Home > Hesitating > If I Had Your Pen…

If I Had Your Pen…

Everything is just the same. We’re all part of society. Think we’ve got what we want. Think we’ve got variety. We like to watch television, listen to the radio. We like to read the Sunday paper. We believe what we’re shown.

There are those who disagree. They don’t like what they see. Different faces, different cases. Fighting all the apathy.

I call it revolution.

It’s not the usual jaunty number I find myself singing as I step out of the shower but somehow I seemed to be channeling what was going on hundreds of miles away. My old friend Lance Hahn died today.

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I knew him before I ever knew him, y’know? When I was just getting started with music one of the first 7″ I bought was by an old band called Cringer, who had broken up before I was even aware of anything other than my sister’s tapes and MTV. The memory is pretty clear– Zen Flesh Zen Bones used at Neurotic Records for about two bucks. It wasn’t their best but the name was all over thanks lists from my favorite bands of the time, Green Day and The Mr T Experience and Crimpshrine, so I picked up the far superior Perversion is Their Destiny for a similar cost from Epicenter Zone and I had the bug. A collection of sharp, impassioned, literate (enough) but immediate and raw political and personal songs. The lines were blurry– it wasn’t exactly hardcore but it wasn’t too poppy. The lyrics were directly political and yet distinctly personal. The character of the band bled through the wax and the cover, dripped in your hands. These were people you could find yourself talking to on the street, at a show or at a party. There was no detachment from life, no separation brought on by the stage. These were people.

If I had your pen I’d write this song again, and let someone else write the next lyric. Every single day we have something to say, or at least have some appearance. I can’t be right all the time. I plagiarized the next line. I can’t say that I feel shame. If everyone did the same there’d be nothing left to blame.

It’s hard to believe– in anything– til everyone– does everything.

And so Cringer became and has persisted over the years as one of my favorite bands. Not because they never released a bad record or wrote a bad song but because the spirit of their existence and the heart and soul of their songs came to exist within me. More than probably any other band Cringer single-handedly is responsible for my drawing lines between my personal existence and the political implications of my life on the world around me. Lance wrote love songs that sounded like political treatises and political songs that were a conversation between two lovers unconscious in their struggle for control. Kit and fucking kaboodle…

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When I started working at Epicenter we came to know one another and it was a little incongruous, the man and the records that had taken part in the shaping of the younger me. I never told him just what exactly his songs had meant to me and continued to mean– frankly it was embarrassing and he was a little more dorky then I had expected. Not that I was star-struck, possibly because from the connection of me and that band there had been that underlying understanding that we were on equal terms. Maybe it’s because he was so dorky. It just kinda happened, us knowing one another as people. I would sit behind the counter drinking a 40oz and smoking, spitting on the ground and irritating customers (both of them) by playing country records and he would walk in in his AK Press sweatshirt and maybe some fried tortellini from Mr. Pizza Man. It seemed like neither of us had anywhere else to go so we sat there, sometimes for hours, sometimes with others. We started staying well past closing, Lance and Kate and I most often, watching movies and talking massive amounts of shit. Non-stop shit talking. A never-ending torrent of shit was talked.

I’m watching for signals, they turn every night. It’s making me restless but nothing ignites. Oh, you know that I wanted this to be so much more, but I know we both know I should head for the door.

After a couple years Epicenter became financially and, honestly, culturally un-viable. I was pretending to live in Minneapolis while the collective dissolved itself, but at the same time Lance was seeing doctors and learning that he had a congestive-heart issue that was crushing his lungs against his rib cage. While I crawled the streets along the Mississippi at three in the morning he was getting blood work twice a week and working desperately to save his life. By the time I returned to help lay Epicenter down he was out of the worst but now had a permanent condition which would require constant monitoring and medication. You would never have known by talking with him unless you knew. Because he was so full of life and something like a potentially fatal disease was not going to keep him from hanging out and talking shit all night.

Epicenter was what brought us into orbit and when it was gone things changed dramatically. Kate’s house wasn’t as conducive to hanging out and now Lance and Liberty had started going out so we didn’t see too much of either of them. Eventually Libby decided to go back to school for linguistics and got into a program at the University of Texas in Austin. Lance continued to play in his post-Cringer band, J-Church, and continued to run his record label, Honeybear Records, through two house-fires which not only left them homeless but also destroyed his entire collection of records and priceless artifacts of his personal and punk rock history. We didn’t keep in touch, never having been the closest of friends and no longer having the common bonds we once shared. The last time we spoke was several years ago when J Church was on tour and played Bottom of the Hill. I skipped the show, not yet having attempted to listen to the band (a common feature of knowing Lance shared by everyone seems to be not being able to like whatever band he’s in when you know him– oh shit, except once I saw them play when I loaned them my PA to do an in-store at Howling Bull but I was busy kicking the amp trying to squeeze volume for the mics out of it so I didn’t really notice much except Lance had the guitar slung around his ankles and was bending chords by kneeing the neck), but we hung out afterwards before the van moved on for Portland. I was working a dead end job at a dying video store, the same as when he moved away. “I’m doing the same thing” he said. “Neither of us has changed since I moved” Well, I’m living at home tho, that’s shit. “Fuck, I’d live with your parents if I could. Your parents are cool.”

Okay, once he did spend the night at my parents’ house but they were out of town at the time.

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Some months ago I heard through the grapevine that he had begun to experience kidney failure and had been placed on dialysis. There was talk of a waiting list for a transplant. It was bad news but something made me shrug it off, just as I shrugged off countless benefit shows and eventually a benefit compilation CD. I mean, this is Lance we’re talking about. He’ll be fine. He’ll be up and running in no time. J Church will go back on tour (maybe this time he can play Japan and wouldn’t it be funny to actually roadie this one now that I have money and he’s not having to go to the hospital every day) and he’ll release more records on Honeybear, write another newsletter and another historical essay on a long forgotten Peace-Punk band for MRR. He’ll be back and talking shit somewhere in the wee hours eating fried tortellini or telling a story from some Polish tour way back when.

But he went in for dialysis on Friday and collapsed. He slipped into a coma and on Sunday, October 21st, he slipped out of this world. I came home to two messages on my machine telling me and I spent some time on the phone talking about it and other things. Two people who I haven’t been very good about keeping up with but two people who are friends in the truest sense of the word and who deserve a little more effort on my part. And Lance did too, of course, even if it wouldn’t have mattered to him. Once again I have someone who I had stored away in the memory file assuming that we’d meet again and, when the time came, I could just reach back and grab that information, open the folder and begin where we left off. Not so, he’s gone. And despite the distance and the time in between the last time we spoke and now I will miss him.

Trapped in the back of my mind, is the thought too little too late. So when I try to define, I tend to over-complicate. When I’m told, again and again, ‘that’s just the way things go’. It leaves a bitter taste with me, because I think that we should know.

But at this time, I would have guessed
that we could rise above the rest.
But at this time, I guess I know
there are things we still can’t show.

Trapped in the back of our minds is a single ideology. Yet we bicker and we battle about what it means to be free. We never seem to have the courage to live the life we choose. So we lost what we should have won, because our numbers are diffused.

But at this time, I would have guessed
that we could rise above the rest.
But at this time, I guess I know
there are things we still can’t show.

Trapped in the back of my mind, trapped in the back of our minds. Trapped in the back of my mind, trapped in the back of our minds.

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Categories: Hesitating
  1. pietro de grassi
    October 24, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    if i can call it an obituary, if you’ll allow me, its the best obituary anyone could write. obituaries aren’t things of competition, but prose of tribute.

    there is only one distinction by which people should consider obituaries – did the author know the deceased?

    there is the grunt work of writing death notices for social-elite’s, work compiled by staff writers detailing the “landmarks” of a life, these pieces follow the formula and serve the purpose of announcement. it is not unusual for a newspaper intern to pen them prior to the subject’s death?

    then there is the other type of testimony, that which focuses on the moments that piercingly reflect the quality of an individual. the stuff that shit and fried tortellini is made of.

    i’d never heard of lance hahn, but then again, blaark, i’ve never heard you talk about anyone with such love.

  2. Brendan
    October 24, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    I didn’t think of it as an obituary, tho perhaps only because of how you’ve just described those dry and dispassionate essays which seem more in place on the side of a cereal box than anywhere else… Eulogy, I suppose, might be more fitting… Bleeding the spleen with some whiskey and beer and old records is really what it was for me… Thanks for thinking highly of that…

    Honestly I wasn’t really sure I wanted to have some public comment on Lance’s death but the compulsion to do it was rather irrepressible… Once it was up I kinda really wanted it to be available to anyone else who had similar memories of him… Wait, this may not have anything to do with what you’re saying at all…

  3. coreal
    October 25, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    i hadn’t heard of the man either. no matter, reading this piece made my week. thanks for allowing the compulsion.

  4. joey
    October 31, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    super nice memorial.

    keep your chin up guy.

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