Diseased Life

So I’m sick. It blows. I got sick somewhere in the evening two nights ago. I began to feel really run down and slightly dizzy on my way home from work. My thinking (which is usually flawless) was that I was gonna buy a nice bottle of whiskey, go home, have a glass, sleep really soundly and then wake up feeling top notch. Well, the part about getting the whiskey and having some went totally according to plan. The next part, however, was where shit started to go off the rails. I started getting really cold, then sweating and then getting cold again. I started feeling vaguely sick. The whole thing wasn’t fun. I woke up yesterday feeling the fairly standard “not that good thanks to a bad night of sleep. Need better sleep tonight.”

However, I went to work and as I sat there I just started feeling worse and worse. By the end of the day, I was ready to barf. It literally took all my strength not to puke all over the evening commute. By the time I got home last night, I was fully sick, with white lips, double spouting fountain syndrome and constant freezingness.

I went to bed around 830 and didn’t sleep well. Being really sick is delirium inducing. So, between running to the bathroom and shivering I started thinking about my life in the way that only someone in the grip of something unholy can.

Having a job is weird. I used to be SO stoked on just being in a band, (which is an amazing job for anyone to be able to do, but especially a young single guy) but then when that no longer became something I could fully commit to, due to tons of mitigating factors, not the least of which include burnout, lack of interest, the inability to convince my wife that leaving her at home with our kids for weeks at a time while I get out there and party is a solid investment in our future etc, I started working at a bar. Suddenly, I felt like a goddamned loser. I had friends who were still making money playing in bands, and they’d come in after their shows to this bar (this really lame bar) that I worked in, or they’d just come on the radio and I’d sit there and think, “what the fuck? Why can’t I still be doing this all the time? Why am I stuck getting hot wings and Blue Moon’s for assholes while other people out there are telling expectations to fuck themselves and living the dream (mind you, this thought came often at extremely selfish and myopic times in my life where I ignored the truth of what I’d been doing and exactly how well it had been working out and all that). I hated that bar, and I hated working there.

Then I got fired for going on tour. I got fired right before my daughter was born. I got all my shifts covered and told everyone where I was going, but they fired me anyway, one week before I became a father for the second time. Suddenly, I had no job at all. It was a brutal dick punch, but we adjusted with a new paradigm. Namely, that I’d stay home with the kids, since any money I’d make in a service job wouldn’t really cover a nanny in any meaningful way that would justify not raising my own kids, and we’d regroup in a few years and see what was up.

That’s when I learned that being a full time stay-at-home dad was/is brutally rough. Not only is it just emasculating in terms of every day gender roles, but it’s thankless and it’s relentless. It never ends. You put those kids to bed, you clean up the house, you pass out for a second, they wake up, it all starts again. It’s a goddamn grind with no breaks. I’d talk to people and when we’d get into what we do for a living, and they’d say what they did, I’d reply with “man, I wish I had a job like that” almost regardless of what they’d say. I wanted to get away from my kids enough to get stuff done and get perspective and make a little money and feel like a contributing member of society (and I know that there’s nothing that you can do that’s better for society at large than raise some decent kids, but it doesn’t FEEL like that when you do it) but I was stuck. I had no job experience other than some freelance shit and a bartending job that would be a bad reference from years before. There was no escape. I began to feel trapped and useless and even my friends with shitty bar jobs seemed to be on ten zillion times the track I was to success.

THEN, I got this job. Now I get up, shower, shave, put on nice-ish clothes and cram into a tube with a zillion other shaved, showered people about my age and we all ride downtown to big towers where we all go into our clever little firms and do clever little things and think hard and work late and talk about billable hours and clients and shit like that. We all get paid well and none of us have to answer anything too embarrassing when someone asks what we do for a living. It’s great. It’s just what I wanted, except for here’s the secret (that most of you, especially those of you in cubes) already know:

It’s no more rewarding than raising your kids or being a bartender. If being in a band is ‘having fun at the expense of your family and future, and raising your kids is being around your family at the expense of being yourself, and being a bartender is being at a party at the expense of fun, then working in a cube is…well, it’s just working in a cube. I feel just as trapped and distant from “what’s important to me” (which, for the record is my art and my family, two things that I’ve so far not been able to synthesize in any sort of situation where I can operate and interact with both) as I ever did. I don’t feel worse. I have more money. I guess technically that’s way better, but it’s weird. No one ever asks me if I want to do a shot of whiskey, for example, and I can’t nap during naptime if it gets to be too much. And beyond that, just like with everything else, there’s no way out.

Happiness, it seems, is something that you’re born with. My kids are happy. They’re excited by life and the world and trains and planes and ice cream cones and fish and, fuckin A, man. You name it, they’re stoked. As they get older, they’ll probably hit a pinnacle of stokededness, most likely in their late teens or early 20’s  where they’re doing something they really like, and they don’t care that they have no money because life is still fun and exciting and the people around them are fun and exciting and they’re getting to do all sorts of grownup shit for the first time. And then it gets old.

Then, suddenly, you’re in your band and you can’t stand the idea of being gone/being in a band with some asshole/getting up on the stage and having to entertain people like some kind of fucking clown even if you’re in a bad mood/etc. Or you find you’ve stagnated in your career and you’ve been passed over for promotions and you’re stuck in a different but similarly unsatisfying rut. You have kids and your house gets smaller. You wake up and realize you’re 40 and still work in a titty bar. And there’s no way out.

I feel that shit pulsing on the train, the crushing malaise and the impenetrable masks of resigned doom are pervasive. It’s wild. I thought it was just me, but it turns out that none of us are happy.

Of course, there are exceptions and even ways out. Seems like a lot of people get to a certain age and decide to become a baker or open a boutique or something like that and that seems to work out nicely for folks. I know a couple who was vacationing and they fell ass backwards into running the resort in Mexico they were staying in and now they just live there. But man, as I was sitting there in my disease riddled putrescence last night, I realized that every time I thought I was doing the right thing, it was wrong. Now I’m old and broken and shit’s done fucked, son.

Of course, that’s just how you think when you’re sick. I woke up at 5 am today to my kids banging on the walls and I felt nothing but white hot rage. Then I went to target and, after dicking around for an hour and contemplating what to buy, left with just $2.05 worth of lunchables.

So maybe it’s just me. I’m obviously a moron. Thanks to everyone who came out to my NYC show this past weekend. It was truly one of my most favorite experiences I’ve ever had on a stage. There are also still a very few tickets left to our metro show with Banner Pilot on the Saturday after thanksgiving, so don’t sleep on that either. Great. As you were.



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23 Responses to Diseased Life

  1. Nancy Lometti says:

    I hear you BK, you know you’re doing the right thing though, even if it feels like your soul is being sucked out of you at times. I went to your NYC show and also got the plague…it was worth it though, it was one of the specialist (word?) shows I’ve been to in some time. When you’re up there you look like you’re in love with it, we can all see your heart on your sleeve and it’s refreshing.

    • QueenBee says:

      You really can tell how much he loves it when he’s playing solo, no? Watch him during the crowd’s whoa-ohs in “Unicorn Odyssey”. He closes his eyes, steps back from the mic and smiles, and it happens every time.
      Keep lovin’ it, Beex.

  2. car painter says:

    Fuck that was good. Its not just you. Life is just lame sometimes. I have a good job and still constantly worry about money and shit. I have no kids good friends make plenty of money, but dont feel satisfied. I envy some of my loser friends who have nothing, but worry about nothing, but they envy me for having my shit together. I wish i could give you money for lawrence arms shit, every time i try to order your shit they dont have any.

  3. Mike Henry says:

    We were JUST talking about this at work when a plague swept the office. 4 or 5 of us had the idea of sipping some whiskey and sleeping through it. It went sour for every one of us leading to some new company knowledge: Do not drink whiskey to heal an illness.

  4. Mike Henry says:

    On a separate note, let’s ditch all this depression and do a comic book. Whaddya say?

  5. dustyfloors says:

    Amazing. You absolutely hit the nail on the head. Also, my dad stayed home with my brother and I so you have moved me to thank him for how hard he busted his balls for us so we wouldn’t be working at a titty bar when we’re 40.
    Good news: In a week we all get to have beers together while you entertain us on stage like some kind of clown.

  6. QueenBee says:

    Man. You’re pretty melancholy these days. Hope you’re over your flu or whatever and that you start feeling more awesome about life, the universe, and everything pretty soon.
    I hope you’re writing songs. Malaise like this shouldn’t pass undocumented.

  7. Judge Holden says:


    You escape the aforementioned office and familyfuntime life for an exciting sojourn to New York. A return to semi-long distance travel, old friends, coat robbery and what you’ve described to be one of your favorite shows. My friend, are you too such a jadedpunk.com that you cannot see that this glimpse of what is occasionally a remarkable life– that’s the story you should want to tell, not the comedown return home to familiarity and the cold season. Don’t get me wrong, Brendan. I’m a huge fan and, drumroll, you are free to write what you want. And that writing comes to me for free. I’m just worried about you becoming ‘that’ guy. You know, the “it’s 1981 and I just caught a weekend screening to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but let me tell you, the parking was lousy, popcorn and soda overpriced, and my god, the people in the backrow would not shut the fuck up! I mean, seriously people, shut the fuck up!” guy.

    What’s the point of a weekend away, if your brain’s always so ready to transplant back into Monday?

    • Brendan Kelly “likes” your status.

    • QueenBee says:

      Well said.

    • Fuck Everlasting says:

      You retarded or somethin?

    • comfort in buns says:

      Wouldn’t a long-winded yarn about the NY excursion been cliche and expected? The shit was telegraphed days ahead on twitter. That’s the Brian Fallon/Benecio del Hause route. B took the high road, did the sensible thing and kept things a lil more exciting by subverting fanboi dum-dum expectations with a sad rant about sniffles/the crushing grind. And I’m highly appreciative.

      • brad says:

        long-time reader, first-time commenter. as a songwriter who grew up in the Chicago punk/ska scene, it seems like a bit of a shock to know that “THE Brendan Kelly” has a day job now like the rest of us suckers, but at the same time, it’s also uplifting to know that as one of those sad assholes on the train every morning, that it’s still possible that I could travel for weekend gigs and play the Metro over Thanksgiving. Thanks for helping keep the dream alive, but also for the added bit of realism.

  8. Tuck says:

    What a deeply profound post. It’s not every day an audience can feel such an intrinsic connection to an artist.

    BK, I’m pretty sure most of us listen to TLA, The Falcon, Wandering Birds etc. precisely because themes like alienation, change, hope and despair resonate so deeply. But sometimes even the knowledge that we’re all in this together doesn’t make life any easier.

    I hope you can keep making music despite the change of circumstance.

  9. jake says:

    You should probably just read on the commute…instead of thinking about this shit.

    Also, more dick jokes. Make me laugh funnyman!

  10. olddogsneverdie says:

    wow. we truly are a community here in the sock drawer aren’t we? as long as i’ve been here (the WHOLE ass time – what is it 3 years now? 4?) i’ve felt it but again and again i’m continually amazed by the connections between people.
    BK you’re a real dude not some superstar. That’s what differentiates punk rockers from those dildos in One Direction or Justice Beaver or whatever band is popular these days. And as such you have real dude problems. No shame in that. Fuck i’ve spent my entire life trying to figure out what i’ve wanted to be. I went to college, paid my dues, graduated with honors and now i’m a corporate schmo just like you and everyone else. I get paid an awful lot to do an awful little and it sucks. I’m the opposite of what the punk rock songs I’ve listened to all my life have told me. I’m what people call a “poser” or a “tool.” I hate that my life has been dictated by what other people expected of me.
    I don’t even know where I’m going with this. I guess I just wanted to say that you’ve at least been OUT THERE and made something of yourself while you had the chance. You can’t do that forever. Nobody can, except maybe the Rolling Stones. You didn’t make a shit ton of money and you didn’t earn a whole lot of fame or notoriety for it. But you know what? You and your music mean a lot to a whole lot of people in this world. You’ve brought us all together into communities like this one – superficial internet comment section or not. 20 years from now some kid is going to pick up “Oh Calcutta” or “Greatest Story Ever Told” and be like “man this band was really rad. I wish I could have been there to see them.” and then they’re going to tell their friends about it. And it may not mean much. But it’s something. You’ve made your mark on just a few people, and that’s more than a lot of us can say.

  11. olddogsneverdie says:

    And god damn it i’ll tell you what. My best friends I have in the whole world I’ve made by singing along at Lawrence Arms shows. I’ll never forget you or Chris or Neil and what you’ve meant to me over the years.

    Now let me get this dick out of my mouth and get back to work.

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