram Dass (an eastern guru). I don’t incorporate them into Satanism, they are tools of my Satanism in application. Going back to my earlier remarks on feminist and “men’s” groups, the source doesn’t matter if the information is valid or compelling or inspires valid and compelling conclusions. No source of knowledge is too evil and that, dear reader, makes you evil if you accept it. You are casting off way too much of normal people’s reactions and sentiments for it to ever be accepted by the world around you. Be an American Democrat and think a Republican plan of action is acceptable: watch your alliances crumble. Your neighborhood BBQ is as political, your social network “friend list” too. I have lost “friends” and “allies” for merely explaining the viewpoint of another group without even endorsing the values I spoke of. For the most part this is humanity and to be a Satanist is to step outside of it and transcend it in a carnal way.
Be a philosophical looter. Set the institutions on fire, break the storefront windows, and grab mercilessly at the pages of every sacred book and political creed. It’s the Satanic thing to do. Anton LaVey made a point of mentioning this kind of willingness to dig into dark sources. It’s a point well worth remembering when we ask “What is Satan?” and “What makes a Satanist?”
Beyond defying the fear of being called “evil” it is also a matter of defying all of the praise. If something is good, holy, “progressive,” or ethical, then put it on the dissecting table. Not automatically swallowing the prescriptions that authorities give you is a mark of evil. The United Nations declaring a “human right” doesn’t make it so. The popular scientist stating a “moral value” is not in any way more correct than the pious preacher, at least not by default. An exceedingly small number of things aren’t up for question. No source is too evil for inspection and no source is too clean for potential critique.
The Satanist might say that the institution of chattel slavery in the United States was a crime against humanity insofar as it brutalized innocents, stifled their creative abilities, and created a sequence of poverty and crime that persists to this day. It harmed more people than it benefited and here we are dealing with the bullshit. The Satanist might also say that the institution of slavery in both the United States and Ancient Athens freed up the time of a significant number of people to think, create, and enjoy life in a way that may inform our own wants and desires for the future. People don’t, after all, get to sit around and write philosophy (or Federalist Papers) unless some kind of system enables them to. Otherwise, they would have to be producers of tangible and consumable goods or professionals in mandatory services. Can we be so nuanced as to say that brutality has produced gentle souls? Can we ask how to return to a lifestyle like that of the planter statesman? Without human slaves? Without over-producing a world of menial laborers like we do now? I’d like the answer, I’d rather not be a slave nor a consumerist nor a menial laborer but a planter statesman.
An intellectually average atheist from the modern “free-thought community” would call this “skepticism” but I absolutely condemn the idea that it’s the same animal. This is more than mere skepticism. Plenty of scientific skeptics make a whole lot of wild assumptions, they accept a whole lot about human life from arbitrary authority, and they rarely question any of it because they – just like almost everyone else – have a deeply programmed desire to be “good people.” They want to be “good guys” and they want to wear their good guy badges. That’s natural but it’s only natural for people who, by nature of their character, need to function that way.
But we know that more than assumptions regarding the origin of the cosmos and life on earth are up for debate. The debate on morality is much deeper and more nuanced than the question of “Can gays get married?” and “Should we disperse black people with water cannons?”. Indeed, much deeper than “Should women have jobs?”. We ask questionable questions, to steal a phrase from Nietzsche. We skate along a slippery slope and we do it just fine, because all life on Earth is a slippery slope. When was it ever otherwise?
Indeed, the intellectually average atheist would eschew the idea that people are more often than not hardwired towards ritual and symbolism. His morality is that anything looking like religion is evil or stupid. Meanwhile he might not think his video games or his internet usage, in such excess, might be life denying and a hindrance to his personal growth. But that doesn’t matter, he’s more concerned about “skepticism” than he is with volition. In his intellectual cowardice he cheats himself out of so much of what makes life meaningful to human beings. Not intellectually meaningful but emotionally meaningful. Meaningful in the guts, meaningful in the bones, meaningful in chemicals that tug and pull at our faces. The cowards are welcome to their consumerist holidays in lieu of total carnal fulfillment. The Satanist has the tools of ritual and symbol available to him if he needs them, along with a rich cultural tapestry, by which he can be fulfilled as a temporary creature. Here enters the symbols, aesthetics, black robes, altars, and religious trappings. Only now are many atheists beginning to accept our wisdom on this matter, only now are they writing books on godless “spirituality,” but they sure aren’t referencing the innovators.
So what is Satan? Satan is the one thing that most people will be in short supply of: brass knuckle volition. Volition is the prime concept behind any and all worthwhile definitions of Satan.
For once I’m not quite sure where to begin. All I have is a text message from someone that I have bleak feelings towards. I don’t know much else beyond that text. But I know that it’s true, that it seemed sadly unsurprising when I got it, that he’s gone.
The kid in that GIF is a little boy named Zeric who was, once upon a time, known as the “noise machine” named SOLID NEGRO for a terrible industrial band I was in. That’s how I’ll always remember him. Little, hopeful, bright, resilient, hilarious.
I’ll try to forget that he was angry. Angry beyond measure, angry in such a way that would send ordinary people into seizures. I’ll try to forget the disturbing things he told me or asked of me in later years when he was approaching adulthood.
I’ll also remember him as likely the only child that will have called me Dad. He wasn’t my biological kid, he was just a kid with a shitty mom and a distant father. For those few short years I was in his life I tried. I really did try. I was young, much younger than his mother, and thoroughly ill prepared for the cross-country runaway maneuver that landed me in St. Petersburg the first time. I couldn’t have been whatever was needed. I was not yet big enough to eclipse the mountain of shit that other people were piling up all around this kid and I, in my errant youth, laid some stink on that mountain as well. I wasn’t able to be there, I wasn’t worth being called Dad, I had never signed up for that and couldn’t pay that price even if I had wanted to buy that ticket.
I don’t blame myself for that. All I can do is regret the circumstance, my health, the me that he knew.
The only remaining feeling I have towards those people that might have helped this along, that pushed in such a sinister and self-absorbed way, is that they have to live with this more than I do. Whether he died by accident or on purpose or tragic circumstance it doesn’t matter, a life was long withheld before he left this earth.
Here’s to you, Zeric. It seems fitting that it would storm today. This one’s for you. You were a fucking storm.
A Public Drunkenness Announcement
See the person at the end of the bar, across the room from everyone else, turning a glass in his hand? He’s orbiting his entire world around that glass, which is more likely a plastic cup with a generous pour of bottom shelf booze in it. If you want to be a social worker, if you haven’t “passed it on,” then be a drunk with a cause: go and talk to that man.
Talk to the men or women that you don’t want to fuck. If they don’t know how to talk then do the heavy lifting for them, for a little while, because they’ll get it right if you don’t shut them down. Believe in the fact that they came there with the intention of slipping into a more charismatic role.
Talk to the new friend that isn’t a friend-of-a-friend, because everyone has to start somewhere. If someone is starting from scratch, if their empire has gone done in flames and they fled their city of origin, then they probably don’t know how to start. Most people are fortunate to have never experienced this kind of lacking.
State your random facts until something sticks to the wall inside of that quiet person and they run with it. You don’t have to give them your address or your telephone number, you don’t have to touch dirty Smart Phones together and mate through Social Networks, but you could if they’re not out-and-out crazy.
Sometimes they’ll come with someone else who doesn’t know how to talk. You’ll see them all the same. Just because a man and a woman aren’t talking at the same table doesn’t mean they’re fighting or scoping the place for potential swingers.
We know it’s all a game. The way people talk here and there is not the way they talk alone. Some people only know how to talk alone but they want someone else to hear it. It doesn’t translate well when someone is singing Bohemian Rhapsody for the umpteen billionth time. You could translate. You know how. If you’re out there and your heart is warm then you know all of the secrets.
Secrets that can save “souls” in the smoke and noise of a barroom.
These are your parishioners. They might even resist your attempts to Witness the Good Word of having at least an OK time. But no one puts a magnetic ribbon on their minivan that persuades people to “Give a Fuck About the Lonely” or to “Support the Awkward.” There is no charity, no mission, no PSA, not until finally professional help has to come into play. Not until people believe they need this med or that med to fix a lonely soul when a drink and a laugh and an attempt to be humane might have been enough.
Dedicated to some of my very best friends, to the people I have been lonely with, to the people I have been less lonely because of, to the kids that needed a kick in the ass to stop being so gloomy.
Just having a St. Pete morning
Got up at around 5:30AM to get some breakfast and smokes from the 7/11 over on MLK. I decided to not eat my sausage biscuits in my room. Instead, I drove to Vinoy Park to watch the sun get brighter over the water. So many cops were out I could barely make it near the water in my car. Streets were blocked off with cones and cops on motorcycles drove down the sidewalks. There’s a bunch of tents set up in the waterfront parks.It must be an event that I don’t care about or it’s a reenactment of the climax from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. And that’s only on my mind because out in the desert some documentarians are currently digging E.T. Atari cartridges out of a landfill.
I chuzzle* down my sausage and head back home. I pull up to my street parking and this middle aged guy comes out of his house and starts looking around but doesn’t look at my car at all. Which means he’s looking at me, really. And I know he’s got something absolutely bat-shit crazy to say to me. So I gather up my leftover sausage and cigarettes, get out of the car and he asks me “Are you here for Randy?”
I say no. He says two whites live in the house I’m parked in front of and they must be down to 70 lbs by now. He thought I was here to bring them some food. I’m still not sure that I should shake his hand, introduce myself, and tell him where I live in “our community.” Fantastical streams of crazy-talk are bound to start pouring out of his mouth.
And they do. He says “A woman of Hispanic ancestry” and he sets his big blue eyes on me. They’re electric and dotted in the middle with the blackest most obvious pupils. He tells me “She comes over here to feed them all manner of toxins and poisons.” I’m assuming crack. “Oh yeah,” I tell him “I figured, from the state of disrepair.” The house is fairly rotted. The screens are sliced, the windows are cracked, and green and black are seeping upwards and downwards on white paint that hasn’t been refreshed in a good decade or more. The home is molding.
“The Black ancestries and the Hispanic ancestries come over here and the black ancestry woman isn’t allowed here anymore. But the hispanics come and dump all of their trash in the parking lot across the street.” He seems to have stumbled upon A Guide to Political Correctness. “They come and bring all the toxins and whatnots.”
His voice slumps deeper into a thick Nantucket accent. Blue blood accent, like someone that wears an ascot and races yachts. He says “I bought this property here,” pointing at his house which is totally a rental “and that one over there.” The accent must have been to summon the successful real estate tycoon personality.
“Yes, I have learned that they have to pull themselves out of it themselves.” I guess he means the crack addiction. He’s pretty worried about them. I just want to get inside and start taking care of chores.
“20%” he says.
I have no idea, don’t ask.
He says “We’re picking up gold, platinum and silver coins off the ground.”
I still have no idea. I must be having a stroke or this is St. Petersburg in the morning.
He rambles on and says “Taking them all to another universe, I would think, getting out of here and going to another dimension all together. That’s precisely what she wants to do.”
He starts breaking eye contact with me. I’m slow-scooting my feet towards my house.
I say yeah, I feel that.
“Waking all the white people up, you know.” He’s on a racial mission. “I’m just breathing the air and puffing out words, you know.”
“20%.” again, and I start walking off after my dead-pan delivery of have-a-nice-day-nice-to-meet-you.
And I’m just about to walk into my door when he comes walking at me but thank God he stops at the halfway mark. “Oh, the white alligators. You wouldn’t believe it they have all of these reservoirs around here sealed off now to protect the endangered ones and there’s thousands of them. You wouldn’t believe it when they take off running. Go see them.” I assure him, I’ll do that.
“I’m going to get concrete and make a couple of them.”
That’s a brilliant idea. I look forward to it.
Right now he’s three doors down from me, fidgeting around in a chair inside of his house, dreaming of alligators and fretting over the emissaries of toxins and poisons.
Dear internet, I can’t seem to move very far without lunatics surrounding me. I’m thinking this is like a Girl Interrupted version of the Truman Show. In the Truman Show the neighbors waved as they presented big toothy grins, “Hiya neighbor!” In my version of the world my neighbors still use leeches to get their demon spirits out. In my version of the world, last week as a matter of fact, I woke up to a barking. In my house. We don’t have a dog. It was a chihuahua thing in my roommate’s bathroom that seemed despondent.
She gets home and I ask her “So there’s a dog?” and she tells me one of the neighbors is in a psychiatric ward, she got Baker Acted, because she took a bunch of pills in a supposed attempt to snuff her own life out. The dog was pretty chill, dealt with the cats very well, it must be accustomed to a high stress environment is what I think. That was my morning a week or so ago.
Oh and the last guy, in that same apartment next to us, this fellow who was my best friend for the better part of a year, he told me he was going to leave everything behind, use his school money to buy a gun, and go shoot himself underneath an overpass. He did leave everything behind, but I think he’s in Connecticut. That was a morning a few months ago. I don’t like mornings. I can’t tell anymore if my life consists of what I focus on or how the world happens to focus in on me: like a magnifying glass beneath a shimmering sun of craziness and malaise.
But I’m not a depressed person. Not really.
* Note: Chuzzle is a word I’ve developed to signify a combination of chewing and guzzling. “The hippopotamus monstrosity chuzzled down a handful of strawberries that were probably on their way out, damn near trash worthy.” Please use this word so it ends up in dictionaries.
Uncle Bob’s Self Storage
Uncle Bob’s Self Storage
I worked at a storage facility for a year
and it taught me everything about disposing of pictures
and everything else that doesn’t matter anymore.
It didn’t take working there to make me do that,
I was already in the habit of trashing pictures from my childhood.
Every year that passes I take another three or another dozen
and I put them in the garbage.
I’ve gotten rid of about 25 years of my life in pictures;
the hard-copy photos were no longer a thing.
Now all I have to do is click on a command
and then I empty a recycle bin.
I still have moments when I stop think about what I’m doing.
I’m performing a Black Mass against family and keepsakes.
It’s a black Mass when I drop a Hallmark Card into a bag of cigarette butts
and various wrappers,
letting it soak in trash water
and turn into paper soup.
This has been in my life for a while
But it took working at the storage to make me lose my guilt.
Shrinking that part of my brain is what every year is all about.
At the storage facility I’ve thrown entire family histories into a dumpster because the renters didn’t pay their bills
and they never showed up
to collect what the auction scavengers didn’t want.
I’ve grabbed up people’s X-rays from car crashes
saved for potential court settlements that never came through.
I’ve made garbage out of Black & White photography of hero soldiers,
all of it artfully developed and bordered.
And those faces I threw away
they were men who charred human flesh to get back home,
they tore off their own fingernails digging their way up a hillside
in some god forsaken Asian nowhere,
all to spawn a delinquent customer
at Uncle Bob’s.
I own the private library of the first child in a family to ever graduate college.
Her father swore he would be back and that touched my heart. I stopped yawning at my desk and tried to help him.
Almost nobody comes back for the family scrapbook or, of all things, books made for reading. Most customers of Self Storage have already said fuck-it to everything.
He just wanted her college books because he was so very proud of her.
He didn’t even need to pay the tab
because no one wants gym pants and books at an auction.
I thought I was doing something real charitable.
I put him in touch with the guy who had bought out his unit for the washer and dryer stored inside of it.
And the father, with the eyes beaming full or pride for his exceptional daughter, never came back.
I ended up calling lady friends asking if they had a use for various purses, what size shoe they were, before I started hauling her material life to the dumpster.
I guess I should say thanks for the Kurt Vonnegut books
and the red gym bag that looks vintage but isn’t.
People are very proud of you
or something else.
I’ve sat down to lunch with three generations of cremated human remains.
The totality of human lives
tucked into plastic bags and
placed into white cardboard boxes.
Three boxes sitting on my desk in the Manager’s Office.
These people were African Americans
auctioned off in a storage unit
and I didn’t fail to see the irony in that.
I ate my Cup of Noodle while reading the death bed letter of the grandmother
saying what a sorry bitch she had been.
stay in school,
hold your head up high
and keep your faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior –
Even though we have this poison
that runs deep
“and I see it in your face when you get angry.”
My co-worker took all of those ashes home after a while
once nobody would notice
to play with them. To make terrible post-modern art.
Eventually nobody loves you.
Somebody looks at your dandruff
and thinks “That’s a shame”
before scooping it into fire
or the debris pile.
Smart, attractive, and compassionate people mutate down the stream into vulgar, desperate, and mean, and you are no longer loved.
You’re just the click-clack in DNA
they won’t even understand.
The pounds of photography that people used to make
aren’t any sort of treasure. Burn it.
All of it is a burden, not relevant history.
If it doesn’t tell something hard then it goes in the trash
just like family wealth is traded off
for cash and travel. Forget the family farm,
take a trip to Costa Rica and be a whore with the locals for a few months.
But so what,
The garbage is perfectly OK,
because people should remember the Zoo with their noses
and not with their cell phones.
They should remember with their brains
the way an elephant foot sounds landing on concrete.
If you’re not paying attention then you can’t remember it with a collection of crystal alligator figurines
or custom framed digital prints.
I just don’t wait anymore.
I don’t let my closet get packed full.
I’ll never have anything other than a rehearsal space,
tools, or a car in the garage I might own one day.
I don’t wait because I don’t feel the guilt anymore.
I don’t need forty pictures of myself at age five.
I need one grainy old photograph
developed in discontinued chemical
that can at least say
“this is where your cheek bones come from.”
I don’t need the letters of stories I already know and don’t want to tell.
I don’t want my old work
made with shaky hands covered in birthing fluid.
Though I wish my mom had known the difference between this and all of those antique Christmas ornaments
when she stopped celebrating
and the holiday
for a little while.
Those were things for the activity we call “family.”
They weren’t just plastic or porcelain, but things that moved around, wobbled on a dying tree, and reflected old laughter back to us from ages ago.
Sometimes it’s just too soon even if the future is a waste bin. It can be like suicide if you’re not doing it right.
Sometimes it punches me in the throat and I’m left standing there like, yeah, I know it’s dreadful, but don’t you see me choking?
I wish I still had the tree angel from the 1950s,
The one I had restored since the time I could do more than hold a crayon and misspell my name on the wall. It’s gone.
That angel taught me something real. It taught me the joy of taking things all but destroyed and bringing them to a place more beautiful than if they were new,
with their stitches and spots of glue.
That angel was a fortune telling device about my future soul and now it’s gone.
Then there was the pewter snowflake, hung on a tassel of gold strings, that held a picture of me sitting beside a fake fire place at a mall. It’s gone.
My favorite, aside from the angel, was the old wooden Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. It was delicately hand painted and touched with small spots of felt. It’s gone.
And my guilt is gone.
I bet someday the guilt will come back.
I’ll look for a moment to run my fingers across something that tells me how small I used to be
and I won’t find it.
No more Yak-Back child’s recording device I kept inside of an old lunch box.
Every two years I would record short messages to my future self on that thing. That battery never failed, was never replaced.
Somewhere in a landfill a piece of table
or a rusty wrench
will fall over onto the playback button
and it’ll just keep repeating
“December, 2007, you’re in love.”
I’ll have been an awkward giant
A browbeaten king of bullshit forever.
But it could be that I can hold them in my static
and keep myself to one suitcase.
I could keep them out of the mud
and embalm them in my mind
until in a flash
so anticipated and long awaited
brighter than an atomic bomb
they all disperse.
16 Things You Need To Know About St. Petersburg Before Moving There
1. Cool Kids Don’t Call It “The Burg”
Unless you’re a recidivist that wears a baseball cap with “727” on it, hologram sticker still in place on the oversized brim, then you really have no business calling this place The Burg (which is pronounced “Da Berg”). St. Pete is what the locals tend to call Saint Petersburg. They don’t use a demonym like “Burger” or “St. Petersburgian” because no one actively does that except for New Yorkers and Texans. However, there is a solid initiative to rename the city to Petrograd or Leningrad as per our Russian sister city. Locals are fond of the Soviet Russian era and oftentimes pine for the establishment of a USSR theme park. Despite the removal of our beloved Stalin statue from Downtown St. Pete (Petrograd) the dream lives on.
2. St. Petersburg Is Sunny. Though hurricane season is the best time of year.
This is a miserable fact of life that you’ll have to become accustomed to. Autumn will become a far flung memory of childhood wonder and joy. Winter is a cool breeze that drifts through the city like a tease only to immediately throw you back into muggy suffering for the rest of the year. At some points throughout the year your car windows will fog up endlessly due to the humidity. You’ll have your windshield wipers and defrosters on like there’s a torrential downpour during a snap freeze.
The best time of year in Petrograd is hurricane season. You can witness locals boarding up their windows while wearing white visor hats and crocs. During the season we have keggers where we all anticipate death and have open relationships with the neighborhood women. The rain, much needed cloud coverage, and atmosphere of moral ambivalence are what make hurricane season in Petrograd a blessing.
I remember fondly one hurricane where I went to a pier area in Saint Petersburg called The Point, latched myself to a park bench on a cement platform, and enjoyed the high velocity wind and rain. All the while the sea water rose and fell around me in an uncanny way I never knew before, having not been a sailor of any sort.
3. Make sure you get your food, booze and fun early if you don’t plan on going to dive bars.
Most restaurants close at around 9pm and booze is no longer sold in stores past midnight. Unlike other developed cities, St. Petersburg ordinances are a heinous blight upon the night owl. Don’t even think about hanging out near the water at night because mall-cops patrol around in security fans to shoo you away or ticket your car for at least $30. We have a slight tinge of a nanny state going on here to protect the paranoid condo owners and retirees. Florida is, after all, where White Flight goes to die.
While bars stay open to 3AM there is virtually nowhere to shop except for franchises that may themselves be closed (McDonalds, Walmart, Walgreen’s) after midnight. The walgreen’s across the street from me closes early for its own safety because the massive homeless population becomes crazier as the hour grows later. They’re fed like stray cats and warmed by the endless Petrograd sun. So don’t live near Saint Anthony’s Hospital if you’re sketched out by the crazy-homeless.
If you are itching for your own private bottle of booze past midnight you can always drive to Tampa and pick something up. They keep sales going until the proper 3AM, though let’s cut the bullshit and admit to ourselves that vice should be a twenty-four hour affair. It’s not that bad of a drive to Tampa during the evenings and, frankly, if you’re drinking at home that late you should probably get out of the house and do that.
4. Tropicana Field and the Tampa Bay Rays are going to ruin your traffic and steal your parking.
Unless you truly enjoy the boring, overrated sport of Baseball that hasn’t been cool since kids used “spoon!” as urban slang, you’ll come to despise Tropicana Field. Unregistered migrant hordes from the whole Tampa Bay area pour into the city. They flood our already complicated myriad of one-way streets with their tacky SUVs and trucks-with-boats-attached. Beyond this, becoming a resident of St. Petersburg means spending your tax dollars to subsidize grown men playing a child’s game.
By the way, people are lackadaisical here. It must be the beach culture. During busy nights in the city you’ll be sure to have some dumb ass in a polo shirt walk right out in front of your car, all la-de-dah, thinking that anywhere his feet land is a cross walk. Be careful, they’re stupid and don’t have the self-aware aggression of people from more northerly metro areas. Try not to kill them even though it’s eugenically sound to do such a thing.
5. You’ll Learn To Devalue Funky Local Art. On the same hand, you’ll learn that real artists are weirder than you ever thought possible.
You can go into your local dive bar and see a minimalist piece of art-school painting that would set you back $200 if you wanted to purchase it. If you’re not brave of heart then you won’t dare go see the real art in this community. So chances are you’ll end up looking at galleries full of fish paintings or tourist styled novelty art. The true arts scene in Petrograd is incredible and worth coming for, however. From the champions at the Venture Compound (hosting noise, music, and art events) to Dysfunctional Grace (which sells art made of animal corpses), if you’re willing to go off the beaten path then you’re going to have some great experiences with art.
That we’re the home of the Salvador Dali Museum is only an added bonus. There’s not just art there, either. You can watch movies and do yoga. It’s a very nice thing to have, we all agree. But don’t let some Moving Agent or condo developer convince you that The Dali is a selling point on our art scene. Salvador Dali was born, rasied, and died a Spaniard. In no shape, form or fashion does its existence define our arts culture.
7. The food is amazing but good luck if you come from a city with amazing BBQ.
Off the cuff, I would advise any meat eater to check out Crowley’s, The Burg (a burger place), or Jimbo’s Joint (it’s chicken sausage). These are only some of my favorite places to eat. There are scores of places. We have far more local establishments than we have franchises in the Downtown St. Pete area. In fact, you’d have to drive a bit out of downtown to find a McDonald’s or Wendy’s. Recently the establishment of “URBAN BREW AND BBQ” has brought a much needed dose of decent BBQ to this former Memphis native. Though it still doesn’t compare to the dry rubbed ribs of my decaying homeland.
It’s no exaggeration to say that St. Petersburg has five star food at one star prices. Good food is everywhere though, oddly, I find the small amount of decent seafood restaurants bizarre given our location. Don’t become a lardo here, and it’s likely that you might if you have a restaurant budget, because it’s Florida and that’s frowned on even more here than elsewhere.
Due to our proximity to Cuba, Cuban cuisine is endemic to the Tampa Bay area. But don’t be sold on Saint Petersburg if you’re one of those trendy urban socialites that thinks ethic-food-is-what-makes-you-cultured. We have more pizza and beer than we have Latin food, end of story.
If you’re a fan of Mexican you’ll notice a strange fusion with Cuba at many restaurants. Be careful when ordering tamales, you may end up with the Cuban style and you might not like them. To me they’re a soggy and disgusting abomination that deserves to be expunged from the world of food.
But just so you know, Cuban sandwiches are fundamentally delicious. It’s one of the few things that Cuban culture has ever gotten right aside from their Jazz music but, let’s face it, Coltrane wasn’t Cuban.
8. Bars and lots of them
Toughs vs. Toffs!
We have more bars than we damn well ought to. No matter who you are there’s a bar for you in this city. Chances are your bar of choice will be happening even at 10pm on a Tuesday night around these parts. Especially on Central Avenue. The drinks are strong, reasonably priced, and you’re going to schmooze with some of the best scumfuckers you’ve ever met. Most of the bars still allow smoking unless you want to drink at a trendy Craft Beer establishment. We have breweries sprouting up all over the place and my favorite is the locally brewed Maduro by Cigar City.
There is in fact a cultural barrier separating the 600 Block of Central Avenue from the rest of the avenue. The 600 Block houses the seedy dive bars where you’re likely to get picked up on by someone with tattoos and a substance abuse problem. And I’ll be damned if they aren’t some of the most gorgeous people you’ll ever see drunk and downtrodden. Ok, so maybe it’s not all that bad as far as the substance abuse problems go. But watch out for our local cocaine and pill issues. They’re real and more prolific than we let on.
You’re going to want to make the bar-crawl from Octave, to Fubar, to The Emerald. If by then you aren’t satisfied you’ll want to go on over to 1st Avenue and check out The Bends. When you’re at The Bends you’ll realize “These people are not drunk enough for me” and “They all come from a Hipster Catalog, apparently.” Then you’ll head back on over to Octave. By the end of the evening, at around 2:40AM, you’ll want to purchase package-liquor from The Emerald to bring home so you thoroughly regret your night.
More innocuously and less self-destructive, the 600 Block is where you’re more likely to hear Punk than you are to hear some mainstream rap song on the jukebox. The rest of Central Avenue is where you go if you’re old, boring, in rehab, or have the most terrible taste in music imaginable for someone in this day and age.
10. We Hate Ourselves and Want To Die.
A high number of people here are both alcoholics and prescribed anti-psychotic medicine. This is what makes it so charming. Men’s Health magazine listed it as the Saddest City in the country. They calculated suicide and depression rates to come up with this ranking. I don’t know how much validity to ascribe to the findings of a news stand magazine for men. But I guess if we’re that blue it’s why we have so many incredible bars and so much loose sex in dear old Petrograd: we all want to kill ourselves but we’re trying to keep our spirits up. Go Tampa Bay Rays! Go Buccaneers!
11. You can get both your feet and your dick wet
The Tampa Bay area is home to more sexual perversion than you’re probably accustomed to. Even the relatively calm city of Saint Petersburg has its disproportionate share of swingers clubs, strip clubs and hidden BDSM venues. But wait, there’s more. We have full scale sex resorts and are in close proximity to nudist colonies. Going even further, Tampa Bay is legendary on a national level for its Glory Hole culture. It’s the promised land for deviants, gay and straight alike. I don’t need to list where these things happen, use your Google.
In my own experience people are sexually loose here and open-relationships are commonplace. Chances are you’re not going to meet many people over the age of 21 in this city that have a sex-partner count under the number of 21. To that end, make sure you stop by one of our glorious Health Departments for a copious amount of free condoms. We don’t need you bringing your out-of-state communicable diseases to muck up all of our fun. We don’t like your New Yorker HIV ‘round these parts. We got our own strains and we’re proud of ‘em.
Dating without the intention of swinging is weird if you’re not into beachy things but you like everything else about St. Pete. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a thing I’ve observed in my own life and in the lives of others.
Outside of relationships, the atmosphere of Saint Petersburg has the tendency to give people an unrealistic view of the rest of the world and of life. Though I still find plenty of people with their feet firmly planted on the ground.
12. The beaches, parks, and events.
The above image has nothing to do with Petrograd. That’s a neighboring city. We’re more like this:
Of course no Moving Guide related to Florida would be complete without its very pleasant description of sun, surf, and sand. We have beaches that exist by the water and they contain sand. They’re nice.
I won’t be that flippant. If you’re coming to the area then I’d suggest hanging out in Vinoy Park and around The Pier in general. The waterfront has Dolphins and lovely people but bare in mind that Saint Petersburg proper does not, itself, have the sprawling white sand beaches that many tour guides talk about. St. Pete Beach is its own city so let’s be real about what we actually have within our city limits. The St. Petersburg Pier is actually situated in the waters of Tampa Bay, which depending on your aesthetics may not be as pretty as the beaches in St. Pete Beach.
The waters of St. Petersburg proper tend to stink in that marine-life kind of way because they’re not as refreshed as the waters in the Gulf of Mexico its self. I wouldn’t get in the waters of Tampa Bay but that’s my own preference. But fear not, commuting from Saint Petersburg proper means a short drive to a variety of natural wonders. Ft. Desoto, for instance, is a gorgeous beach front that has cannons from the Spanish American War. Along the way to Ft. Desoto you’ll have the chance to cross the lovely Skyway Bridge that will give you a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Mexico.
Of course, your breath will come back to you. You’ll grow cynical and used to seeing the water all of the time. What can you do with it, really, when you just don’t want to be in the water? Eventually you’ll yearn for deserts and mountains because St. Petersburg is flat, wet, and doesn’t have much for a canopy of trees to keep you from getting skin cancer. Plan a budget for wanting to treat other states, not Florida, as vacation states after you move to Florida.
Our parks system is, for the most part, immaculate. I would highly suggest going on a stroll through Strawgrass Park which has an elaborate and relatively massive wooden walkway through a swampy ecosystem. I would, on the other hand, highly suggest not hanging out in Williams Park where the bus system has managed to place a high concentration of drug addicts.
No matter where you go you’ll eventually be panhandled if you stay there long enough. Some places it takes seconds and happens constantly. Other places it’s more by the hour than by the five minute interval of begging. As I’ve indicated several times by now, our warm climate and relatively liberal atmosphere has a tendency to attract transients, vagrants, and psychopaths. I’ve heard but haven’t verified that Florida, as a state, has more axe murderers, sex offenders, and people into midget pornography than any other state.
Though don’t let my cynicism startle you too much. You’re going to find more decent people than not, because people are genuinely happier here if not for anything other than the amount of prescriptions they’re on. But our outward appearance of bliss may have something to do with the sheer amount of things we have to do here in St. Petersburg. It’s hard to be bored here if you’re not boring. Do yourself a favor and review our full event listings for the previous year. You won’t find a single day of the week where something cool isn’t happening.
13. The commuting
St. Petersburg is a somewhat large city, of course. There are bars, restaurants and destinations that are simply out of my area of the city. Beyond St. Pete, the way our peninsula is set up you can drive for miles and miles while never feeling like you’ve left the city of Saint Petersburg. Out near the City of Pasadena you have the surf styled bars. Up in the City of Dunedin you have breweries that have interesting but light-hearted folks. In the City of Tampa you have Ybor City which is like a miniaturized New Orleans. Ybor its self houses a goth club called The Castle that is a former Catholic church. None of these places are much more than 30 minutes outside of Glorious Petrograd’s city limits.
14. The Cost
If you’re not some schmuck that thinks they have to live in an ultra-modern condo then the cost of living is excellent here. I come from the run-down shit-fest known as Memphis, TN, and I’ve yet to suffer the “sticker shock” (price tag inflation) that people moving to Californian cities have reported. I’ve lived it up in this city and, with a roommate, it’s feasible to do it with a few dollars above minimum wage.
15. “What are those explosions?”
It’s a question you might ask yourself during a random month, not July or December, when you hear explosions booming in the distance at 8PM or so. Saint Petersburg uses more fireworks than any other city I’ve lived in. That might have something to do with our Party or Die attitude. Outside of Independence Day and New Years you’re likely to witness pyrotechnic displays in one part of the city or another. Especially downtown, fireworks are routinely shot off around The Pier area and often accompanied by full orchestras. If you like explosions in the night sky then this is the city for you.
16. Youth, vigor, and weirdness.
Not an image from Glorious Petrograd, but reflective of our spirit.
Beyond all else, Saint Petersburg is a city of youth, vigor and weirdness. Don’t let the retirement mythos of Florida fool you. You’ll find yourself in no short supply of friends that are up for something interesting. You’ll find a wide array of political, philosophical, artistic, and sexual outsiders that will challenge your perceptions without the high price tag of living in NYC, LA, Boston, or San Francisco. You can have it without the frigid cold of living in a place like Seattle or Portland. It is a city that’s growing, always improving (despite tearing down historic sites for condos), enables a strong measure of upward mobility, and is always diversifying. Outside of the cities I’ve listed in this document I can’t see any reason to live anywhere else except for the Tampa Bay area.
I have strolled down the street in drag without so much as a sneer in this city. I have learned to dance and to love. I have drank with Vietnam War journalists at Jazz clubs and sang in German with mohawked chicks in dive bars. I’ve had dolphins swim underneath my feet and eagles fly above my head in a place with more natural and human beauty than I ever thought possible in one place. People here get numb, they get cynical, but they’d suffer without the beauty of this place.
Despite the sometimes hippie-dippy vibe that permeates a pleasant place like Saint Petersburg, where everyone is a creative or talented even when they’re damn well not, I’ve found support for truly talented arts and thinking here. Real support. Not half-hearted support, but concrete support. This city is an open paradise to anyone with the gumption and talent to insert themselves into the thick of things.
Filing DMCA complaints is a pain in the ass.
I saw a woman smiling gleefully in the backseat of this convertible mustang. Just hanging out alone there for a good long while. The back of her head was shaved but I saw no sign of surgery. I think it was just an air patch. Like the back of her head was a convertible also, letting that sunlight in. Go Buccaneers!
I originally posted this on my facebook: “Breakfast: shittily adding a Suicide Girls logo to an image of Sylvia Plath because it just wasn’t out there.”