WORDS & MUSIC CLUB
Almost.jpg

01. WRITER

Jason Kotarski


02. THEME

Almost


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Descendents:
Myage


04. WRITING

I always feel like I’m on the edge of everything. I push hard against the things I want but there is this feeling that those things will never give way or lead to anything substantial. I push and I push and I can feel like I can’t even get any pushback.

In my clearer moments, I can stop and ask questions. Like do I really want what’s on the inside? After all the pushing when I finally get a toe through to the other side, is it really what I hoped for in the first place? I often wonder if I am missing something else out here on the edge. Like maybe the pushing isn’t about getting through to the other side. Maybe the pushing is the thing. Like maybe I’ll be okay out here where I am.

But if I’m honest, if I wasn’t pushing against the things I want, really leaning into these things that drive me despite the lack of progress, I’m not sure I like the alternative. Not pushing sounds a lot like sitting. And sitting sounds a lot like dying or something else maybe a little less dramatic. But really, without the pushing and leaning and trying I wouldn’t have anywhere to go.

So I think I’ll keep moving even though I might not make it anywhere. I think I can keep moving without becoming like a shadow of the things I think I want on the inside. Those people I see that in my mind have all the things I want, like youth and significance and strength and confidence, have the things they have and want things they don’t have, too. Maybe the trick is not to put so much stock in the end I’m going after but finding what is special in going after it.

I also wonder if the ones on the inside can hear what I am saying from out here on the edge? I don’t want it to come across like I’ve got everything figured out because I obviously don’t always believe these things I’m telling myself. But I hope they can hear it a little. If not today, maybe one day in their sleep. Maybe one day when they are pounding on the door of a place they want to be my voice will be like a ghost passing through their backyard whispering about the beauty that is on the edge of everything.

 

01. WRITER

Christopher Michalik


02. THEME

Almost


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

PUP:
Dark Days


04. WRITING

I almost made it. I almost did it.

I was granted the abilities,
I was afforded the opportunities,
But the great responsibility didn't come with great power,
And my belt no utilities.
That time I was almost a super hero.

You honed your craft,
You rehearsed your act,
But when your knees grew weak and your palms sweaty,
You couldn't keep it in your pants.
That time you were almost a successful comedian.

Superhuman strength nor inspirational charisma
Couldn't un-dig this hole
More Zod than Superman, the Brock to your Peter.
If we're all the heroes of our own stories,
Then who are the leaders.
So before we become greeters and eaters and mugs,

Let's remember that we almost made it and we can almost make it again.

I- I almost made it.

 

01. WRITER

Michelle Lukezic


02. THEME

Almost


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Caspian:
Rioseco


04. WRITING

You’ve been here before.

There are ambitions, good intentions towards making headway. You know exactly what you ought to do. But there sits the filing cabinet fitted with all the data-points you’ve painstakingly searched-out and collected, that are narrative shaping. And before you even realized it, you’ve written your own personal history book titled ‘Successful Proof of Unsuccessful Attempt’. No matter how well intentioned you are about actually doing the thing(s) you intend to, the not-doing has already set. Fixed. Immovable. Permanent. There is no way to change direction. And you can’t catch a breather or break.

A bedroom is as suitable an environment versus any other. It’s the start/end of a day. And it’s so easy to look up at the ceiling; and to think about all of the things that you aren’t doing. And to think about all of the things that can distract you from thinking about, thinking-about-all-of-the-things-that-you-aren’t-doing.

Like the sadness (and honesty) in rain, it can be unbearable. Unavoidable. Even when (especially when) it hurts; the only option is to try, again.

 

01. WRITER

Brian Stout


02. THEME

Almost


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Tigers Jaw:
Window


04. WRITING

Looking back, I see that I almost understood so much when I was younger. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Heartache and sadness I experienced vicariously through movies, music, books, and friends kept me moping for years. I thought it made me deep. It wasn’t worthless, because it helped me expand my empathy. But it also kept me trapped in that limbo for years, hoping something would happen that tied my life experience to these songs I was feeling so deeply.

When everyone around me was living through the tumultuous times of early serious relationships, I was trying hard to have them, but never getting there. I didn’t have much to be sad about except feeling lonely; not that that’s nothing.

Now, I’m in a better place to understand it. I finally got around to having some grown up love and heartache in the past fifteen or so years, and it’s so much more painful to hear those same songs that expertly captured real pain now.  

The line is everywhere, and far more dangerous. One song capturing the whole of my experience…that’s just not reality. We connect in moments and lines. I know there are classic divorce records, and I’ve listened to some of them, but they’re not my life. My divorce wasn’t (and isn’t) like Blood on the Tracks or Shoot Out the Lights or Domestica.

In the end, what’s the difference how it all went wrong?

Right now, the last Jimmy Eat World record has some truths and insights about splitting up that I find unexpected, especially after learning that the songwriter didn’t actually get divorced. The spell was broken when I read an article where a fan said something like, “You can make a movie about killing someone without really doing it, so why not?” I was mad, but how could I feel betrayed when I found out someone else hadn’t gone through a divorce and was still happily married? Furthermore, wasn’t I doing something similar when I adhered so closely to songs about possibly real pain when I hadn’t experienced it?

I used to think that the songs were the whole self-contained story, that I’d have my own someday. Now I see that the jagged lines and images are far more powerful than finding My Song because they’re everywhere. I no longer have to reach. I can hear lines like these from “Window” and I know their sting in real life.

I found myself in a darker place
Afraid of change but more afraid to stay the same

Once I was trying to force myself to feel something that now comes flooding in whether I like it or not. Lines come out of nowhere to fuck me up--ones I hadn’t thought much about before, ones that I thought I was feeling deeply years ago now make my lip quiver and bring on the tears. In reflecting on this, I realized that these reactions came from trying hard at life instead of trying to connect to someone else’s blues.

These days, I’ve taken to “I’m here. I’m here. Not heroic, but I try,” sung by Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, a man who isn’t here anymore, a man who’s music scored a handful of sentimental moments in my life and who ended his life last year just after the beginning of the end of my marriage. Let the lines break you. Let them mend you.

 

01. WRITER

Stephen Wisniewski


02. THEME

Almost


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Maestro Fresh Wes:
Let Your Backbone Slide


04. WRITING

I am hanging halfway out the window of a Volkswagen Fox, listening to late 80's Canadian hip-hop and going 70 miles per hour on a Toronto highway in January. I'm doing this because the windshield washer fluid nozzles are frozen over, and so I have to continuously douse the moving wipers with liquid for the driver to see the road, but it's so cold that the windshield immediately freezes back over with every swipe. I am 13 years old, it's absolutely the most dangerous thing I've ever done to that point in my life, and I am both strangely numb to -- and intensely aware of -- the risk.
(Dumps washer fluid)
(Thinks, "I could actually get very hurt doing this.")
(Dumps more washer fluid)

When my dad and his family came from Europe, they became part of an extended network of sponsors -- people from Poland and other Eastern Bloc countries that had established roots in North America, and who would help new immigrants. These people became friends of our family, and we would visit some of them, like the ones in Toronto, two or three times a year from as far back as I can remember. We would go to grandparents' houses that smelled like cabbage and had photos of Pope John Paul II in every room. They would pinch our cheeks like real grandparents.

These family friends had children, who were like cousins to me. The oldest one was a boy 3-4 years older than I was, and he introduced me to cool things in the way many older cousins do -- things like Canadian rappers, designer jeans, Doc Martens, and so on. On the car ride that I served as window washer, he was driving, because it was decided that we were old enough to go out and have a night hanging out, just us and his friends. He had friends that had started going to University in the city, and we were driving to pick them up. After we picked them up, we did a lot of standard, boring teenage stuff -- we went to a convenience store, and then he and his friends smoked weed in the wooded area of a park while I watched. I knew with absolute certainty that I didn't want to do that with them, because for better or worse, I was immune to a lot of standard teenage peer pressures. Despite my behavior in the car, I was not a thrill-seeking adolescent. On a similar trip to Toronto years earlier, I saw my dad smoking a single cigarette while listening to music and talking with his friends, and I was so upset that I ran out of the house and into the street. Even though he'd smoked off and on in his life before I existed, I'd never seen him do it before. And I didn't want my dad to die.

Driving back to the house later that night, I was back on windshield duty, with my friend driving. In a few years, he would be diagnosed with macular degeneration, and with every day that passed, he would become gradually more blind and justifiably angry. Everyone grew up and further apart, and we eventually stopped visiting so often.
It was even colder driving back than it was earlier that evening, and so with every dousing of fluid, the windshield froze more quickly. I would yell back into the window, "ARE WE ALMOST THERE?"
We were not.

 

01. WRITER

Sam Moore


02. THEME

Almost


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Dinosaur Jr.:
Over Your Shoulder


04. WRITING

Almost out. A few minutes more, probably. I try not to stare at the clock too much, especially towards the end of my shift, lest it freeze out of shyness. That’s what I’d do, anyway. The mountains of dishes had been chiseled away, scrubbed and placed back properly. Plates, utensils, bowls, too many to count. My hands were dried out, like they’d shrivel and crack and turn to dust if I kept it up any longer. A quick glance at the clock--one split-second look wouldn’t freeze it, right?--told me enough time had passed that I could leave. Almost. Close enough, anyway. I didn’t want to keep Viv waiting. Not today. I figured it was fine rounding up just this once.

“I’m out,” I called back to the chefs on duty, two mammoth figures on the same roguish wavelength. They weren’t twins, but Clint and Cliff might as well have been. Two thundering, awful, lovable dumbasses with a tendency to talk trash. Like those two old guys from The Muppets, if they were four beers deep. “You guys have fun.”
“More fun now that you’re gone,” Clint called out without missing a beat.
“Yeah, would you leave already? I’m trying to enjoy my dead-end job here!” echoed Cliff. Exaggerated and devilish laughter from their own one-two punch. Their own biggest fans.
“My pleasure,” I said, flipping them off with both hands as mightily as I could as I began to leave.
Cliff put both hands over his heart in mock pride. “There you go, little man. We’ve taught you well. A classic and reliable response, always.”
“You know this is just how we pass the time,” said Cliff. “The day we stop being insufferable towards you is the day you know we’ve stopped caring about you altogether.”
I threw my jacket on, struggled my arms through the sleeves. “Makes perfect sense.”
“We’ve all got our own ways how we cope with this strange world. Speaking of which, you see all that weird stuff happening downtown?”
I froze with my hand on the door. “No,” I said. “What stuff?”
Cliff already had his phone out. Apparently they’d been following whatever this was all day. It was a miracle anyone ever received their orders here with these two helming the station. Cliff found what he was looking for and excitedly planted his phone directly onto my face. “Look,” he said excitedly, as if it were possible to not. I snatched the phone from his catcher’s-mitt hand and held it at a visible distance. A social media feed all posting about the same thing. “Wtf is that?” “How’d that just...appear?” “Weird shit!!!!!” “COOL-ADMIN” “yo this blew up, check my soundcloud at…” “should i be worried???” Pictures accompanying short bursts of consciousness.
I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. Or, couldn’t tell if it was real. A giant bubble had encapsulated an entire block of the city. Stretched to the skies, engulfing tall buildings whole. The color and texture of dreams. Difficult to see through from all angles, but this much was easy to tell: everything inside the fluid-like dome was frozen. Unmoving. Those encapsulated looked like statues of shadows through the filter of the strange bubble. Cars stuck mid intersection. A bird suspended on an invisible string. Like fossils stuck in amber.
I gathered up all my thoughts and spat them out in one scholarly glob. “The hell?” I asked.
“I know, right? Wonder what it’s all about.”
“A giant bubble froze a city block in time and you didn’t tell me all day?”
Clint shrugged. “You looked busy.”
“We can’t be expected to tell you every little thing that happens,” Cliff added. This, coming from the same person who once called me in the middle of the night to tell me his dog, Bastard, had taken a shit so big “I wouldn’t believe it and needed to come over right away.”
I kept scrolling through the newsfeed. Looks like nobody knew why this bubble had appeared. Not fair, I thought, that the world could be such a strange place and we were all expected to just roll with it. I scrolled more. Finger flicks up, blurr of words flies up, more take take its place. Something was stirring in the back of my head. What was it? The gears turned, slowly, rusted and aching. It all clicked at once--how did I not notice before?
“That’s Viv’s block,” I muttered, barely audible. A second later I was outside on my bike, speeding downhill, tunnel vision to the bottom, the world blurring away beside me.

It’s actually pretty beautiful, up close, I thought. Like a glimmering accessory on the ground to match the sky above. Dusklight reflected off the surface of the bubble in purples and oranges and blues. Swirling and strange in design. Had it grown since I left work, or did it just seem bigger now that I was up close? A smattering of people had gathered around the bubble, eyes glued, pointing and talking amongst themselves and asking questions nobody knew answers to. Others walked by as if they didn’t even notice, or didn’t have the time and energy to care anymore about every little thing that happened. Just another strange occurance in a world with no short supply.
“Just what I need,” barked a gruff-looking man leaning on a street lamp. Gruff wore dirty overalls and was more mustache than face. “This thing’s keepin’ me from getting back home. Game’s on.”
“Uh, I’m sorry,” I managed to squeak. “Here, watch this.” I leaned my bike on the lamp post and took off.
“Ha! Good luck gettin’ in there,” Gruff spat from behind me. I imagined his mustache started flapping and flew him to the nearest dive bar to watch whatever game he spoke of.
I got right up to the surface. Close enough to seem like the bubble was the entire world, and there was nothing else. Slowly, I lifted my hand to touch the edge. A sort of distorted frequency emitted. A pushback. Like two magnets repelling each other. Like it was trying to keep me from getting through. I applied some pressure, felt like my hand was pushing through a wall of jello, then said screw it, and lunged.
Crossing over was easier than I expected. After the initial resistance I passed right through. Inside time stood still, yet I was still able to move. The people inside had all been painted over in one solid color by a light that wasn’t quite light. They looked like the colors you seen when you rub your eyes vigorously, but brighter. The sky above was still beautiful, filtered through the bubble. Inside was quiet, but something could be heard emanating from the heart of the psychic-dome. A song? Apparently music was one of the few things that didn’t freeze up, piercing through the otherwise silent dome.
I felt like I was walking through a painting. Was any of this real? Maybe the reality of the situation didn’t matter as much as the situation itself. It didn’t take me long to figure out the song bore a connection to Viv, either. Using the sound as a compass, it was leading me to her apartment building. I walked past figures bathed in bizarre light and still tried not to make eye contact with them, past taxis and bikes and busses, all stopped dead in their tracks, until I found myself at the base of Viv’s apartment.
I went inside and started up the stairwell. The song grew louder, drawing me in. A number of agonizing stories to the top and I had arrived. Her door was wide open, which initially alarmed me, but I guess it didn’t matter if the rest of the world had stopped moving. The TV was stuck on un-moving white noise. A number of DVDs laid out on the table next to empty cans and a box of cereal. Boxes packed up, an empty kitchen, floors swept clean. A place about to belong to nobody, soon. I ignored the empty spaces and went outside to her go-to spot on the shoddy balcony where Viv was leaning on the railing, cigarette in hand, staring out into the lavender dusk.
She hadn’t noticed my arrival. A gloomy glaze settled over her, like she was staring right through the sky itself into nothing. I walked up next to her, mimicking her pose on the railing. She turned and sort-of smiled, pushed strands of dark hair out of her eyes.
“Oh, hey,” she offered up. Next to her the cassette player song on, “Hey, look over your shoulder. Hey, it’s me getting older.” Viv turned it down.
“I love this song,” I said.
“How’d you get inside here?” she asked.
“I dunno, I just sort of did.”
“Huh,” she said, took another drag. “Guess I must have wanted to let you in.” She held out a cigarette. I don’t smoke, but made an exception. Seemed like I was supposed to, anyway.
“So you’re saying this was all you?” I said, struggling to get the lighter to flick. The cassette player continued singing. “You came cause I told you...”
Viv let out a long grey cloud. “It’s almost time for me to leave, you know.”
“I know.”
“I think I just wanted to stay here, just for a while, and accidentally let out of a blast of subconscious psychic energy and it did all this. So scared of time moving forward I stopped it all together. I think it drained me pretty bad. Like my batteries need to recharge. Just one of those things, you know?”
I didn’t know the feeling, didn’t know what to say. “I know the feeling,” I finally settled on. Shit.
Viv continued. “I’m excited for this next chapter of my life. The last couple chapters were rough. Like someone else took over the writing in the middle of a book and it went off the rails. I’m finally ready to get things back under control. So why am I so sad right now?”
I let a billow escape from my cheeks and snubbed out my cigarette. “Endings are always sad. Even the good ones are sad, because it means something is over. But this next chapter is going to be a good one. I promise.”
“I know it will, but…” Viv trailed off, exhaled, her cloud dissipating just as quickly.
“Hey, look. Your subconscious field of energy or whatever probably won’t pop for while, right? Forget everyone out there, forget everyone in here. Why don’t we just enjoy it for now, and let your batteries recharge?”
Viv paused. The cassette player filled the void. “You’re gone, but it can’t be wrong.”
“You sure?” she finally asked.
“It’s pretty cool in here. Besides, you’ve always had my back.”
“Ha.” A laugh, almost. “Damn right.”
Viv lit another cigarette, and handed me another as well. Each breath existed for a moment, a hovering cloud of smoke that danced and twirled and then disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared, like it burnt itself out and needed to escape, the song in the background droning on, “You’re gone, but it can’t be wrong,” while we waited for the bubble to burst and the ending to come so the next chapter could start and have an ending of its own.

 

01. WRITER

Anonymous


02. THEME

Almost


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Explosions in the Sky:
Time Stops


04. WRITING

A Constant Plead For Consciousness

You almost slipped,
you almost fell
You almost took a crash
on your way there
or
could've been
your way to nowhere

focus
something must be done
your intuition rests
at the bottom of oceans
something floats to the top
controls you;
time continues
time stops.

It is true
that every destiny has its calling
there is only one place for you
therefore
to control what you can't control
is to control your destiny

 

01. WRITER

David Beuthin


02. THEME

Almost


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Vacationer:
Minimum


04. WRITING

Staring for too long
Rooftop sunrise
Is not old yet
But I’m late again

Asking for relief
Flooded nostalgia
Is too much these days
And yet still in tune

Who are you now
Greater love
Is gone for good
To the back of your mind

 

01. WRITER

Dan Waters


02. THEME

Almost


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Keaton Henson:
Petrichor


04. WRITING

Almost.
A word of duality.

Is there another word in the English language that can better describe simultaneously, or separately the feelings of great joy/excitement and yet also, (and sometimes followed by) the most anguished sadness of being close to something profound but not quite reaching it?

 

01. WRITER

Donald Wu


02. THEME

Almost


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Kendrick Lamar:
DUCKWORTH.


04. WRITING

I think of times of close encounters with death while riding my bike in the streets of Chicago. I’m grateful for all the times that I was able to avoid an accident. Sometimes I feel like there’s a higher power watching over me, allowing me to escape death so that I can continue to live out my life for whatever reason. Other times, I know that it was my quick reaction time—which I’ve developed from years of riding—that saved me from getting into an accident. I shouldn’t be blowing red lights, but if I had not seen that car coming that one time, I would’ve kept on going. Luckily I was able to squeezed my brake handles just in time.

There are also less serious times, like when I play those claw machines that you can find at arcades like Dave and Busters. To this day, I have not been successful in positioning the claw good enough to grab anything out from the machine. One time in Japan, I saw this giant ass Kirby toy inside one of the claw machines. It was propped right next to the drop-in hole. All I had to do was tip Kirby over just slightly. I must have tried at least 7 times, all I’ve managed to do was dragged it further away from the hole. I don’t want to say that these claw machines are rigged because I know it’s a type of game that requires some skills and a little bit of luck. I’ve witness first hand that it’s achievable. One day, just one day I’ll get something out from the claw machines.

 

01. COVER ARTIST

Donald Wu


02. THEME

Almost


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Kendrick Lamar:
DUCKWORTH.