30 December, 2012

Don't call it a come up, I've always been high!

If you check my Tumblr you know I haven't been neglecting my creative side at all I've just been dealing it in smaller doses. Still worthless shit just easierly indigested. But I feel like actually writing right now. I got six days off work, on break from school - got another 4.0, incidentally; whatever, though, no worries here, bro - so I'm thinking hey, why not Dower it up a little? Forever Cursed posted his top ten demos of the year. That's something he seems takes seriously. Why not Dower that up a little? Okay, let's do it then. Or, as Haxan would say, "without further notice . . ."




HAXAN'S BEST OF 2012 - Part I - The Demo Series

10. Haxan picked Oyarsa's self-titled three song demo to begin his top ten list. 

 "Can't wait to hear more from this band," Haxan says of Oyarsa's, "really heavy doom metal layered with some really harsh vocals." Luckily I'm very high right now so I'm really feeling Oyarsa's self-described - and Dower-approved - "Ouroboral riffs" as they snake through my brain via headphones hooked up to my laptop whose darkened screen casts back my own reflection. Whoa! I just gave myself chills! These purveyors of doom tunes seem to have the aspirations of transporting the listener to the cosmos, but the achieved effect is instead like staring at a waterlogged cadaver floating facedown in stagnant water as black as Hell's creosote. Think of the kid in the EYEHATEGOD hoodie from your Intro to Astronomy class two semesters ago who would always raise his hand and ask stuff like: "Is it true no one can hear your scream in outer space?" This is what his band sounds like probably.

9. Haxan went with Skygge's three song Heksekunst demo.

There are two Skygges from Norway. This is the one from Norway.  Haxan aptly sums up Norway's Skygge when he says: "Norway's Skygge simply deliver some of the most nefarious black metal around. What else could we expect from a black metal band hailing from Norway?" But honestly at 128 kbps, this a great way to transcend your cold room at 2:43 am. Until 2:56 am when the demo ends. I'm with Haxan big T on this one. This right here is some legit, unpretentious Norwegian Black Metal. This band is so grim their shirts don't come in Small, but "Girlie." Yet it's crazy to think at least one of these guys owns a smart phone, or has a blog. Check out Norway's Skygge's 3 song demo "Heksekunst" before your piggies warm up and you can feel 'em again.

8. Haxan chose Monomakh's much-hyped MMXII demo.

Haxan's absolutely correct when he begins his testimony of this demo by invoking the band's native country's history of forging solid DM. He writes: "Two words: 'Death Metal' and 'Australia'. In nowadays these two words will immediately hook up any extreme death metal fan. Monomakh are no exception." What more needs to be said?

7. Haxan felt that Torture Chain's Time is but a Doorway to the Incinerator was the seventh best demo of 2012.

Music, I think, is of such an ethereal nature that the less human made it seems the more enjoyable it becomes. There is something at once enlightening and demystifying about seeing a band live whose music you previously conceived to be not made by so much as simply being the ambience of orcs and goblin kings in the hellish bowels of a distant reality. Before I started seeing metal bands regularly, back when I was in elementary school, way before my family got a computer with the internet, I used to listen to like Reign In Blood on the school bus and - with my hyperactive televisual imagination and all - I honestly could not conceive of the music as a creation of humans. To me, GWAR was the rule and not the exception. Every metal band looked like that. Most of all fucking Slayer! Even in high school, probably because I was constantly watching the The Lord of the Rings movies and the music videos I watched that weren't just to help cope with puberty were videos by like Cradle of Filth and Marilyn Manson and my high school was like 25 minutes from my house and the kids lived scattered all over the countryside so my morning bus ride was always an album's length long at least. I remember I'd sit by myself somewhere in the middle, near one of the heaters, and as the bare trees like charcoal sketchings smeared by beyond the frosted window, Dying Fetus sounded like genuine monsters to me. Monsters who weren't even playing instruments. They were just moshing and having a blast. It took me a long time, an embarrassingly long time, to acknowledge the existence of the instruments and discern the difference between like the guitar and the drums, let alone the kick and the snare. I was too caught in the emotional effect music, especially metal, had on me. Torture Chain is one of those rare bands that give me the too faint and far too occasional remembrance of those feelings past.

6. Haxan elected to award Sodb's Don Seantalamh a Chuid Féin the pretty cool, somewhat coveted number 6 spot.

"This is amazing. Pure and simple. You shall not be disappointed," raves ExNoctemNacimur, a metal fan who posted his/her review on the Metal Archives of Sodb's four song demo Don Seantalamh a Chuid Féin. As Haxan informs us, Sodb is "another great gem" from Ireland. The aesthetic here is obscurity, but the approach is ambitious, protean and almost meta-. Which makes for a pretty interesting journey that will last you ≈ 34 minutes. Sodb are more akin to Primordial than their likewise countrymen Altar Of Plagues, but in a Venn diagram of two Celtic ankhs, one ankh being Primordial, the other ankh Altar Of Plagues, one would find Sodb there in the middle where the two tear drops merge to make a something like a slightly-opened eye. These four songs aren't bad, but they're a little ZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZ, which is how I find most Irish Pagan Black Metal from Dublin to be at 3:36 am after a long night of heavily drinking under the influence of pain pills. Probably worth your (day)time after all.

I've since slept. Sodb is good. Some sick spoken word stuff during "Tethered." Total Refuse! Like Haxan says: "with this demo, Sodb really made some notable work."

5. For the number 5 position on his top ten list of demos of the year 2012 Haxan chose Déliquescence and their demo, Antinomisme.

"Déliquescence," as Haxan explains, "can really create a dark and mystical atmosphere in which we blindly dive in full darkness." This "mysterious" two-piece - three if you count the drummer, but Déliquescence doesn't, so I won't scuff up their steaze - hails from Quebec, of covrse. Their name means decay, more or less. The name of the demo is an ideological concept that denies the existence of a social moral code or something. I could be totally wrong here. 

While I think he's got great things to say about all these bands I disagree with Haxan's ranking. Unless it's in nominal order and the numbers accompanying the demos are for the most part ornamental. But I think we're getting rank order here, no matter how arbitrary it may seem. I just can't believe it. This is cool, this Déliquescence demo, I mean, but the Torture Chain song is so much better.

4. The Dower bites its fist as Haxan reveals his number 4 demo of the year 2012: Laster's Wijsgeer & Narreman.

Right now it gets real. The astute supplicant knows what I'm talking about. I had a brief stint with CVLT Nation. I hope I can still publish some stuff through them but my contributions dropped completely when school started back up. One of the few things I did review, however, was Laster's demo. It inspired me to go overboard and overwrite and just go for it and have fun. It was a great time writing it and going back and reading it I find it to be convoluted, unfocused and very entertaining to read. Then I read Haxan's review and my world fell down around me. It's like watching Gavin Rossdale play guitar. You're just like "Welp. I quit. Welp. Uh . . . that was the worst thing that could've ever happened to me, was seeing how fucking good that guy is at guitar. Can I even call him a guy, or, a man? He's a god. Welp. I quit guitar." That's how I feel about reviewing metal after reading how succinct and eloquent Haxan is in his review of Wijsgeer & Narreman. Check it out: 

"This is one EP i've been hooked on lately. Featuring members of Northward (from whom i've talked about their awesome Demo here) and White Oak, Laster is a Dutch black metal formation founded and located in Utrecht, the Netherlands. "Wijsgeer & Narreman" is a conceptual work presenting us three tracks inspired by Goethe's tragic play, Faust. The first impression i got when i heard this EP for the first time, was about their sound, if these guys were north-american they would get the label "cascadian" written all over them. The sound of "Wijsgeer & Narreman" is quite good, it features an outstanding drum work and some creepy voice, almost like one harpy coming straight from the most dark and frozen mountain cave. Delivering three great and emotional tracks, Laster did a terrific job with this EP. It carries a lot of poetic emotions balanced with the right dose of grimness. It's going straight to my shelf of the best EPs of the year for sure. The band is looking for a label to manifest a physical release, so if by the way you run a label and if you are interested, contact them here. Check out the EP on their Bandcamp (where you can download the EP for free) and get your dose of black metal for today. Highly recommended!"

3. Haxan went with Hallow's self-titled debut for his number 3 demo of the year.

These guys are from Eugene, Oregon. Heard that place is pretty boring, majestic and all, but very boring. "No worries" is the area's creed, according to a friend. Seems like Hallow's got one worry, though, or fixation more precisely: being really fucking heavy. Haxan calls them the "most heavy, slow, mournful doom." And I, like Haxan, am a "sucker for this kind of sound and this demo" also "really fulfills my hunger for this kind of doom." These two tracks are almost as heavy as they are long and they're very long. Almost as long as the day me and my aforementioned friend who now lives in Eugene and our other friend who now lives in FLA watched The Matrix trilogy. I quit my job the next day. I went in and was like: "No. Fuck no. I can't do this no more. Fuck you, Karrob! Fuck you, Muki! I quit, Bill. No! I fuckin' quit. I want out! Get me outta here!"

2. Crepúsculo Negro's Muknal's Muknal

Whoa. Ain't heard these guys yet. Pretty wild stuff here. It's got the crawl of Death/Doom, but the atmosphere of some trvly gnarly cassette-borne BM. Definitely worth your time. Total refuse. Completely agree with Haxan when he calls this "one of the most vile demos" he's heard all year.

1. And Haxan's number 1 demo of the year 2012 goes to . . .


and their demo Widrstand.

The dude who put this out, Michael from Fallen Empire Records, used to live here in Pittsburgh. He was going to Pitt for something. Probably bizness. Not sure if he's still around. I haven't seen him at any shows in the past few months so I'm guessing not. This cassette kinda reminds me of losing a friend, not really Mike from FER cuz he wasn't my friend, but maybe Mike the friend who lives in Oregon now. It's a metal album, so it's aggressive, but it's atmospheric BM so it's emo a little too. It is really well done, however. Check it out if you feel like it. Wouldn't be my number 1 pick, but it'd probably be in my top 10. Swiss Emo Black Metal for Bloggers with Trve Feelings and Real Problems.



27 November, 2012

Chthuul'enu Thtuff!

This post is for Steve out in Cali who warmed my heart like a little chicken nugget left out in the sun when he said: "Update the Dower already!"

Family, I've been working. Plus school. But really I'm Sorry. Don't sweat it, though. I'm here.

But here is some really cool stuff from a new band up in Quebec I found over at the Modern Sounds of Death blog. 

They're called CHTHE'ILIST, a two piece from, like I said, Quebecois. This is their three song (plus an intro) demo from this year. Can't wait to hear a full length from these guys and then to go on to own and consume it over and over again when I'm in the mood for crazy, legit. scary DM in the insalubrious vein of Mitochondrion, Rippikoulu Longstalkings, Etc Macabre. CHTHE'ILIST - which I can type without looking at, just like Rippikoulu, Pestilence Malleus Maleficarum, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and a ton of other stuff that's really actually only band names and records or song titles - but these guys are so obscure that Googling "Chthe'ilist" yields basically nothing. They do have a Facebook, though, as you should know if you're a careful clicker. Vox are my favorite part, but the tunes are gnar2. Total refuse!

Chthe'ilist Amechth'ntaas'm'rriachth

(thanks to MSOD for the link)

10 November, 2012

Trash Night.

Trash Night
by Dutch Pearce

I drive my truck beside them while Æton rides in the bed and films. It was Pall’s idea to affix a flood light to the side. Raze went to Home Depot and flat walked out with a battery-operated one. Then sold it to Pall for twenty-five bucks. Then decided that it should be filmed in night vision. All green with glowing eyes, while my truck blasts “Big Rock Candy Mountain” on repeat, Pall and Raze are setting out to film their first DethSpot tape. It was Pall’s idea to film a split. Not because he wanted to ride Raze’s steeze, but because he rode better with Raze around. He fed off Raze’s steeze, excreted it as his own. Raze is brain dead when he rides. No more aware than his steel. One of those rare types. Born to shred. Has so much control it’s like his steel is a part of him.  He 180 busdrivers then half-cabs a fell trash can. It was Raze’s idea to go out on trash night. Said it’d be cool if it was just like normal, like how they ride all the time. Said he didn’t wanna put on any kinda show. He’d do it so long as it was real and not like set up. Pall agreed. He always agrees. Their steel even agrees. Pall’s steel is all white, except for the tires. Death rides a pale horse he likes to say. Raze’s ride is all black. Flat black. Has never said why. They both ride trve. No brakes, no pegs. Knobby dirt tire on the front, ramp rubber on the back. 30 teeth for Raze ‘cause he likes to fly. He’s a banshee as he hops to manuals a ledge that Pall probably thinks he’s bangin’ out by icepicking. And really he is! But Raze, man. No one ride’s like Raze. But they're still just cruising at this point. Æton knocks on the rear window and his mouth is hanging open. I fork my eyes out at him and he complies and trains the camera back on Raze and Pall just as Pall vaders some house’s front stoop. Raze is way ahead. Hopping standing trash cans, tucking his steel all up in his guts. Pall cranks hard and Æton misses Raze blast a turndown off a miniscule tree root. Raze is a shadow in the headlights of my truck. I punch it and catch up. Leave Pall glowing red in my tail lights. It’s deep in the night. A German Shepherd comes bawling up to a chain link fence. Its tongue out with caged hatred. Raze wallrides its face. Doesn’t miss a crank. Pall calls something out that’s lost in the night. They’re approaching St. Mary’s convent. Raze’s black hair waves behind him like an infernal banner. Pall’s like a glow-in-the-dark skeleton on the tiny screen in Æton’s hand. Last summer Raze got super drunk one night and corpsepainted the face of the statue of the Virgin Mary in the convent’s front yard. The nuns didn’t press charges, but Raze’s parents grounded him for a week. So that week we all just hung out in Raze’s room and watched internet porn and got real high. Raze rides past the convent without so much as a bunnyhop. In his wake Pall smiths to backsides out the weird cement ledge that bastions the convent. What Pall lacks in steeze he makes up with cleanliness. But when Raze manuals a park bench, or even barhops a fire hydrant, it just looks so kvlt. Pall 180s the same fire hydrant. His sprocket barely clears its stem nut. Raze swerves and goes down between the houses. I was afraid he’d do this. I step on it. Æton knocks on the window again. Just keep rolling I shout back as I swing a screeching right onto Schuldiner Street. If he hasn’t blasted it yet, there’s a Raze banger comin’ up. I stamp the brakes and back down a dark alley. Æton has caught on and now he’s sitting against the tailgate, shining the flood light we decided to bring just in case. As far as we know, no one else does what Raze is about to do. Finally they appear. Shadows flooded in the white light. Raze leads and he’s booking it. He wallrides to manuals a dumpster. Poetry written in chain grease. Something runs for its life ahead of them. From here it looks like a cat. This is about to get so good I can barely keep my hand off myself. Pall soars well over a handicap ramp rail. Tucks it high with familiar steeze. It’s coming. Right at the MINKVS tag where the narroway ends Raze boosts so high off a nonexistent lip and wallrides to walltaps the opposing wall and lands directly on the cat’s skull. It explodes beneath the rubbery knobs of the front tire like a burrito put too long in the microwave. I hit the gas to get out of their way just as Æton stands up in involuntary reaction and falls face first out of the bed of my truck. I slam on the brakes. As I’m shifting to park I feel the bed rock and when I look back there’s nothing but then the cab sinks with a bang overhead and I turn back around in time to see Raze ride off the hood of my truck and disappear beyond the headlights' beam. Pall jumps off his bike and helps Æton. His grill is death but he doesn’t even care. He holds up the unharmed camera in triumph.

08 November, 2012

This is only my 200th post?

Wow. I guess - despite the moniker - it's always been about quality over quantitties here at the Dower.

Anyway, here's a little something I did while rejecting Hos and determining my p-values.

31 October, 2012

Happy Halloween you guys!

While I'm imbibing and trying to figure out whether or not to go see The Birthday Party or Pentagram, having already seen this Halloween season, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, The Misfits, Dead Kennedys and some others that are just warm, fuzzy, familiar blurs - while I'm trying to figure out where to plant my undying sole on this Hallow's Eve, where to be found dead this Samhain, I'll go ahead and post some cool shit that was shown to me this Halloween season IRL.

From Nick Caiver:

From Austin S. Story:
(mute this one)
(jam this one)

25 October, 2012

Ingest Iron, Deadlift Lead, Headbutt Mirrors, Fart Sulphur

Listen up, and listen good, brother: This post is dedicated to all the little Dowermaniacs out there, rrridin' there bikes to school and work every day, hittin' the gym every frrree chance they get, smackin' strangers on the ass and then pointin' at them all sinister-like, and, most importantly, givin' motivational pep talks to people without prompt, pomp or apprrrecation. Oh yeah!
Used to be a day when these posts were comon. Whateverrr. Even muscles gotta rrrelax, am I rrright? Oh yeah!
Man, my forearms are huge as I type this. All veiny and tattooed and hairy. What smells? Oh yeah! That's me. That's the steamy smell of testosterrroni seeping out from my gaping pores. That's the smell of conquerance. The scent of hemasculinity. But enough talk, okay? Enough chit-chat. What'rrre arrre we, a couple of old ladies gettin' our hair poofed-out underneath those bubble things? Oh yeah, no way! It's time to get serrrious. Oh yeah!

24 October, 2012

Final Draft. (probly still sum typos tho)

Aisha's Ride Home
by Dutch Pearce

The night classes were his girlfriend’s idea. She figured he could stand a little more education- some brushing up on the essentials. If he learned alongside other adult learners, who she knew - from her own experiences at community college –to be a crowd genuinely eager to better their positions in life, she thought that this would do him some good. She even went with him when he scheduled his classes. She held his hand as passers-by looked at him, women and men alike. He stared at his phone, texted, checked scores. She whispered sweet words of encouragement in his ear when he would look up and become despondent with the crowd of other prospective students. “What’re they having an open house for retards and fuck-ups or something?” he sighed, and she gave him a reproachful but soft look. But he went through with it, and by that afternoon he was scheduled for four classes for the upcoming Fall semester: Intro to Psychology, American Government, General Literature 1, and History of the World’s Religions. Even if he only made it through one semester, she figured, but stopped herself there. Instead she imagined herself dating a whole new guy, a new Chaz who could warn a friend against making a fundamental attribution error regarding someone’s foul mood, or debate with her dad on the crucial importance of America remaining a compound republic. Maybe in his . . . coarseness, she thought, he might learn to love the Wife of Bath from Canterbury Tales, or maybe he’d turn over a new leaf, as they say, and become a Buddhist. 

Such fantasies swam about in her head like wide-eyed goldfish as Jaime stared at her boyfriend Chaz, who was expressionless behind his Oakleys, with his mouth slightly open. He drove with one hand on the wood grain wheel of his dad’s old Mercedes and the other by the window, holding a smoking all white cigarette. His iPhone lay on his crotch and his wavy blond hair swayed slightly in the breeze coming through the window. They got on the freeway and he merged without checking his mirrors or signaling. During such moments of drawn out silence, like when he was driving, or after they'd had sex, or whenever they got drinks with her friends, she had given up on asking him what he was thinking; when he answered “nothing,” she knew he was being honest. 

“I’m really proud of you, Chaz,” she told him, and started rubbing his inner thigh. He shifted in the leather seat and turned the radio up. The Black Eyed Peas. Actually, his taste in music was the first of many things Jaime had to learn to forgive and ignore. He took some getting used to, but who could pay attention anyway when he looked like that. She needed only to see him naked, to touch his back when he fucked her, to forgive him everything - for driving like an asshole, for always having at least two TVs on at his apartment, and those TVs always showing ESPN. But college will do him good, she thought. She was proud of Chaz, and of herself, too, because she had talked him into it. Her power over him was increasing and this meant he must really love her. She pulled down the visor mirror and applied red lipstick to her smiling mouth, and then she unlatched her seatbelt and leaned over to his side of the car. 

Tuesday nights he had History of the World’s Religions, taught by Dr. Levi Straub. About a week into the Fall semester Chaz broke up with Jaime because she got her period one night that she slept at his place and the blood ruined his bed sheets. He’d pretty much stopped going to most of his classes, and only went to HotWR because he had nothing better to do anyway. And on those still warm autumnal evenings, Chaz had gotten into the habit of parking the Mercedes in the Paramount Lot on the hill behind the college where he could look out at Heinz Field. For sometimes thirty minutes he stood up there looking at the city below him and smoked and took swigs of Mountain Dew and thought about going to Steelers games with his dad as the stars appeared above and speckled below in the Allegheny. 

He usually got to class late and sat all the way in the back and checked scores and fantasy stats on his phone while Dr. Straub lectured in the front. The classroom was lit with fluorescent light and the walls were the color of mop bucket water. Chaz fidgeted and leaned forward in his desk; he slouched and spread his legs wide; he’d put his hands down his pants and play with his balls; he would scratch his ass and then rub his face and yawn dramatically. He just couldn’t seem to get comfortable at his desk, or sit still long enough to even try. And during the three hour lectures he always took several of his own breaks to go outside and smoke cigarettes and scowl at the campus and its students and ignore calls from his mother who lived with her husband in Connecticut. There was something, however, one thing, that is, about the class that Chaz found interesting, that was not a thing, but a person, and female person who probably had quite a lot to do with his nearly regular attendance. She was a skinny, big-boobed brunette; “prolly Jewish” – he’d texted his bro, Scott. She sat a few seats ahead of and to his right, and she was the object of much of his open-mouthed attention. He saw her when he came in from his breaks, and throughout the lecture he stared at her back, which was sometimes momentarily bared when she took off her hoodie and revealed a set of dimples there framed by the opening in the chair/desk. He started then referring to the young lady as Back Dimples. One night after class while he was having some beers at The Modern, he texted Scott that he wanted to fill those “tiny pools with sperm.”

On Tuesday, October 9th, at the beginning of class, Back Dimples - wearing black yoga pants and a baggy white shirt with John Lennon’s face real big on it, as she had already removed her Love Pink pink hoodie - raised her hand to inquire when the midterm was, and Chaz, indifferent to Dr. Straub’s full response, only gathered that her name was Aisha. Chaz immediately texted Scott: “back dimple's name is Iesha. Wierd name 4 white girl right." While Chaz sat in the back gnashing the screen of his phone, Dr. Straub’s went on one of his famous digressions into the story of Muhammad’s favorite wife who was left stranded in the desert when her servants failed to notice that she was not inside her litter. Instead of listening to the ending of Dr. Straub’s story Chaz searched Facebook for an Aisha who went to community college.

After Dr. Straub dismissed class, Chaz followed Aisha out of Milton Hall with the idea of asking her if she needed a lift home. He planned to suggest they get some drinks, too, and he figured she was yet underage, but that was cool. He had no intention of taking her to a bar. But then waiting for Aisha outside was some black guy who leaned against the brick wall and smoked what smelled like a Black and Mild. Aisha went to him and they embraced beneath the guy’s flat brimmed Smart Crew hat and Chaz stood and stared.

“Sup, man,” The black guy said, but Chaz ignored him, put his own fitted Starter hat on backwards, and headed up the path to the Paramount Lot. A hard rain had come the night before and the path was sluiced with deep rifts and was still muddy, but Chaz still trudged up through the mud, not caring if he ruined his Dunks, such was his mood. Overhead an airplane droned and Chaz lit another cigarette and decided he’d hit up The Modern before heading back to Shadyside.

Some fat girl at the end of the bar kept staring at him and smiling so Chaz left The Modern after only one drink and still felt shitty about missing out on fucking Aisha. He got in his car and cranked up the Mumford & Sons song that was playing and pulled out into traffic without looking. He adjusted the rearview mirror so he could see himself; to study his eyes, which were crazy blue and a little blood-shot. And if not for a text from some girl whose name he didn’t recognize asking “Sup,” he might’ve been still staring at himself instead of watching the road and seeing the young lady jaywalking in front of his Mercedes. He stamped on the breaks and was about to punch the horn until he saw how the girl's boobs bounced in her pink hoodie.

The silver Mercedes glided up behind the young lady and she heard a deep voice ask, “Hey Aisha, you need a lift somewhere?” Aisha turned around, her fists were balled up in her hoodie sleeves and she rubbed the tears off her cheeks and with great relief she saw it was the hot guy from her class and, thankfully, not some creepazoid. Still she could only stand in the middle of the road and look at him.

“Come on, get in. No matter where you need to go, I don’t mind driving you. This is a rough part of town, especially at night,” Chaz said and furtively intimated towards a group of older black ladies in nurses scrubs waiting for a bus outside a Laundromat.

“I live in Bloomfield,” Aisha finally said.

“Perfect. I live in Shadyside, you’re totally on my way.” Without waiting for a response, Chaz double parked, left the Mercedes running and, all but dragged Aisha around to the passenger side and opened her door. She got in.

“You drive an old man’s car,” Aisha said after Chaz got back in. He reached to turn down the radio, which was playing John Mayer’s “Daughters” but thought better of it as he remembered that John Mayer is a great wing man.

“So you wanna get some dranks before I take you home?” Chaz drove with one hand on the steering wheel at 12 o’clock and with the other hand he texted Scott: “Caugt a little pussycat in my trap!”

“Um . . . I’m 16,”Aisha replied.

“That’s cool,” Chaz said, “I’m 26. I got booze at my place. And I just got the new Transformers on Blu-Ray. No pressure, though. Your boyfriend would probably get pissed I guess.”

“If you’re talking about Maurice, he’s not my boyfriend anymore.”

Chaz texted Scott: “BOOYA!”

They were driving up Liberty when Aisha said, “Turn right right here. It’s a shortcut that completely bypasses all the bridge traffic.”

“What shortcut?”

“Just turn right right here. Seriously. It’s gonna blow your mind.”

Chaz swung a hard right without signaling and nearly hit a bicyclist pedaling up the shoulder.

“You’re kind of a terrible driver, dude,” Aisha said still gripping the handle above the passenger window. Her feet kicked at the crumpled cigarette packs and empty Mountain Dew bottles, but the garbage had nowhere to go but back around her ankles. Chaz sang the John Mayer song, even though it wasn't playing anymore –

“So fathers be good to your daughters, too.” –

and smiled over at Aisha. Ignoring his off-key singing, she asked to bum a smoke and Chaz gladly obliged, - tossed the pack at her - and remembered something he and his high school bros used to always say: “If she smokes, she fucks.”

Aisha’s shortcut rode alongside the railroad tracks, an obscure stretch seemingly only known by taggers. The whole length of the street was like a graffiti art gallery. The colors were alive in the moonlight, the only light on that back-alley stretch, and the tags were esoteric and almost impossible for the untrained eye to decipher. The years showed on the walls in the layers of paint as old pieces got covered by a new generation of writers.

“I feel like every time I’m through here, which is like at least once a day, I see a new piece. I think that’s pretty amazing,” Aisha said to her own reflection in the window.

“Shit’s pretty stupid, though, right? Like people need attention so badly they scribble their names on everything?” Chaz said back. He tapped Aisha on the arm and she looked over at him, “Right?”

Turning back to the look out the window, she said, “I mean corporations put up billboards everywhere without our consent, and this is like a rebellion against that, I think.”

“Yeah, but the corporations are just trying to help you, ya know? Like McDonald’s puts up a billboard that says McRib is back. That informs me. That the McRib is back. That helps me. How does seeing ‘LEROY’ in big pukey letters-” Chaz’ phone started moaning in a women’s voice and Aisha wished she was back in the North Side, wandering the streets aimlessly. The phone continued moaning in tinny ecstasy and she happened to glance over at the screen. She saw the name “Livingdead Girl” and the contact icon was of a pale angular face beneath a black hood. Chaz shifted in his seat, lit another cigarette.

Aisha turned to stare out the window again and her thoughts went back to the argument she’d had with Maurice. She’d lost the necklace he'd given her, which was a total accident, but he accused her of throwing it away because she was mad at him for saying he was moving to Brooklyn. She loved his ambition, and she had told him that, but now she realized how foolish she'd been for thinking that the very thing she loved most about him wouldn’t eventually steal him away from her. But he was talented and he wanted, desperately, to make a name for himself. And she knew, even though he told her she could, even though he told her that she must, she knew that she couldn’t go with him. Even at the self-deluding age of 16, Aisha knew what would come of that.

“So, did you need to go home right away or do you feel like going back to my place for a drink before I drop you off? Even though we’re on your shortcut, I can still bring you back later. It’s no big deal.”

“Um, honestly, I really need to sleep. I’m so beat,” Aisha said, “Turn left here onto Pearl. I appreciate the offer and the ride home especially, but I have school tomorrow.”

“Oh, alright. I just figured. Well, that’s right. You got a boyfriend, I guess.”

“No, I don’t. Like I said, we broke up. I really just need to get some sleep. I have a Physics exam tomorrow that I haven't even started studying for yet. And I still have to write a paper that I’ve already gotten like two extensions on. This is my house up here on the right, with the green and white awning,” Aisha said pointing ahead of them.

In front of the house she pointed out there idled an old black Cadillac de Ville. White smoke billowed from its tailpipe. Its windows were tinted and its burning red tail lights reflected off the shiny chrome bumper like neon blood.

“Oh shit,” Aisha said suddenly, “that’s fucking Maurice. Shit. Just let me out here. I’ll walk the rest of the way.” And then she opened the door as if to jump out before Chaz had even stopped.

“Whoa now!” Chaz grabbed hold of Aisha’s left arm, “That was redonkulous, girl! Damn! You nearly took out that car’s rearview mirror. Just relax. It’s no biggy. I’m not afraid of your dude.”

Aisha stared ahead and gripped the strap of her bag as her ride slowly made its way towards Maurice’s whip. Chaz stopped the Mercedes right beside the black Cadillac outside Aisha’s parents’ house. Maurice looked out the window and gave Aisha an incredulous look that turned to unconcealed rage as soon as he saw Chaz.

“1134 Pearl Street,” Chaz said, “I’m gonna have to remember that for when I take you out tomorrow night, right?”

“You better get outta here,” Aisha said as she made to open the door of the Mercedes. But Maurice opened his door first, and the passenger side of Maurice’s door opened, too, and both back doors. And within seconds Chaz and Aisha were sitting in Chaz’ dad’s old Mercedes surrounded by five black guys, all of them wearing black Dickies and black hoodies. Maurice stood at Aisha’s door, and some other guy stood outside Chaz’. Maurice opened the door and pulled Aisha out. She resisted him, said, “Get your hands off me!”

That pissed Chaz off. So he stepped out and the guy standing outside, with what seemed like no effort at all, put his hand on Chaz’ shoulder and shoved him right back down into the driver’s seat. The man said to Chaz: "watch your feet," and gently closed the door of the Mercedes. It took Chaz a moment to get over the initial shock of having, literally, just been put in his place. Meanwhile, Aisha and Maurice argued outside the car. Chaz just kind of stared blankly ahead and tried to swallow against his impossibly dry throat.  fun.’s “We Are Young” blared on the stereo and Chaz snapped out it in time to watch Aisha shove past Maurice and storm inside her parents’ house. Maurice tapped on the passenger window. Chaz pushed the button and the window rolled down with a casual smoothness.

“Man, turn that shit down a second,” Maurice said.

“Oh, sorry,” Chaz said and turned the radio off completely.

“It’s cool,” Maurice said,  “Just need you to hear me.”

“Alright,” Chaz said awkwardly, “I – I hear ya.”

“Thanks for giving my girl a ride home. I appreciate that.”

“Yeah, no problem, dawg,” Chaz replied.

Maurice smirked and looked over the roof of the car at the guy who’d put Chaz in his place. The guy chuckled, but his face stayed serious. Maurice adjusted his hat and put his face back in the window of the Mercedes, said, “You have a good night, my man,” and with that he and the rest of his boys got back in the black de Ville.

Chaz drove around for a while, slammed his hand against the wood grain steering wheel, fired off everything he would’ve said to Maurice if not for all of the other dudes being there. It started raining but Chaz didn’t bother turning on his wipers. He was too pissed off. He imagined himself grabbing the guy’s arm, the guy who’d shoved him back into the Mercedes, grabbing that guy’s arm and twisting it behind his back and slamming the guy’s face off the roof of the car. No doubt he’d have to dodge some bullets then, but with all the rest of the guys on the other side of the car, he could grab the gun of the guy he’d just knocked out and then Bloomfield would hear the sounds of a firefight. The neighborhood dogs would bark and the streets would run red hot with police sirens. And the authorities would only find a bunch of dead bad guys; and Aisha’s parents would probably be sad because they’d never see her again, until years later, Chaz guessed, when it was finally cool to return. Meanwhile, he and Aisha would be on their way to Mexico to start an awesome new life together.

Reeling in the cold rain she watched him drive his old silver Mercedes up to Elbow Room. She scratched at her neck when he threw his keys to the valet. She spat with no lung force so that it dribbled down her chin, which she wiped away with the sleeve of her ratty hoodie and told herself that he was a fucking mark, that he'd bite for sure; if she had to suck his dick again, so be it, he had the cash. In an effort to make herself presentable, she tugged at her skirt and pushed back her greasy black hair. He looked lnely as he stood and smoked beneath the bar’s burgundy awning. She trotted out into traffic, through the black puddles, and snuck up on him.


“Jaysa?” Chaz turned and blew smoke in her face, “Hey . . . girl. What. What's up?"

“Oooh nothin', ya know. Just creepin’ the hood. You know me, alleyway walker. Was gonna go see my‘rents, but then I remembered that they’re still up in Maine. What’s up with you? Didn’t know you were back from Munich already. Had a feeling I’d run into you here, though. But what’ve you been up to? You still going to CCAC? Did you ever end up going to Munich? Did you bang lots of ubervag? Say, you feel like doin’ some fuckin’coke by any chance? Cuz I got this guy, a new connect. Real fire shit. Dude. It’s like the best coke I’ve ever had in my life! Dude doesn’t live too far from here. Out in East Liberty. Sounds cool, though, right? Do a little coke. Maybe drink some wine,” - here she pulled – like a rabbit from a magician’s hat – a box-less bag of red wine from her messenger bag – “Just get fucking wasted and get weird like old times.”

“Actually, Jaysa, you know what? I could totally go for some fucking coke right now. I just about had to kick this dude’s ass like a minute ago and I’m just ragin’ hard right now. Coke’d probably put me over the edge, but – you know what? – I don’t really care. I’m done always playing it safe, always being Mr. Nice Guy. So, yeah, I'm down. Where’d that Mexican guy take my whip?”

“Awesome! Fucking a! Let me just borrow your phone so I can call my connect,” Jaysa said, scratching at her neck and putting her hood up only to pull it back down then put it up again. Chaz handed her his iPhone while he assayed the area for the valet attendant. Jaysa asked him for his password.

“Oh 69 Oh,” he replied, but took the phone from her anyway and unlocked it himself and handed it back.

Turned out Jaysa’s connect was actually in Lawrenceville, so that’s where they headed. While the sky hocked fat acidic loogies, Chaz related his own version of the confrontation with Maurice and his boys as he drove them down Penn Avenue. But Jaysa didn't listen, she stared out the passenger side window, scratched at her neck, and shifted volubly in the leather seat. The radio blared Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain."

“You’re gonna get us both killed, man, take it easy. And I think you’re a padiddle,” Jaysa said when Chaz had to slam on the breaks to keep from rear-ending a black Escalade that was making a left onto S. Milvale Street.

“I could’ve killed that mother fucker, you know?” Chaz said, “But I’ve got that DUI. I’ve got priors. Man, why are girls so dumb? Like, honestly, what’s she see in that guy? He’s probably a fucking drug dealer. With a car like that, I guarantee it, actually.”

“We should cut through the cemetery. It’ll be a lot quicker. Turn right up here.”

Chaz turned right without signaling and texted Scott: “Did Jaysa have gonorea or just crabs?”

Jaysa thought she noticed a scary black car that seemed to following them, but figured she was just tweakin’. The rain fell steadily and there was very little lighting in the cemetery besides the Mercedes’ headlights so Chaz was forced to keep to a slow pace. Which seemed to annoyed him a lot.
Chaz gripped the steering wheel and took a swig from a Mountain Dew lay beside his phone between his legs. What the fuck was up with Jaysa over there, he wondered. She was practically having a seizure. Had she always been so skeleton-looking? She bummed another cigarette off him and smoked it in like three puffs, said something under her breath about “fucking pussy lights.”

An old Jay-Z song came on the radio and Chaz switched the dial to the classic rock station, which was playing “Burnin’ For You.”.

“My dad loved The Beach Boys,” he shouted over to Jaysa as he cranked the volume.

“What? No, go left here, Chaz,” Jaysa shouted over a piercing guitar solo.

“I said my dad loved The Beach Boys,” Chaz said going straight through the intersection. Jaysa squinted into the rearview mirror on her side, but it was beaded with raindrops. Here bowels tickled with what she vaguely understood to be prescience.

“We gotta turn around, we’re going the wrong way,” Jaysa said and reached over to turn down the volume. Chaz grabbed her hand and squeezed and gave her a hateful look.

“Don’t fucking do that.”

“Ouch you fucking asshole! Jesus. Sorry. I won’t turn down your awful music,” Jaysa said cradling her hand.

“So where does this dude live anyway?” Chaz asked making an arbitrary right turn up a hill. Jaysa ignored him. The Mercedes drove slowly up the winding one-lane road. The headlights showed trees that stood on both sides of the road that reached down at the car. Jaysa chomped on her nails and sat hunched forward in the seat, as if trying to penetrate the twilit future before her. She looked over at Chaz who stared blankly ahead and she wanted to kill him. How could she have forgotten how dumb he was?

“Hey could you stop for a minute?” she asked him suddenly.

“What? Why?”

“I just need to - could you please just stop for a minute?”

“Alright, whatever,” Chaz said and brought the Mercedes to an abrupt halt.

Jaysa opened her door and jumped out and bolted down through the woods; without another moment’s deliberation she chose the cemetery at night over Chaz’ company.

“What the hell? Where’re you going, you crazy bitch?!” Chaz put the car in park and got out,“Hey!”

But Jaysa was gone. Vanished among the shadows of the trees and the tombstones.Chaz walked over to the passenger door and slammed it shut. “Crazy bitch! Get back here! Hey!” He kicked at nothing and punched the air and ran his hands through his hair. “Fuck!” he shouted into the rainy night, “You owe me like three cigarettes, you psycho bitch!”

Chaz called Scott, but it went straight to Scott’s voicemail, as usual. Chaz tried it again. Same thing. He tried it one more time. Straight to voicemail. Chaz left a message that went like this: “Dude call me back. I just got ditched by the fucking Livingdead Girl herself in the Allegheny Cemetery and now fuckin’ lost as shit. I’m on a hill and there’s trees and a few tombstones. I don't know, man. I'm in the cemetery and it's raining. It's fucking dark and that bitch just straight up bailed on me, dude. I hope she gets fucking raped by a pack of zombies or something. Anyway, dude, call me back. This sucks! Alright, hit me back, bro. Peace."

"Hello? Jaysa? Hello!” Chaz shouted into the night, framed in the white beam of the single headlight so that his shadow stretched almost endlessly beyond him. Fat raindrops and orange and yellow and red leaves fell all around. Chaz’ phone erupted with alarm and he looked at the screen to see an icon of tits named “Jaime.” He stared at his phone. He stood still as the lurking tombstones; as indifferent to the rain as it was to him. Finally, he looked up, tried to look into the black forest into which Jaysa had disappeared then he craned his neck back and blinked against the cold rain at the stars. Chaz did not pray then. He only cursed.

The call from Jamie ended. Chaz tried Scott again. He began another voicemail, but a familiar sweetness pierced his memory like a bullet and he dropped his phone. He turned and saw it, with a sinking of his heart, the black de Ville that had crept up behind his dad’s old silver Mercedes. A black silhouette stood  in the head lights and an orange dot burned in the middle of its shadowy face.

The next Tuesday, Dr. Straub entered his classroom and saw, with no small surprise, that it was almost entirely full. He was giving a quiz, so that was probably the reason, he knew, but still, he was pleased. He guessed he never realized just how many students had taken the class. Before he passed out the quiz, he took attendance. He was right, every student had showed up, except for one Mr. Charles Antczak, whose name he called out twice but to no response. He recalled that Mr. Antczak usually showed up late, and left early, if he was thinking of the right student, so there was still hope. He might yet have his first perfectly attended class since in the history of his being a college professor.

“Okay, now before I hand out your quizzes,” Dr. Straub said leaning against the table at the front of the desk, his reading glasses on the very tip of his nose, “are there any last minute questions regarding what we’ve went over so far in class?”

Dr. Straub scanned the room but saw only blank stares and the tops of students’heads that hovered over their phones. Aisha Reefer seemed to wear a tentative look, but when he raised his eyebrows at her, she looked down and buried her hands deep into the front pocket of her pink sweatshirt.

“Alright, then, quiz time,” Dr. Straub said, “Everybody put your phones and your notes away. The quiz is ten multiple choice and three short answer questions. Bring it up front to me when you’re done and then you’re free to go. Enjoy your Tuesday night and we’ll see you all next week."