So in case anyone missed it, we moved to Jersey City just under a month ago. Following the move, I went back to the old apartment in West New York six miles north of the new place and cleaned for about four hours, with the hope that we would get our full security deposit back.
That happened, easily enough. We re-owned $1,282, the amount of money put down for the West New York apartment. I wasn’t really sure of what we were going to do with the money, but that opportunity presented itself when I ran into my old friend Rich Cunningham.
Now I’ve known Rich since I was, oh, about 16 or 17. And he was looking to get rid of a car, his 2000 Ford Focus. For almost four years now, I’ve driven a 1992 Volvo 740. The car treated me pretty well, but it’s also consistently cost a lot of money. Take any auto part you can think of and add the name ‘Volvo’ to the front of it, and for some reason, the price goes way up. I think it has something to do with the words ‘Swedish’ and ‘luxury,’ but no one’s ever told me. That said, Volvo head lamps, windshields, catalytic converters and electrical systems slowly but surely made me irritated with the Volvo. And then West New York happened, and the car went downhill fast. First, the door to get into the fuel tank fell off, and then both the front and rear head lamps were smashed in by haphazard parallel parking. And finally, not far from home, the car was t-boned by some idiot in a brand new BMW. It was still driveable, but would never pass inspection again unless I dumped $1,500 into repairs following the t-bone incident. So I knew the Volvo’s days were sadly numbered. I was actually looking forward to the day when I wouldn’t have to worry about alternate side parking, and could instead walk down the street and jump in a Zipcar on days when I needed to drive somewhere.
But then, after running into Rich and his Focus, I hate to say it, but sensibility got the best of me. There’s actually room to park on our street, and in the case of an emergency, having a car isn’t such a bad thing. So we bought the Focus.
This morning, I went to the DMV to register the car. After about an hour, I was out of there with title, registration and plates. Then we had to go pick up the car in Central Jersey. 35 miles later, I bolted the new plates on, put the paperwork in the car and drove it back home.
But the day doesn’t end there. I now had to get a parking permit. And to do so, I needed a driver’s license with my current street address on it. So back to the DMV I went. Round two, 6 points of identification verification and $24 later, I had a new driver’s license with my current address on it, which now matched my new title and registration.
By now, it was nearing 4:10 PM. Walk back home again, download the Jersey City Parking Authority Permit application, fill it out and call the parking authority. They said they were closing at 4:30, so I pedaled my ass off down the street with my new license, registration and application, only to find that they’re actually open till 8 PM. $15 later, I had a parking sticker for the new car that lasts for an entire year.
Pedal home again, put the sticker in the back window so it’s street legal, and finally, move the car to the other side of the street so that we can sleep in tomorrow without having to move the car on account of alternate side parking rules.
I like living here, but man oh man, government bureaucracy sure has a way of making me wanna kill myself. I could never do that to my family though. There’s just way too much paperwork involved.
(This is a few years old, before the release of At Home With, Owen’s 4th studio album.)
Owen is the work of one person; a veteran of the Chicago indie scene named Mike Kinsella. The music he creates as Owen can best be described as ‘alone music,’ which works wonders during one on one sessions pinning the solo listener against the solo artist. I don’t personally know too many people that are comfortable sitting down with me and discussing their deepest shortcomings in a musical sort of anonymous therapy session, but Kinsella and Owen are among that chosen few. Kinsella has the uncanny ability to musically personify introspection, but he does it in a way that doesn’t scream “Help me, I’m a wounded emo boy.” He’s comforting and reassuring and in no way self-pitying. Owen recently released his (or their) third album, and Mike was kind enough to answer some questions about the endeavor….
To begin with, if you don’t mind me asking, I was always curious what happened to your former band American Football?
Two of us were graduating college and moving back home, so we recorded the full length and called it quits.
Why is the project called Owen as opposed to Mike Kinsella or the Mike Kinsella Band or anything along those lines? Are you afraid of the singer/songwriter tag?
Yeah, I like the fact that people might hear the music and not know if it’s a band of one guy or what have you. And I just kind of like the name ‘OWEN’ better than ‘MIKE.’
How does your approach to Owen differ from that of the bands that you’ve been a part of? What projects outside of Owen are you also currently involved in?
I can write on my own time and tour when I want and record when I want. It’s pretty ideal actually (especially for a guy who doesn’t like band practice…). I’m playing part time with Joan of Arc still and I’m writing songs for my other band, Shirts and Skins.
Can you explain what the title of the new album (‘I Do Perceive’) means?
I’m attracted to simply stated things, and ‘I Do Perceive’ is just about as simple a statement as I could come up with.
I read a quote from you about Owen’s 2nd album (No Good For No One Now) where you said that it was a reaction to what you thought about Owen’s first album. What would that make ‘I Do Perceive’ then? Is it reactionary to ‘No Good For No One Now’ or (the ep)?
Yeah, I think ‘I Do Perceive’ falls somewhere between the first two full lengths. The first one has a lot of drones and is more atmospheric, while the second one is more stripped down acoustic. This one is like stripped down acoustic stuff with drones on top of it, or that’s how I hear it as a whole, anyway.
What changes has Owen undergone since its beginnings? Is it now more of a collaborative effort than it previously had been?
The songs are pretty much written by myself, but I’ve been getting some more help than before filling them out. My cousin Nate played cello on a few songs and helped me mix ‘I Do Perceive,’ and I think it added a lot, so I’m definitely going to ask him to come around again.
What are the benefits of recording Owen in a bedroom rather than a studio?
Oh, there are too many to list. I can take all the time I want to place mics in different positions. I can eat all my mom’s food. I can watch her cable, I can shoot baskets on the driveway…
Are the songs on ‘I Do Perceive’ difficult to translate into a live setting?
Actually, I just figured out that yeah, they are. I toured this past month and tried some of the new songs with just me and a guitar and most of them seemed to drag on, so I ended up only playing a few of them.
Finally, have you ever ridden BMX?
Yeah, but just for transportation. Nothing fancy…
We’re taking a little break from etymology. I hope you don’t mind. Besides, I figured this was kinda important. Republican vice-presidential candidate isn’t down with BMX.
Before Sarah Palin was nominated as the republican vice-presidential candidate, and before she was the governor of Alaska, she was the mayor of an Alaskan town known as Wasilia for six years. During her tenure, she supported penalties for using bikes, skateboards and other similar recreational devices on public or private property in Wasilia following the construction of a skatepark in the town that cost $233,000. According to Alaska’s Frontiersman, “Palin supported penalties against any person using skateboards, in-line skates, bicycles, scooters (or any other recreational, non-motorized wheeled device) on public or private property where signs are posted forbidding their use.” So the town had a skatepark, which is respectable, but if you were caught doing anything recreational on your bike or skateboard outside of the park, you could be fined.
Now think about it. How often do you see signs saying that skateboards, bikes and in-line skates are forbidden? Personally, I see them all the time, all over the place. And I ignore them. Like everyone else does. But under the incumbent vice-presidential candidate, ignoring these signs and riding your bike and/or skateboard wherever you please is gonna hurt your wallet and get your bike and/or board confiscated. According to the ordinance, which was passed in Wasilia, “The penalty for first-time violators of the ordinance is a written warning and the skate device may be confiscated for 10 calendar days. For a second offense, a $50 fine shall be paid and the skate device may be confiscated for 30 calendar days. A third-time offender will have to pay a $100 fine and will lose his or her skate device permanently.” [Frontiersman, 9/18/98]
Now it’s cool that the town of Wasilia had a skatepark, but simply allotting one place to use bikes, skateboards, in-line skates and even scooters is never the answer. BMX and skateboarding (hell, in-line and razor scooters too maybe?) were created because anyone could do it anywhere. You didn’t need a specific field or a team to progress. And above all that, breaking the rules and stepping outside the boundaries of standardized thinking is not only encouraged in both BMX and skateboarding, it’s become an accepted norm in society.
Not in Sarah Palin’s world though. Now I know this ordinance was passed ten years ago, and a lot has changed since then, but at the time, she had to make a choice on an issue, and I personally don’t agree with her judgement. Maybe she didn’t know better? Or maybe there was some dude outside her City Hall window trying kickflips for days on end and failing miserably? (Skateboards are loud in case you hadn’t noticed.) Or maybe she just doesn’t get it? Whatever the case may be, she wanted bikes and skateboards off the streets of her town. And in the words of Borat, “It is not good for me!”
So, if you’re of age this coming November and enjoy riding your BMX bike wherever you goddamn please, keep this in mind.
New T-Mobile English
1: The act of utilizing a mobile phone in any number of situations when a person may be alone in order to mitigate lonely feelings. <I called Leland on the walk home from the Path Train so I wouldn’t feel so phonely.>