October 16, 2008

My Unbranding

Ch. 44
swm, 24, enjoys cooking, live music, walking outdoors with his dog, watching prison break and the occasional sit-com. only drinks fair-trade coffee and always uses a cloth bag for groceries. has university education, and is moderately well-travelled. enjoys saving money.

Wow. Well I'm impressed. Where do I sign up for a piece?

Certainly he has his drawbacks. He might still live at home and have an attention span shorter than a monkey on a rock but he has a genuinely (or generally?) good heart and more patience than he probably should. He's a little bit weird & tends to ask more out of people than they are usually willing to give.

As a boy, he discovered punk rock. It seemed to give him something to believe in. There were a lot of shared values presented in the lyrics, energy, & emotion built into these types of songs. They seemed to capture the spirit of incredible injustice on various levels. These generally amounted to the exploitation of the people that could be exploited. The people who fell through the cracks of society.

This feeling was reinforced for years as he "grew up". He looked very closely at people and how they lived. How they fit in and made do. How they survived in such a cruel world. He tried to empathize with them and tried to understand how/why more people didn't seem to see what he saw. He even wanted to do development work in Africa for a couple of years. He even wanted to adopt a child from Chad like Mr. Engel. He even wanted to volunteer at soup kitchens. He even wanted to give money to homeless people!

To further demonstrate his passion of the endless realms of inequality, he often thought about getting a tattoo branded onto his skin. He thought about getting scribbled on. Inked. He dreamt of that permanent way of showing off his rejection of the status quo. He wanted to have a distinct and matter-of-fact way of identifying himself as one of those misfits of society that could only dream of something better for both his life & his world. Between 2001 and 2006 he felt that the band Death By Stereo best encapsulated his feelings about everything from individual freedoms & opportunities, religion, the injustice & corruption of politics, and the need for all people to fight for something more. But by the time he turned 23, he started listening to less DBS (since after all, the same ~50 songs get kind of tired after a while). So instead of collecting a nice "Death Skull" complete with lightning bolts across his back, arm, leg, or chest, he collected stickers, shot-glasses, hats and other garments with the DBS signature instead. But without this kind of tattoo, how could he convince himself that these feelings he had were for life? What if it all just went away and he stopped caring about the issues that he spent so many nights mulling over in his head - so much so, that he had to start writing them out in order to: A) help organize his thoughts a little better, and B) get them out of his aching head?

His recently discontinued hotmail account had the band pennywise built into its name. He didn't even really realize that this e-mail probably acted as somewhat of a reinforcement of some of his own ideals. Pennywise represented the fight. They represented brotherhood, friendship, and sticking together in a tough & oppressive world. He didn't appreciate this until years after when he saw that the members of Pennywise continued to write passionate songs about injustice. Actually, he kind of lost faith in them for a short time while he explored the musical perspectives and ideas of metal and hardcore. But metal was for the "upper-class sub-cultures" since they thought they were more talented than those deviant simple-minded punks and had a deeper more serious look on life than just "rockers". However, Hardcore was a tougher, meaner brand of music which held a lot of the same beliefs of punk: There is an oppressed population trying to survive in a cold, hard world. The hardcore "scene" included a very tight group of kids. Unless you made it to all the shows and started to really meet the people in the scene, it was very difficult to become included in this tight knit group. It didn't matter what your background, lifestyle, or heritage was: if you had the commitment to some of these ideals of strength through brotherhood and made it to the shows, you were in. This is why he was out. He simply couldn't commit to show up at the Strat weekends or spend money on all the shows that he might have. But he still liked the music and what it represented. More so than metal anyways.

Country music was built into him. It didn't act as much of a deterent to his love for hardcore and street punk, but it gave him another dynamic character trait: the romantic. True, he found that one hell of a lot of country songs were lame and he hated the "Top 40" representation of this type of music. But at the same time, he really admired a lot of the stories that could tug at the heart strings and give a person a sense of appreciation of life. Shortly after 9/11 Alan Jackson released "Where Were You" which spoke to the lives lost from the terrorist attacks. "I'm already there" by Lonestar did a very good job of sending the same message. Outside of war issues, he really enjoyed the songs "Drive" and "Red Dirt Road" (Jackson, Brooks & Dunn) which simply told stories of life and growing up. "Movin' To A Small Town" by Steve Fox also gave him a sense of reminiscence about how life might have been like before there were the worries in the world that exist today. And Brad Paisley just knows how to get'r done. True, he has some of the hokiest love songs that could bring a tier to the eye of anyone with a beating heart, but he also knows how to write songs about the good life: fishin, smokin, racin police cars, women, and sex. but what sets Brad Paisley apart from the rest is definately his ability to write/perform love songs. This is what he identified with the most. It was his way of avoiding emo music which was an embarrassment to punk rock, and never touched on the issues that the other punk rock songs did. Oh, and Taylor Swift? Well, she's just smokin'.

But despite his many loves of different types of music, he never got one of those "around the bicep" tattoos commonly sported by oil country cowboys, nor one of those "death skulls" or pennywise symbols on his leg. He has no cowboy hat and doesn't wear eye shadow or those iddy biddy pants (Can you imagine?) His secret to relaxing is to listen to Justin Rutledge, Cat Power, or City and Colour, yet he would never tell you that his first favorite cd was Jewel. He is simply too well-rounded to become a cowboy, a punk, a skin, or a wuss. He hasn't even been able to put one of the many DBS or pennywise stickers on the bumper of his car because of the permanence that is suggested by doing so. He does have a 6 year old CISN country sticker on the inside of his CD wallet though, but shakes his fist in fury when he sees the Redneck Cowboy whip past him in the Henday driving his Chev with that same sticker on the back of the cab's window.
He really is just not that hard core of a person and never really even considered himself as one. He dislikes the mods, the hippies, the capitalists, the scenesters, and the rednecks and what they represent. Instead, he thinks that there should just be less class in this world, and he struggles with why more people just can't be treated as equals (no, he's not a commie!). He often jokes about not being classy enough for some people's tastes yet has probably seen more museums and plays and cultural exhibits than he cares to admit. By gaining "class", one gives up a little bit of humility. Instead, arrogance and self-importance is created. The more emphasis that is placed on self-importance, the more a person forgets about the people that fell through the cracks. They forget empathy and humility little by little. And without humility, one becomes something less than human.

As he aged, he did more reading, more listening, more talking to people. Engineers Without Borders proved to be one of his greatest influences in finding strength in a tough world. He relied on music a lot less since he finally found people that were incredibly open-minded and even more so open-armed. They let him see hope in the world despite injustice and happiness in the world beyond poverty. They didn't ask to see your tattoos or your ear gauge stretched to the size of a dollar. The white $2 makepovertyhistory bracelet was more than sufficient, and also helped spread a good message about hope. Thanks to this group, reading non-fiction became his favorite past-time. The non-fiction books he read reinforced some of his feelings he learned he had from listening to music. He learned that he was just one of many that wants something more for this world. He learned that he was a little bit more than some punkass kid with a little bit of angst.
So this is Ryan Unbranded. It is a look at how he feels disassociated from so many different groups/classes of people, yet still feels he has a place in this world where he needs to make a difference. Even if that difference is small. After all, he had a very good up-bringing and has no reason to complain about his life or the inequalities that may have been placed on him directly. Especially when you consider some of the lives of people in the world. Especially when you consider that he is a young swm with a university degree in engineering that enjoys cooking, live music, and taking his dog for walks...


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  2. if joey joey jo jo is referring to joey ramone, i just *might* have an idea of who is leaving these comments...

  3. "enjoys saving money"


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