Shuffle Synchronicities 257
Guest Post by Crash Barbosa + "Pancho And Lefty" by Townes Van Zandt - 10/01/21
Welcome again to Shuffle Synchronicities by me, Dave Cowen.
An unusual mix of music & memoir.
Every day I Shuffle my Spotify Liked Songs playlist (42,168 and counting), then write how the song Synchronizes with my life and maybe yours ;)
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Today we have a guest post from musician and activist and more, Crash Barbosa, who I met via artist Ethan Lipsitz’s Love Extremist community. Crash’s energy on Ethan’s Bright event video call was magnetic, and I immediately reached out to him after it concluded. Soon after we discovered we are both diagnosed as bipolar, and so we set a plan to do a guest post to collaborate on that if it’s what the Shuffle gods seemed to communicate. And as you will see, sure enough, the spirits came through.
Here’s a more formal bio!
Crash Barbosa (he/him) is a recording artist, Activist, and political organizer from New York, now living in Los Angeles. Crash is Formerly Incarcerated, for a crime he didn’t commit. Sadly, in America, you’re better off Rich and Guilty than Poor and Innocent. Crash was Politically targeted by a Far Right County, and only became more radicalized, if that was even possible. Crash is also Disabled. Coming from the Ownership Class, and rejecting its values, Crash has become what “white America” considers a serious problem. Crash has seen first hand how toxic America’s “Rat Race” is, and continues to be in toward families, and the Communities those families occupy. Crash is a Musician, Activist, and Organizer in Los Angeles, specifically working in based Activism around Racial Justice, Abolition, Community Care, Feminism, Mental Health Advocacy, Animal Rights, and Policy. Crash is currently working on further Legislation after California’s big wins toward Abolition in 2020, continuing to speak truth to Power. His Instagram can be found here.
OK, take it away, Crash!
“Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger
An Analysis of Bipolar 1
Crash Barbosa (he/hin)
It was incredible to hear this song on my shuffle playlist. This song came out when I was 8 years old. Until the day before yesterday, I hadn’t understood that this song was more than a “90’s anthem of nihilistic party vibes that defined much of white American culture in the 1990’s. There was a strange angst in the Country. Hearing this come up, after years of “hearing” yet never “listening” to the song, I realized this song exemplifies a Disorder I’ve been Diagnosed as Totally and Permanently Disabled (TPD) for myself: Bipolar 1 Disorder.
“I had visions, I was in them
I was looking into the mirror
To see a little bit clearer
The rottenness and evil in me”
This lyric EXEMPLIFIES my life. The only thing I’ve ever been afraid of is what I see in the mirror. When I make eye contact with that reflection, that’s the only thing that has ever made me feel fear in a Human form. Being trapped in my head is not a joke. I wish more people who suffered from things like this, with the TOXIC levels of self critique, the World would be a healthier and less Patriarchal place. Period. I love the. Honesty and vulnerability implied with that line as well. It's such an amazing example of my mornings. I’m only half kidding. This leads to endless procrastination which can deeply effect my own efforts as a Musician, Owner of my Clothing Company, and Abolitionist. It’s a struggle day to day. I just LOOK ok. Lol.
Chorus: “I’m not sick but I’m not well
And I’m so hot ‘cause I’m in hell”
Soooo many levels of this in my life. “I’m not sick, but I’m not well” is the most empowering line for somebody like me. Regardless of how “sick” somebody is, we should all be more open and honest about this, and more importantly, completely ok with it. We’re always going to be learning and unlearning. That’s growth. We have to be ok with the lack of perfectionism. I’m really sick too. I can be open about that and laugh it off though, I’m going to be ok. We all will be if we care for one another. Don’t take anything too seriously please, that ruins everything that matters. “I’m so hot cause I’m in Hell” is the TRUTH!!!! Women tell me I’m “Hot” I tell them “I’m a reflection of Society, and Society is ugly.” Thinking about that now, I’m fairly certain that’s why I’m currently single. Lmfao. This is another creative block, as well as inspiration. Life can be a double edged sword. We can be ok with that.
“Put me in the hospital for nerves
And then they had to commit me
You told them all I was crazy
They cut off my legs, now I’m an amputee
God damn you”
If I’m being 100% honest, this song stirs up troubled memories and general fear of State Sanctioned Violence for me. I’ve been “51/50’d” countless times, mostly prior to the age of 18. Nobody knew what to do with a newly Bipolar teenager. They thought they called for help. Instead of help, cops came. I was brutalized by the State and locked in padded doors without any Hunan Rights for being mentally ill with regularity. I was lucky, because I was born 30-45 years after the days of folks like myself being given Lobotomies as a normal practice by the age of 12. I’m lucky we’ve come so far. That’s a very sarcastic remark. The United States has a disturbing trend of harming the Disabled and Mentally Ill with Rubber Bullets, Beanbags, Shackles, and Bullets. I know firsthand on all except the fourth. That doesn’t mean a cop has never fired a weapon at me. I’m missing a tooth due to the Handle of an LAPD 9mm. That’s not ok, and it’s standard. There’s tension here.
“I want to publish ‘zines
And rage against machines
I was to pierce my tongue
It doesn’t hurt, it feels fine”
This part so much though!!!! Fuck Capitalism. I had a tattoo across my throat as a Senior in High School. Fuck the System. That’s my shit right there. Unfortunately that outlook can be interpreted multiple ways, which can cause harm. Our generation saw so many suicides and overdoses around us, and have shed too many tears for those who aren’t with us. As I write this, the Pandemic rages, and Overdose rates are skyrocketing. Very little Media attention. If you struggle with mental illness or suicidal thoughts, please don’t make a permanent choice for a temporary problem. I don’t always feel like I’m ok. Society is sick.
Everybody’s coming to get me
Just say that you never met me
I’m running underground with the moles and digging holes Hear the voices in my head
I swear to God it sounds like they’re snoring
But if you’re bored then you’re boring
The agony and the irony,
They’re killing me”
This is the most surreal part of the song for somebody as sick or “same sick” as myself. I’m constantly and VERY unjustifiably paranoid that my own friends are trying to plot my demise. For what reason, I’m never sure. I’m just sick, and I don’t listen to that voice in my head. Sometimes that voice is right though, or that “gut instinct” maybe, I don’t know. I’m cool with not knowing. The more I let go, the easier life is. For sure though, everybody is digging holes, because I’m gate kept to the underground, and everybody wants me dead. Just kidding, but that’s what Bipolar Disorder tells me all the time. I choose to ignore that. When those voices cease to exist, I’m semi agoraphobic, and bored. “Bored people are boring people,” is what the Patriarchy wants us all to think. Maybe its just the Capitalists, not just the Patriarchy. Fuck the Patriarchy anyway. The agony and irony of Society, Individuals, Myself, and my Place in Society, are killing me slowly. Shout out to that fact Harvey Danger. Lol. I wish I was more kidding. I have to stay boring, or my life can get Manic, on the quickness. Ironically, I’m in constant conflict with a lack of Mania without its existence. This is a constant struggle for emotional stability, and a battle against my inner self. That circles back to the beginning of the song, where I look at myself in the mirror, in true awe, for better or for worse.
Crash! That was so raw and real!! Just like I thought it was going to be!!!
Thanks so much for sharing your experience and wow what a Shuffle Synchronicity to get that Harvey Danger song about struggles with both mental illness and activism which feels so on point clearly.
I also really like the second line in the chorus:
I'm not sick but I'm not well
And it's a sin to live so well
Which resonates it seems with both of our experiences of ‘mania’.
In that it is in a way ‘living well’.
Too well it seems.
Not just for yourself.
But for other people.
So much for both that it’s viewed as a sin in a way.
Not to glorify it too much, but just to say that it’s a mixture of what Kanye says on his album cover for ye.
I will say that my own experience of that negative, sometimes paranoid inner critic voice that we both seem to have in very varying and different degrees has abated quite a bit recently, and I wish some of the same healing to you, if you want it, and don’t think it will take the edge off your other goals.
My song today seems to have synchronized well with yours.
Pancho And Lefty by Townes Van Zandt
We covered a lot about this song in post 112 on Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s version and the history of Townes Van Zandt and his writing of the song.
But it’s interesting to point out that Townes Van Zandt is also a Bipolar artist:
He suffered from a series of drug addictions and alcoholism and was given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
When he was young, the now-discredited insulin shock therapy erased much of his long-term memory. Afterward, his mother claimed her "biggest regret in life was that she had allowed that treatment to occur."
Like Crash, if I was a generation or two younger I could have also received crude treatments like Van Zandt’s insulin shock therapy or perhaps even lobotomies.
Also the song itself is about criminality and outsiderhood, which seems to resonate with the life experience Crash shared in his bio and in his post of being formerly incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit and of how he’s gate kept to the underground.
And though I don’t know Crash’s life that well, from what I heard on our Bright video call with Ethan, Crash reported that he lacked a fear of almost anything, which I believe he said was both a good and a bad thing.
Similarly, The LA Review of Books wrote of Van Zandt:
He seemed to taunt oblivion, gambling away his last possessions, even his gold teeth, letting himself fall from a fourth-story balcony to see “what it felt like,” and generally until the end of his days, performing myth-making acts of excess in defiance of the human body’s capacity for abuse…if, as Walter Benjamin wrote, the storyteller is “the man who could let the wick of his life be consumed completely by the gentle flame of his story,” then Townes was telling one hell of a story.
I tried to explain to a friend today who was vising from New York City when we had lunch together what I was doing creatively these days.
Why and what I write this Substack without all that much renumeration and with so much wild self-disclosure.
He does commercial advertising mostly with his production company and even has his own employees.
I wish I had said what Crash concluded his post with:
I look at myself in the mirror, in true awe, for better or for worse.
Here’s Crash in his 100K follower Instagram mirror:
Okay, that’s the two hundred and fifty-seventh Shuffle Synchronicities.