No Name No. #1 (First Pieces. Summer ’17)

This year is really moving by faster than I can anticipate. I feel like I say this every year. I digress, a lot of my summer was mostly staying indoors trying to beat the heat and horrendous air quality. It’s kind of hard to enjoy life when you can’t breathe. I’ve been around the moon and back within the span of 10 months (let alone a year). It’s a bit complicated so I’ll give you the simple bits. In October of last year my parents decided to pursue the open road and move my sisters and I into an RV full-time. We started in my grandma’s back yard to Morro Bay (quite earlier than expected) and back to Fresno to Shaver Lake and….now we’re back in Fresno again. Yeah, despite our attempts to get out…here we are again in the spot we tried to leave. It’s crazy to think this all happened in such a sort span. Not to mention the many connections I missed out on and the friendships/relationships that had to come to an end. In a way I didn’t take advantage of what was in front of me at times. I’ve spent my summer thinking about this quarrel. I’ve pushed myself from communities I used to be so active on. I’ve just shut down emotionally for various reasons and it’s been rough trying to write when I don’t have the emotion to work with. With that being said, last night (8/10/18) I received an email from the Fresno Library:

“Gavin,

Awhile back, you submitted a book review to our blog. In return, we’re giving you a new book to read, enjoy, and perhaps even review at some future date…”

I remembered this immediately. Last year I was in a slump but for different reasons and I started writing to get some of my thoughts out. I started (of all places) on the library’s teen section on their website. It was something an old acquaintance used to do in her spare time and I was in a mood of sorts and decided to give it a look again. I made a few reviews here and there in the span of one month until I joined a music community on an app called “amino” though I’m not here to talk about that today. After reading my email I went to their site and sure enough my review made last summer was featured. I felt honored but it sent me reminiscing and thinking about my head space last year. Did I grow or falter? Was it better or worse? I’m not sure if I entirely know how I feel but I feel like this is necessary to clean the emotional rubbish and move on in a way. These are the stories behind my first writing pieces and today I’d like to talk about my review for Elliott Smith’s “Either/Or” which was posted on the library blog. These were the emotions behind the seemingly simple review all but one year ago.

“I proposed to her.”

Before I begin, I’d like to share the review courtesy of Fresno County Public Library:

Either/Or

Author: Elliot Smith

Recorded in friend’s houses little did aspiring Indie Folk artist “Elliott Smith” know that he would make one of the most important records for the Indie movement at the time. Every song on here is a hard swallow to those who can relate to its honest and melancholic lyrics, but is a nice listen to those who want to pass the time with music. It’s not innovative musically, but it sure is impressive lyrically. It’s one of the more accessible Indie records out there and with songs like “Say Yes” and “Ballad Of Big Nothing” its easy to see why. Little hints of optimism and faith pop up here and there in an otherwise depressing record, which makes it very human rather then being sad for no reason. The lyrics also remind me a bit of Bob Dylan’s songwriting, in the sense that the lyrics can mean a number of things. A song can be about addiction or about love, Ultimately, it’s up to the listener the decipher. All in all, this record makes a very good listen for those rather lonely nights and is one of my personal favorites.

Rating: It was amazing!
Recommendation: Teens looking for a good night-time record and/or something new.
Reviewed by: Gavin G.

(Courtesy of http://teens.fresnolibrary.org/teen-reviews/)

It’s pretty simple by my own standards but I still see the depth in it. Sometimes we overlook the simple things, myself included. To understand the dilemma behind this review we have to go all the way back to the beginning of 2017. My grandpa (who preferred Papa and I will continue to through out my writing) had passed away just a few months prior. He was one of the only family members that loved me with no quarrels or strings attached. There was nothing he was trying to gain from us. I spent a lot of my childhood with him in fruit fields but that’s for another time. I digress, one of the key figures of my life was gone. This was an interesting time as friends and family were starting to show their true colors for the first time and in some ways it was beautiful and others…not so much. He had left his house in the trust’s name and the only person in the trust was my dad, his only child. We moved out of our apartment into his house…only to find that his house was in dire need of restoration. It was uninhabitable. It was that bad. Between January and March everyday, my sisters, mom and I started work on the house where my dad would join us after work. It was rough but we were blessed enough to have the few close friends and family we had to help us. One night in particular was interesting. My best friend Caleb stopped by with his family to help us. It was the first time I saw him since my sister’s birthday in August so we had some catching up. He gave me a hug and gave his condolences about Papa. He was a respectable young man despite his fragile age at the time being 15. We talked on and off through out ripping out toilets and painting walls. He felt the eerie and empty vibe the house had and at some point just stayed at my side. He seemed to be hiding something and acted restrained though out our various banter and unrealistic plans to spend the night. Before he left (I believe 11:51 PM) he put his hand on my shoulder and said:

“I’m going to call you later. There’s something I need to tell you about.”

When we got back to our apartment near Fig Garden, I ran up the stairs in a worried trance of sorts. He was rather reclusive so for him to drop something like this was all the more startling to me. I sat on my bed in silence staring at my phone. I prayed over and over again to God to put “the words in my mouth” not knowing what he was going to bring up to me. I hear my phone buzz. I pick it up immediately. We talked for and hour. Now, as I’m writing this, I have to make a choice. He never wanted anyone to know the whole conversation and I have a secret/burden to carry but I’ve built this up. Out of respect I won’t spill all the beans so to speak but I will give you what you need to know. Anyways, he was so restrained because…he met a girl. He was homeschooled most of his life and decided to go to public school Freshman year where he got made fun of for his upbringing, dislexia and overall look. To hear he was in a relationship was startling to hear at first, this was either going to be good or bad. I let him speak and after he got the notion that I was happy for him…he dropped a bomb.

“Well, I can I tell you one thing? I um….I love her so much I proposed to her.”

Yep, this was going south. He knew I’d be surprised and he went on explaining the scenario and her as a person. He wanted advice from me seeing how we were extremely close, knowing each other longer than we haven’t. Practically brothers. After an hour I told him my good luck, God bless, good night and see you in a few days.

“I love you like a brother, Gavin.” he said as he hung up the phone.

I started to cry, knowing he was hiding something and knowing it was going downhill from here.

“You little child, what makes you think you’re tough?”

For the next few months he continued to stop by and with each visit his character began to degrade and his attention lessened. He started spending more time talking about his girlfriend (who I shall keep nameless) and kept his attention to his phone and her snapchat texts. I’ve never liked drama so I tried to be as patient as I could with him and letting a lot of this slide, but I was starting to get frustrated. His expectations for her we’re getting more and more unrealistic and he started using horrendous slurs to describe situations and certain people like “t**t” and “N****r”. He started working out more and more and showed off all the time, even in ludicrous fashion. He would make fun of his brother and spew his political views. With that said, there was a duality. Despite his “tough” appearance he was broken. He got the notion I was going through a lot emotionally with the house and Papa. In hindsight, I don’t think he knew how to help. He also had humble ambitions for his future like having a farm and having simple dates with his girlfriend. I only helped when he wanted it and as time went on my responses were less akin to what he wanted and slowly stopped reaching out. With each passing week I saw him (even after the renovations were done) his attitude and heart grew with vanity and pride. It was hard to watch. At some point I stopped asking how “she” was doing and just became a host of sorts. I’d order pizza and sodas, I’d set up the Wii u in the living room, I’d clean the back patio to enjoy ourselves, ect. At some point I had grown accustomed to this behavior and did it daily and whenever we had guests. It was therapy for me and was a stepping stone for me to move on.

I didn’t have many people to talk to during this time and the people I did have may have worried about my own mental health more than I would have so I stayed quiet and subtly cryptic. I’d spend many nights thinking about a girl name Rachel, a church girl I didn’t see in almost a year after leaving her church. I’d sit and wondered how she could have helped. I sat and wondered about Papa wondering what I could have done better, one thing racing though my mind was missing his death. I left the hospital just a few minutes before he died and I’ve never forgiven myself. It was the least I could have done. Now I had Caleb, what could I be praying for him? It was my only way I could help. Along with several other dichotomies I couldn’t sleep and I grew accustomed to pacing my room late at night when everyone was asleep. With nothing but the glow of my Tortoise’s heat lamps and my music, I’d pace my room (which was 80 degrees from the lamps) in patterns looping certain songs (at one point I listened to one album for 6 months) getting the emotions out and going to bed at various times.

1:00 AM

2:20 AM

3:30 AM

4:40AM

Time went by faster than I could anticipate and I was oblivious to my own energy. I can still vividly see the furnishing. One night in August I was recommended an album by Spotify. It was none other than “Either/Or”. It looked interesting and I saved it. The next day I was the host again for my Aunt and my cousins. They were both toddlers at the time and made a complete mess of things. Breaking belongings and dishes, hitting each other, throwing books, throwing insults and there was no stopping them. They live in a very unrestricted household and there was nothing I could do but soothe unstable emotions and put on a smile and keep a stern voice. When the day was said and done I went to my room in tears and didn’t come out for the rest of the night. After calming down I sat and played the record out of morbid curiosity. I’ve always had an affinity for music but this was one of my first “New finds” in months. While I didn’t get to finish the record that night or even digest all the lyrics that night I got the emotion behind it all and that’s all I needed. The tape click and the eerie guitars still send me shivers. I can still see my room with the TV in front of my bed under the window next to the Tortoise enclosures and mini fridge. That fridge was always full of sweet concoctions. I always had a “Hecho en Mexico” coke in there. God, I need a drink.

“You can do what you want to, there’s no one to stop you.”

At some point my room wasn’t enough for my pacing and I’d start pacing around the block in the wee hours. I lived in Sunnyside at the time and I knew then how dangerous this was, but I had just gotten to a point where I didn’t care. In hindsight, these were actually rather peaceful and it’s almost harmonious when I think of it. Theres something about seeing the sun rise while listening to “Between the Bars” from Either/Or or “Alison” from Slowdive. In the day I had a lot of pent of frustration and depression and (along with gardening) I started having a divinity with nature. I felt like I was just getting it out and the cactus I’d walk by or the elephant ear I was growing would just take it all and turn it into something beautiful. Whether it be flowers or fruit. I even started landscaping for one of my dad’s coworkers. It was refreshing and a nice change of pace. I was slowing down on the pacing and started listening to my music in bed and I’d write cryptic notes that I’m not sure if I even understood. Either/or was starting to grow into one of my favorite albums and I started sharing my love for music on my new instagram account. Hardly anyone cared but I didn’t care what they thought. I was getting it out in ways people couldn’t understand but perhaps that was for the better. I’d post stories on what I was listening to and post lists of my favorite records. This is where I started writing. My first was a handwritten list of my favorite records at the time. I’d write little sentences on music and I’d pace in the day with various writing ideas.

I was still hurting but there was purpose again.

I started saving money again and even started to find more hobbies like competitive Smash Bros (Not gonna lie, I was a beast) and vinyl collecting. I started saying more to cashiers and pizza delivery men. As ridiculous as this sounds it was astronomical in terms of my well-being seeing how I could have cared less about my safety in Sunnyside. My sleep schedule was going back to normal and I remember feeling the gentle glow of the sun hitting my face one morning and feeling emotion again. It was so warm and I saw a little bit of myself again.

However, life continues on and Caleb didn’t just disappear. I’d ask every morning to my mom if she had heard from his mom and how they were doing. He was becoming talk of the families, all of us were worried. My mom woke me up sometime around 5AM one morning to tell me some troubling news:

Son, I need your help. Caleb is missing. He broke up with *girlfriend* and no one can find him. He took his dad’s truck and I need to know if you have any idea where he might have run off to?!

I woke up immediately and put my thoughts together. Knowing him, if he wanted peace it would be either the mountains (where we first met. We were also neighbors there) or his cousin’s house in the foothills. She thanked my and ran towards the phone. I started to pray trying to make myself of some sort of use the only way I knew how. He wasn’t a licensed driver and I was stressed about his safety and the safety of others. I was worried the cops would find him first and that he would take a wrong turn. Shortly after my mom came back to me letting me know his older brother had found him on his way to his cousin’s house. Later that day we found out the whole story. Apparently the strife went as far back as the fabled “phone call”. His girlfriend was planning to break up with him and in an act of desperation he made up a lie. He told her he was dying of cancer and that he had no one else to turn to other than her. Seeing how she had her own emotional issues she broke down and took the bait. The proposal didn’t make sense to me but I’ll get into that in a bit. As all lies do, his was eventually found out. She lost it and broke up with him in tears in which case the scenario followed. I saw him a few weeks later and we had a conversation in his mom’s mini van. Suddenly, this prideful and tough “guy” was in tears sitting in his brokenness While I should have been mad I also knew him better than just the lie. I knew there was something dark in it all but I saw the duality in him again and saw the innocence in trying to keep her around. The question I had was…why? That I wouldn’t find out until after I wrote this review. The day I wrote the review I ordered pizza (again), tended to plants, got a haircut and new headphones. Despite this, all that was in my mind was the last thing he said to me that night. He gave me a hug in tears and told me that he loved me and that he was glad that he knew someone like me.

“You’re going to make someone happy someday.” He said in tears.

Despite the makeover and little things keeping me optimistic and “going” I still felt empty and needed to get something out…anywhere to where someone would listen. Now, if you’ve gotten to this point you have just read all 3,200 words of this story leading up to a roughly 200 word review. Pretty silly of me in hindsight. I’d incline you to read this review again though. Do you see it the same way? Perhaps, you see why I wrote it? Maybe you even the vague author “Gavin.G” behind it?

Either/Or

Author: Elliot Smith

Recorded in friend’s houses little did aspiring Indie Folk artist “Elliott Smith” know that he would make one of the most important records for the Indie movement at the time. Every song on here is a hard swallow to those who can relate to its honest and melancholic lyrics, but is a nice listen to those who want to pass the time with music. It’s not innovative musically, but it sure is impressive lyrically. It’s one of the more accessible Indie records out there and with songs like “Say Yes” and “Ballad Of Big Nothing” its easy to see why. Little hints of optimism and faith pop up here and there in an otherwise depressing record, which makes it very human rather then being sad for no reason. The lyrics also remind me a bit of Bob Dylan’s songwriting, in the sense that the lyrics can mean a number of things. A song can be about addiction or about love, Ultimately, it’s up to the listener the decipher. All in all, this record makes a very good listen for those rather lonely nights and is one of my personal favorites.

Rating: It was amazing!
Recommendation: Teens looking for a good night-time record and/or something new.
Reviewed by: Gavin G.

(Courtesy of http://teens.fresnolibrary.org/teen-reviews/)

“Killing a southern belle.”

Up to this point, Elliott was becoming a musical voice for me of sorts. By the time we moved into the RV I had started listening to everything he had released in his discography. I had forgotten about my review and Either/Or became another piece in my now neutered music collection. The RV was something new in my life and while I still have mixed emotions about it I understand it was for the better. I needed to get away and Morro Bay was the perfect spot to do that. Those three months in Morro were some of the best and worst but even the “worst” was beneficial in some way. During this time me and Caleb didn’t talk much with the occasion of a meme here and there. I started to think and pace again. It was a much safer environment and I felt more open to “take it all in” if you will. I was thinking about the last time I saw him. He had me over for a sleep over (I forgot for what occasion as there was a reason) just a few weeks prior to the RV and that day was rather peculiar. I was kind of pushed off to the side. When everyone was playing basketball in the rain I was walking the track and field court. He cared but he seemed like he was on the fence and didn’t know how to handle it. He checked up on me then forgot about me. It’s very easy to make myself look like the “victim” here and I have to be careful how I word this. Later that night a girl was walking by us playing basketball in front of his house. The two knew each other from school and had some chit-chat. They started to walk away, but he had something on his mind. He looked up and he saw me. I knew he had something on his mind and I saw him conflicted and in a “final decision” kind mindset. He saw me concerned and he saw her walking way innocently with her jacket tight on her hips. I saw him make his choice through his eyes and he turned back to her. I never heard what he said to her other than “I’ll call you later”.

They found him in her bedroom in the middle of the night just a few weeks later.

Later that night we had possibly our last conversation. We were all going to bed. Him and his cousin had a separate beds and I took the floor. When his cousin fell asleep he started talking to me about his girlfriend. The hazy layer from the rain was hitting the window and my bones felt soothe as he was talking in a pitch black room. He stopped somewhere though. He was mumbling about times in school with his ex. I was too tired and frustrated to care but at some point he said something that made sense of it all.

“Yeah…me and *blank* we’re at school…*inaudible mumbling* we decided to skip school and…well…” He paused.

“All we did was make out.”

He knew I caught it and ended the conversation shortly. I said nothing more than a kind goodnight but nothing was the same since. They played each other for what they were worth, especially him with her. As tough as he made himself out to be, he was very emotional and he gave up something important to something he couldn’t control. He couldn’t lose it, which is why I think he proposed to her at that young age. Now, I’m in a dilemma of sorts. We aren’t talking anymore but I need a conclusion of sorts. I don’t want to say much more as I’m afraid that I’ll look like one of those “attention seekers” so I’ll leave you with this as I’m still sorting out our falling out. I still wonder if I said the right things, I look at the texts periodically. I’ll leave you with this though, the instagram I started last year just sits there now. I was going to disable it but I decided to scroll through it. In my feed I saw a new picture of him with a new girl. I started to tear up, I felt like I had wasted a year trying to help him when he needed it while I also felt I could have done better. He found someone new and there is a sense of bitter happiness. Do I feel happy for him? I’m not sure. I lost my friend and at what expense?

No Name Conclusion.

I was minding my own business when I got that email. It’s interesting how much I feel like I’ve grown as a writer since that night. I thought about doing a “remake”of the review for this blog but I think I’ll leave it where it sits. It’s an interesting time capsule rooted in human growth. Despite ALL of this there’s a part of me that wants to make amends, even though I know the toxicity of the situation. Only time can tell and I’m going to let him make the first move. All 4,357 words up to this point have been pent-up for quite some time so I’m glad I got this email to give me….well…I’m not sure what to call it. Inspiration doesn’t fit the bill but it does at the same time? Now, by all means you don’t have to believe me and you can even take his side. I am just a person on the internet and I can’t convince you otherwise. I’m not even really trying to condem him in all honesty. This was just a post to get it all out. After all, you are writing for yourself. Thats what my mom always told me. I just wanted to show the complexity behind a forgotten review that kick started a hobby of mine. I’d like to share a last bit of this email and end it off here.

“…Just let library Staff know you’ve come to pick up a “Write a Review” prize.”

“What a pleasant surprise” I thought. Today I went to go pick it up. It’s a book called “As Red As Blood” from Salla Simukka. It’s apparently in similar vein to “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” according to the back cover and the first in the series of three. There’s also some pamphlets and a button and magnet with the button saying: “I ♥ My Library”. I do though! If any executives, workers, higher up, janitors, ect read this…thank you for your thoughtfulness! I like to think of this as a sentimental award for my past year of “on and off again” writing from various places. From scrapped drafts on old laptops to amino to your own blog and now mine. Each one meaning something to me in some way. As I write this I get the feeling I’m giving a “I JUST WON AN OSCAR” vibe but I assure you I’ve humbled myself. I am one of millions of writers on the internet and I appreciate you taking the time to send me this. As mentioned in the email I hope I can review this book when I get the chance. Speaking of writing, I have to close this post but I don’t know how. I’m left with whats in the present and I don’t have much other than stereotypical “lets see what life has ahead of me” like closer’s but that’s all I got as I’m still frazzled by the situation and in some ways I feel like I said too much. As much as i hate to admit this isn’t a resolved situation and i can only hope and pray for the best. At least while I wait and work for the “next thing” whatever that may be I have something new to read and write about someday in the (hopefully) near future.

Here are the songs I quoted in each section (in order):

Speed Trials – Elliott Smith (Either/Or)

Ballad of Big Nothing – Elliott Smith

Southern Belle – Elliott Smith (Elliott Smith)

No Name No. #1 – Elliott Smith (Roman Candle)

Here are some songs that also fit the mood during this time:

2:45 AM – Elliott Smith (Either/Or)

Doubtful – Gregory and the Hawk

Say Yes – Elliott Smith (Either/Or)

Eugene – Sufjan Stevens

A huge thanks to Fresno County Public Library for adding my review to their blog and for their thoughtfulness.

Thank you for reading and may God bless you!

-Gav

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