Steve Grand “Not The End Of Me”


I just listened to the entirety of Steve Grand’s second full-length album Not The End Of Me. Many things have changed in his life and in my life since the first time I saw him perform on Pittsburgh’s Liberty Avenue stage in mid-June of 2014. Steve’s fan base continues to be small. Despite that, it still remains one of the most diverse and loyal groups of people I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with on social media.

I was out visiting my sister in New York City when the out singer’s album was initially released. I didn’t listen to it until I returned that Sunday. I was initially nervous about it. I say that because his debut album All American Boy was unique in its own light. It was the number one most funded music project in Kickstarter history. I expected Not The End of Me to live up to the honesty and authenticity of its predecessor. 

I am happy to say that my expectations were met when I finished my first listen. However, I continue to struggle with the ability to come up with the words to describe how I feel about each track on this gem by an unbelievably talented and underrated performer. I felt that when I listened to the catchy and upbeat opener “Walking.” I struggled throughout each track because each one has its own musical style, lyricism and subject matter. 

Pink Champagne makes it clear that Steve previously struggled with alcoholism. Many people in the LGBT community struggle with addiction. I think part of it is used to cover up the pain of dealing with the general hatred and discrimination many of us are subjected to. They can only cope with that stigma by resorting to whatever their addictive behavior may be. This causes the individual to become completely unaware of how dangerous their behavior can indeed be. 

“Disciple” is my favorite song on the record. The religious imagery of mother Mary and Jesus may confuse the listener and wonder what Steve is exactly trying to say. It is no secret that Christianity has a long history of anti-LGBT teachings. (I was raised Lutheran, and my hometown church previously lost membership out of opposition to the ELCA’s stance on ordaining clergy who are in a committed relationship with a person of the same sex.) 

The message of the song changes from verse one to verse two. Verse one portrays a childlike peace with the teachings of Jesus and Christianity. It changes, however, in verse two. Pain associated with the anti-LGBT teachings of the church are angering him and driving him away. The anger associated with these teachings seems to push him farther to the point to where he feels that he says he will “die happy never to hear your (Jesus’s) words again.”

“Don’t Let The Light In” makes it clear that Steve has found the love of his life. (At least throughout the four-minute and eleven-second duration of the song.) Its emotionality reminds me of his debut single “All American Boy.” I have yet to find that person whom I am more than willing to fight for. (We’ll see if and when that actually happens.) However, this song gives me four minutes and eleven seconds of hope that I will someday find that person. who truly makes me feel “Safe and Sound

“Aint It Something” also reminds me of “All American Boy” in the sense that Steve doesn’t truly get the guy in the end. We’ve all met that one person in our life who wins us over by their charm and good looks. We get the opportunity to connect, only, thinking we truly have a shot. Then, the person leaves and is never to be seen again. Fantasy is always better than reality, right? 

“Not The End Of Me” is a song that lives up to its name. It doesn’t matter how bad a break up gets. There becomes a time when we have to stand up and remind ourselves that we are still here. 

“Anti Hero” is a song about Steve’s aunt and godmother Diane Niehaus, who the entire album was dedicated to. She died from cancer in 2015. The lyrics are deep and full of emotion, which is why I also consider this track to be one of my favorites. I have never experienced the loss of someone close to me. However, I do live with Depression. I know it is a lifelong struggle, no matter how much people try to say I can magically snap out of. I never met Diane. But, I could instantly tell that she and Steve were incredibly close. “I was just a child, her love was like the ocean.” Her death pushed him into a Depression so deep that he resorted to alcohol as a way to cope with the pain he was experiencing. 

“Good To See You” reminds me of who I was during my teenage years. In particular, the second verse is particularly relevant to me. Steve talks about how he built a wall against the people who really cared about him. I was bullied a lot as a teenager, especially during freshman and sophomore year of high school. I also struggled with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome.) Difficulty relating to others put up a wall between me and those who truly wanted the best for me. Some may find it strange that he would say something so sincere towards a man whom he previously engaged in a one night stand with. I guess that is part of his personality! 

“All I Want” reminds us all of that one person whom, as the title suggests, supposedly is “the one.” There could be many reasons which may suggest that is the case. However, this person Steve is singing about just so happens to be a cheater. Deep down, he knows he truly is not worth it. His good looks seem to convince Steve into believing this guy is all he wants. (When will he learn?) I suppose the truth will catch up to him before too long! 

“You Or The Music” also lives up to its title. It is the most up-tempo song on the whole album. (I suppose it has an unintended meaning that Steve will be staying single for a while.) Steve’s busy touring schedule is bound to make it impossibly difficult to maintain a relationship with someone. He makes it abundantly clear that the music will ultimately win. 

It makes sense that “Can’t Go Back” is the closing track of the album. He says he is “running from his mind” and trying to cope with the painful experiences he has gone through. He is accepting the fact that he can’t go back and do it over again. 

These 12 tracks, along with the three demos, make Not The End Of Me hard to believe that it is only Steve Grand’s second full-length record. Steve is a talented, handsome and underrated artist who deserves more recognition than he gets. It gave me more insight into his mind and his songwriting. He was able to turn painful experiences like struggling with alcoholism and the death of his loving aunt/godmother into music. That, combined with his sheer dedication, is a talent few people have. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Have More Rights Than You?


I came across this post from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. I share a concern with many others about Pittsburgh’s lack of media sources that conform to the GLAAD Media Reference Guide. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently published a letter to their editor that proves this all too well. I must issue a content warning for homophobia and transphobia. However, my main reason for sharing this is to remind my readers that such ignorance towards the LGBT community is further enabled by media outlets that allow such content to go live on their website. 

No pride in Allegheny County

I am ashamed to live in Allegheny County, where the very liberal county government sanctions the Pittsburgh Pride Festival. Not everyone in Allegheny County shares the same views on LGBTs as our mayor. The festival gives Pittsburgh a bad image, and it doesn’t reflect the opposition to LGBT that many county residents have.

The law mandates that LGBTs cannot be objects of discrimination. Indeed, sometimes I think they have more rights than straight people. Sometimes I feel my rights are being taken away.

It is not 1984. I have the right to hold my personal opinion on homosexuality and transgender. I believe both are immoral and perverted. Keep it to yourself, and you don’t deserve any special treatment. Bisexuals can spread AIDS to the straight community.

Westmoreland County officials and residents have it right: Don’t discriminate, but don’t encourage LGBTs. Opponents of LGBTs should be able to express their opinion without ridicule or government harassment. The First Amendment applies to everyone, not just the LGBTs.

Kathleen Bollinger

Fawn

https://triblive.com/opinion/letters/13861850-74/letter-to-the-editor-ashamed-of-allegheny-countys-pride

 

7 Reasons Why LGBTQ+ People Don’t Want to Go to Your LGBTQ+ Inclusive Church


Please listen to LGBTQ folks when they express concerns about the points made here!

The•Bookish•Bear•Blog

SWEDEN-GAY-MARIAGE

So your church is LGBTQ affirming. Congratulations, your denomination has most likely endured years of internal strife and division, and come out on the side of inclusivity. This isn’t something to be taken for granted – entire denominations have split over this question, and still others seem not at all willing to budge on their centuries-worth of LGBTQ intolerance. Yet, as you go to church week after week, you ask your gay or trans friends to join you and you receive a bewildering response. They’re just not interested.

They may seem blasé about it. They may feel a tinge of embarrassment, as if you’d asked them to lunch at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Still others may seem threatened, if not hostile to the idea altogether.

“We’re not those kinds of Christians!” you reassure them, in vain. “We welcome everybody!”

That may be the case, and your church may have made great…

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Connecting The Life With the Works of Edgar Allan Poe


The works of Edgar Allan Poe continue to be some of the most iconic pieces of American Literature to this day. He was known for his poetry, short stories, and literary criticism. It is a challenge to select which works to write about, considering there are so many of them. Naturally, most writers base varying degrees of their work on the writer’s upbringing and life experiences. There is an entire form of literary criticism devoted towards showing the relationship between the life of an author and their literary works. It is called Biographical criticism. It does not always provide definite answers to questions about the text. But, it gives insight into how the author uses their creative process in establishing things like characters, setting, and tone of the story.

Probably his most iconic work is The Raven. One aspect of the text that has been questioned with regards to its relationship with Poe’s life is it’s reference to the lost Lenore. It seems understandable that one may think Lenore could be a reference to wife Virginia Poe (Norton 733.) Virginia died just three years after the poem’s original publication in 1845. The melancholy tone of its unnamed narrator resonates with readers and poets alike. Jorie Graham indicates such in her critical piece about The Raven. She states The Raven’s uttering of nevermore serve as reminders of the fact that the death of a loved one is not only inevitable, as in without option and without another side (Jorie 238). The Raven itself is merely reminding the narrator of that fact in its croaking of nevermore. Of course, laughing at the Raven and dismissing it as a visitor turn the man into a satanic rage.

                        “Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend,” I shrieked upstarting-

“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian Shore!

Leave no black plue as a token of that lie thy soul has spoken!

Leave my lonliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door!

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.” (Poe 3.)

Of course, readers will find connections with Poe’s life in more than just his most notable poem The Raven. It is important to remember that biographical criticism is often tied in with historical criticism. The Pit and the Pendulum is set during the Spanish Inquisition. The unnamed male narrator managed to escape a brutal execution by a scythe hanging on the bottom of a pendulum. He was presumably sentenced to execution because he went against the teachings of the Catholic church. Poe published the poem just nine years after the Spanish Inquisition officially disbanded in 1834. He obviously did not live in Spain while the Inquisition was coming to an end. Therefore, the most likely explanation for such a brutal and graphic portrayal was to show the horrors of an execution, despite its lack of historical accuracy.

Reading the biography in the 9th edition to the Norton Anthology of American Literature might cause a reader to presume that he experienced abuse in the foster family he was adopted into after mother Elizabeth Poe died in 1811 and father David Poe abandoned his family. Some may say that despite lack of any specific indication inside of the text. It indicates there were “hostilities” between Poe and stepfather Allan after Allan’s law firm failed in 1824 (Norton 731.) Later in life, Poe’s struggles with alcohol abuse and his lack of financial stability plagued him throughout his life. University of Massachusetts alumni Jennifer Bouchard indicates that both Tell-Tale Heart and The Cask of Amontillado provide into the demons in the human brain (Bouchard 3.) There are several lines in the text which offer some autobiographical context into his writing style. One can see after reading Tell-Tale Heart that Poe was very meticulous with regards to crafting his characters and ensuring the reader catches the matter of fact style of writing Poe crafts for this unnamed male narrator who just committed a brutal, yet well thought out, act of murder.

If you still think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye – not even his could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash out – no stain of any kind – no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all – ha ha! (Poe 3.)

As stated earlier, Poe was most widely known for writing short stories. The Fall of the House of Usher is one of his few works which would be considered the length of a novella. It is unique to his writing style because it departs from his usual gory and violent stories. Due to this, it is more challenging to find biographical contexts within the story. The unnamed male narrator is visiting the home of a childhood friend. Said friend, named Roderick, has an unspecified mental disorder. Wife Madeline dies from being seriously ill and needing constant care. The characters mental state continues to dwindle as the story goes on. Literary scholars suggest that Madeline and Roderick are caricatures of Poe and his deceased wife Virginia. The Fall Of the House of Usher was published one year after Poe’s mysterious death in 1849 (Norton 733.) One can find elements of Poe’s coping with the loss of Virginia throughout the story.

Hitherto she had steadily borne up against the pressure of her malady, and had not betaken herself finally to the bed; but, on the closing in the evening of my arrival at the house she succumbed (as her brother told me at night with inexpressible agitation.) to the prostrating power of the destroyer; and I learned that the glimpse I had obtained of her person would thus probably be the last I should obtain – that the lady, at least while living, would be seen by me no more. (Poe 4.)

It is no secret that the works of Edgar Allan Poe continue to be read and criticized to this day. They resonate with readers because they’re reminded about how reminders of how one copes with death, wrongful execution, the demons in one’s brain and mental illness. The world didn’t get to know many of his works until after his death. Therefore, one can only use the text itself to determine which aspects of his life are relevant. It shows how even the most painful experiences in one’s life can be turned into a literary masterpiece.

You Are A Liar! (My Thoughts About The “High Functioning” Label)


My double minority life as a gay man with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome) has more than it’s fair share of excruciating challenges. I do not demand people to feel sorry for me when I share even the most painful experiences. Not everyone is going to understand how it feels to live with my condition. Nor do I expect praise from people who are willing to read about my life. It can be easy for me to come off as such a person. However, I know I am far from the type of person who demands metals and trophies just for writing about my life. Demanding praise and adoration is only going to result in the exact opposite. 

I know there is a lot of diversity in the Autism community. People like Dr. Temple Grandin refer to Autism as a continuum, that ranges from nonverbal to traits that are more characteristic of Asperger’s Syndrome. I have never been a fan of functioning labels. I have many reasons for that. This quote below is the one which stood out to me the most. It comes from the Autism wiki and is regarding the high functioning label. 

It minimizes the need for support and may make it harder to ask for help.

http://autism.wikia.com/wiki/Functioning_Labels

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people claim that I am lying about my diagnosis only because I don’t exhibit the characteristics associated with low functioning Autism. I am not running around, screaming, throwing feces and lashing out. I have the ability to communicate verbally. I know that our society doesn’t consider that to be an acceptable way to communicate my frustrations. I cannot think of anything else that leads to such ignorance than the high functioning label. It leads to the assumption that Autism is a contest. The child with the most “severe” traits receives an “A” a grade on their Autism report card. The graders are people who simply base their perception of what constitutes as “legitimate Autism” on the one person whom they happen to know. 

I now know that Autism is a much more complex neurological disorder than our society likes to think it is. Another major problem many have with the high functioning label is that it can cause the individual to believe they are more superior others who have ASD. As indicated on the Autism wiki page, this mindset can cause the child to grow up to behave disrespectfully towards those whose struggles are different or more significant from their own. I am not proud to admit that I was guilty of such a thing back in my teenage years. I internalized the bullying and social stigma my peers subjected me to.

I used my experiences with bullying as an excuse to completely shut out those who also understand how it feels to be different. I like to think those who accuse me of lying about my diagnosis will change their minds after reading my admission of such a statement. However, I can only change the minds of those who are willing to listen to me. They say the steps towards becoming an active listener are pay attention, show that you are listening, provide feedback and respond appropriately. Such a statement should apply to one’s own words and thoughts just as much (if not more) than it does for those of others. I still have trouble doing those things when I experience depression and anxiety over situations which most people wouldn’t experience such feelings. 

I know my high functioning label never will be absolute. It changes from day to day and situation to situation. I cannot seem to come up with any other way to explain that, other than to say that it depends on the person I am dealing with and the environment that I am in on that particular day and during that particular situation. That is one of the things neurotypical I wish neurotypical people understood. Despite such ignorance, I know that to be true. I know that I will only need to prove that fact to myself. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Bought A Journal


You may tell by the title that I haven’t been writing as much as I would like to be. I have found that sitting in front of the computer, trying to come up with something that people will want to read is only going to cause my cursor to blink and blink in front of a blank document. Thus, I ordered a journal and have begun writing inside of it each day. I have found that I am much too formal when I am sitting here in front of the computer. Things like content and formatting prevent me from making progress by actually writing something. Add that with worrying about whether people will actually want to read what I have to say.

Yes, we need to know the importance of sharing our writing with other people for the sake of getting honest feedback. I realize that is what professional writers do. However, I think we all need at least one place where nobody else but I will read the things I place inside of it. That is precisely why I bought a journal. I need at least one place where I don’t have to think about any of the formalities associated with submitting my writing to someone who is going to evaluate it.  Sitting in front of my computer certainly is not going to help me achieve that.

I simply take five to ten minutes each day and write whatever comes to my mind. I do it simply to achieve the task of getting my thoughts on paper. I often do think of good ideas for content when I am laying down in bed, or, on the ground playing with my dog. There is one problem with that. I tend to forget about it a few minutes later. I fall back into that rut when I sit at my computer and try to come up with something that people will actually want to read. This is why I think this journal will help me in the long run. I can refer back to it and use my entries as ideas for content.

 

 

 

 

 

I Think I Can Be That Train


I’ve grown accustomed to hearing the sound of those mighty machines when I walk through many of the towns here in Western Pennsylvania. For that reason, I don’t typically pay attention to them when I hear their rumble. I am still, however, reminded of the prominent symbolism that many cultures throughout the world share with those of us here in the United States of America. One of my favorite songs on country music singer Chely Wright’s 2013 album Lifted off the Ground is a song called “That Train.” The lyrics are simply musings about the fact that she wants to be a mighty machine “made of rivets, made of steel, and built for speed.”

I wonder what inspired Wright to pen a song where she personifies herself as a piece of machinery that has become an everyday sight for people in towns across the world. Was it the numerous movies and works of literature which symbolize trains as symbols of determination to fulfill a mission? Did she feel inspired by characters reuniting after a summer apart in the Harry Potter movies and the sense of adventure in the Polar Express are just a few examples. Or, did she see one in her dreams? It suggests the person will stop at nothing to get to that destination. No matter if it is as specific as Chicago’s Union Station or abstract as achieving success in one’s terms.

I wanna be that train
I wanna be that free
Hang onto that track is all they’ll ever ask of me
Smooth heavy wheels to roll me away
I wanna be that train

Some people might suggest that a railroad resembles restrictions of ones freedom in life. Wright makes that clear in the first line where she expresses that she could never physically do what a train is intended to do. I agree with that to a certain extent. The only way a train can travel to its destination is if it stays on the track which humans previously constructed for it to do so. Making a note of the preceding statement is one reason why I have difficulty personifying myself as a mighty locomotive. We are all bound to go through experiences where the only way we can get through it is to “hang onto the track.” I can picture how I would handle being the engineer of a train in a dark tunnel. I would move as slowly and as cautiously as possible out of fear that the “light at the end of the tunnel” would be a fiery trap disguised to look like the world outside.

I feel I must clarify the points I made in the previous paragraph. I can remember one time in my life where “hanging onto the track” was the only way I could get through it. High school was an example of such an experience. Being different and in high school can be unbearable at times. I have written about my experiences with bullying at great length in the past. I no longer desire to do so now. I merely say that because I am here now. I can do more than learn from my own experiences; I can listen to people who have experienced dark tunnels of their own. 

I’d get to see the mountains and the planes from coast to coast
Many might adore me but they wouldn’t get too close
I’d never be that lonely ’cause my engine and caboose,
Wouldn’t leave me, we’d be bound
Yeah, we’d be breakin’ loose

It may be difficult for me to picture myself as a mighty piece of machinery, made of rivets, steel and built for speed. But, there becomes a time when we all must embrace our inner train. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (Arnold Munk) immediately came to my mind when I wrote that sentence. It doesn’t matter if the ultimate reward is getting to see mountains and the planes from coast to coast, or, bringing toys and good food for children to eat. We all need to know how fulfilling it can be to hang onto that track. I say that even when dark tunnels compel us to stop dead in our tracks out of fear that our mission will not be successful.

Some may question why I felt the need to write about a simple song by underrated country music singer Chely Wright. Nevertheless, it is a song I can learn from as one year ends and another begins. I hope you can learn from it too.