Pakistan. “Rock and roll is classist”

That’s what my friend said, this girl I once knew — this girl I once traipsed the earth’s ceiling with, trading transcontinental approaches to feminism that were really all the same, recycled western approach to feminism.

I watched that documentary last week. We debated it fiercely once, in a Land Rover, somewhere between Chitral and Rumbor. I argued that punk was real and that, that was an art project — argued even though I hadn’t seen the documentary and had no frame of reference. But it’s theoretical, so what does it matter anyway?

My friend is in New York now. And that documentary reminded me of things. You have the privileged Pakistanis, and you have the 99 percent. We have our 99 percent, too. But our 99 percent has drinking water. No one walks ankle-deep in shit.

My Pakistani friends defy all the stereotypes.

Some are religious. They don’t drink, they dress traditionally, they’ll marry other Muslims. They are all rich, but some are richer than others. My closest friends were the poorest of the wealthy. In Pakistan, there is no middle class. There are tiers of posh, tiers of poor. There is the one, and the Others.

The religious girl would take the train alone from Karachi to Lahore, would wedge against strangers in the filthy, open air ferry to Manora, the propellers churning fuel all around. That ferry was unlike any American ferry I’ve known. It was this motorized canoe, overloaded with passengers, and we were all one with the fumes and the raw sewage and the murky water. One woman who wet her dupatta and rubbed her baby’s face. And this girl, my friend, bought some dough to feed the birds, or the fish, I can’t remember, and she handed me half the ball. This girl will go to Canada for grad school, will speak better than I do in my native tongue, will choose her path deliberately, even if her path will ultimately be a traditional marriage with children.

The other Others: I forgot how much they drink, how childish and under-developed certain things are. It feels stunted living with your parents as an adult, seeking their permission, asking to take a car. Buying your liquor from bootleggers, feeling like you have to finish it all. Drinking on Friday nights in your friends’ bedrooms, or maybe in their gardens or on their roofs, if you’re luckier. Drinking desperately because there is no other way and you can’t see where this is going. Or can they see, and I just can’t understand how they can want where this is going?

I don’t mind if you’re square, as long as you’re active. Active is alive.

Up north, it was about the lushness. It wasn’t just about the wilderness, it was about the wildness. About being tracked by Military Intelligence, being unable to get a plane out. About being tracked in a place that was called, until recently, The North-West Frontier Province. It was the thrill of being hunted, however half-heartedly. The illusion of escape among the car-wide passages through rocks. All the times we rolled back, all the times we nearly tumbled off the cliffs.

Downtown yuppies protest a homeless veterans treatment center in Little Rock

Last week I wrote a story about the controversy surrounding the relocation of a V.A. treatment center, from one neighborhood to another in downtown Little Rock. The center has been largely effective at getting homeless vets with substance abuse problems into rehab and permanent housing. The place needs more space, but for a decade now, each time they seek to move, they run straight into bureaucratic roadblocks. Largely, it’s a “not in my backyard” phenomena, made even meaner and more outrageous because the area in question has belonged to the homeless, has been their neighborhood (and still very much is their neighborhood) for much longer than it’s belonged to the handful of yuppies revitalizing a few of the gorgeous, old houses. If you can’t take true diversity folks, stay in the ‘burbs!

Anthony Stallcup, left, credits the VA Center with getting him off the streets.

Anyhow, here’s my story.

Black Belles headline Valley of the Vapors

So we finally made it to Valley of the Vapors on the fourth night. (Hey, we work, and it’s a drive…) The venue was great — plenty of space, a real stage with wrap-around curtains (tightens sound, keeps those waves from bouncing around), great techie stuff (lights, sound) — just all around kudos. The crowd was mixed (it’s all-ages, with armbands for beer) and there was a healthy mosh pit for half the show.

Ruby Rogers, bass player for the Black Belles

We got there at 8 p.m., so we came in on the second band, the Svetlanas — a punky thrash rock foursome from Italy that pretends to be from Russia. (All their songs are about the KGB and occasionally, there’s a Russian word tossed in, compliments of the half-Russian singer.) Their sound is reminiscent of early ’80s hardcore, still influenced by the rolling lines and snakey, swaggering rhythms of ’70s rock ‘n’ roll. Their performance was conceptual and theatrical, with a large dose of the magic coming from the gnarly, animated female vocalist. She destroyed the gap between audience and band, jumping into the mosh pit and later offering up her mic during a cover of The Runaways hit “Cherry Bomb.” Think Wendy O. and the Plasmatics with less flash and props.

Keep reading at the Arkansas Times.

Vignette for androids

I’m truly sad that I can’t use instagram, but at least there’s vignette for effects….

Here’s a couple of phone pics I snapped on my Sunday afternoon bike ride on the fringes of downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.

straddling Arkansas and Mississippi

Pearl and the Beard and Valley of the Vapors

So I got to see them after all. They came through Little Rock last week, and I’ve been listening to Killing the Darlings nonstop since. Here’s my show recap at the Times.

Also went to the downtown St. Paddy’s block party yesterday, which was no Sweet Potato Queens-infused Hal and Mal’s shindig, to be sure. Everyone was drinking and no one seemed to be having fun. It was pretty sad, so I didn’t stay long. But these kids were amazing — a mosh pit of two!

It’s spring, and good things happen in spring. In fact, this amazing music festival is happening in Hot Springs next week — and I have to say, I’m partial to Wednesday and Thursday’s line up. See y’all there?