Posts under Tag: death
September 11, 2001: Time Perception

Like today, 9/11/01 was a Tuesday. I remember this because I was working that morning, Assistant Manager at Sam Goody. I was initially focused on the new music releases that came out that day.

It often seems like 9/11/01 was just a few years ago. But when I think about the details, it gets in my head more about how 17 years have gone by. Most record stores are dead and new releases mainly come out on Friday now. I didn’t fully understand what happened for several hours until I got home and watched TV. It wasn’t like today, where most of us can immediately pull up video on our smartphones. Heck, I didn’t even have a cell phone.

Looking at footage of that day, the clothes people were wearing seem like such an old style. Clothes were baggier. Eyebrows were thinner and relatively few beards are seen.

I guess when something so altering happens, our perception of time can be skewed. We remember how we felt and what we were doing, so we feel like we are taken back to that day.

I think about the lives cut short and their terrifying last moments. I think of the kids who grew up with a parent gone. Most of them are adults today.

I get angry at the unnecessary wars fought in the name of security and my friend David Branning and those in other countries who are dead now because of that. David was 21 when he died in 2004. He’d be 35 today. I wonder how time perception is for the families of those affected by this. My heart goes out to all of them.

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Do atheists believe in life after death?


Some atheists believe in life after death. Some believe there’s some sort of “energy” that we turn into, that we are reincarnated, or that we become ghosts or spirits, in addition to many other beliefs. There are varying opinions among atheists.

Some atheists do not believe in an afterlife and I am one of them. People are nonbelievers for different reasons. I am an atheist because there’s not enough solid evidence for me to believe in a god. The same thing goes for an afterlife or multiple lives. I think the closest thing there is to still living after death is to live on, in a sense, through what we’ve done. If our work and our words inspire others, then we are kind of still carrying on. If we continue to ‘live’ in the memories of people still alive, then what we’ve done still affects others. There are musicians who only lived until age 27, but their work and personas helped shaped the lives of countless others for years to come. So, while they are dead, part of them ‘lives on’.

So, when people ask, “What’s the inspiration to do good in this life if it’s there’s no heaven or hell?”, that’s part of it. There’s also making sure you meet your goals because this is probably the only shot we get. Also, just being and doing good for goodness’ sake and because you enjoy it in the moment.

The above was a question someone submitted on my tumblr blog. I will start cross-posting certain Q&As to my blog.

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Goodbye, Hitchypoo

Christopher Hitchens’ death is hitting me harder than I expected. It’s not like we didn’t know this was coming. I met him just a few days before he was diagnosed with cancer last year. He was doing a book tour for Hitch-22, which was coincidentally a memoir. I was last in line to get my book signed, which I had done on purpose so that I could get a chance to talk to him and not be rushed. (This doesn’t always work to one’s advantage, but it did for me that day). He was polite and amiable and I really enjoyed meeting him and hearing him speak.

I started reading Hitch-22 and really liked it. There were some surprising, even shocking, things that I learned about him and I couldn’t put the book down. But then the news came out that he only had a short time left and I had to stop reading it. A lot of it was very personal and dealt with how he would handle dying and how he wanted his death handled. I started to get emotional. I told myself I would finish the book after his death, so I will give it some time and then complete my reading. It’s weird. I sort of felt like I knew him. Of course, I really didn’t and only talked to him once. But I remember the pleasant surprise of seeing him out in DC just a few months after he was diagnosed. I lived in Baltimore and DC was close, so I spent some time there. I saw him as I walking to and from the bathroom and was seated near him in the audience at the Neil deGrasse Tyson/Richard Dawkins talk at Howard University. I could tell a huge physical difference in that short time from when I met him just a few months earlier. You could tell he was seriously ill. It was sad to see him in that state, but also really good and inspiring to see that he was still out living life as much as he could in his condition. I really didn’t know him personally. But, in a way, I think that I knew him better than many of the people I see all the time. His books gave us a peak into his brain in a way that we often don’t get with those we do know “in real life”.

Although I wish he were still alive, I loved the way he went out. He promoted and defended science, reason, and skepticism until the very end. It’s not sad that he didn’t believe in an afterlife. Because he was able to accept the truth and embrace it, it made him appreciate the one life he had even more and he made the most of it. Considering how sick he was and the short time he had left, he still worked on a lot of things in the time from his diagnosis to his death. He is truly an inspiration. Although he is gone and there is no magical afterlife, he will still be with us, in a sense, through his powerful books, articles, interviews, etc. Those who are alive (and will be alive someday) will be inspired by his work and may go on to do inspiring things themselves because of him. I think that’s much more beautiful and poetic than believing in fairytales. And the good thing is that we will actually be able to see it happening and know that it is true.

If you have to read just one book by Christopher Hitchens, I strongly suggest God Is Not Great, whether you are a believer or not.

Goodbye, Hitch. I know I will never see you again on some mythical “other side”, but you will be with me because of how you have helped to develop the way I think.

“…a scientific death is better than a fairy-tale of the eternal life”.

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Zombie Strippers and Beer… and a stabbing next door

Last night at Bourbon Street Live in Baltimore was a combination of awesome and tragic. 

Awesome: Zombie Strippers and Beer show on The Quarter side.

It was a show that was reminscent of the good ol' local music days in Baltimore. That was a several-year period in this city when I absolutely loved it here and couldn't imagine wanting to live anywhere else. I've been losing hope that Baltimore will ever go back to that period again any time soon, but then shows like last night happen. Nowadays, it seems like we only have nights like this two or three times a year, which is a huge contrast to back when we had that many amazing things all going on just in one night on an almost-daily basis. So when we do have a show like last night's, it gives people hope and reminds us of the good times. We really appreciate it. The bands were great and so were the people in attendance. Combine that with a great venue and you can't really ask for more. 


Joe from Eat Your Neighbors put it together and he did not disappoint. I've known him for several years now and was fortunate enough to be a part of several events he organized back in my Skitzo Calypso days, including some Halloween shows. (Remember The Masquerade Ball at The Vault?) He always puts together great bands for unique events. It's also fun for the bands and people who attend. And he really goes above and beyond what he *has* to do because you can tell he truly loves the Baltimore music scene. He really treats everyone well and gets everyone really pumped for an exciting night. 

Tragic: Stabbing next door at The Ballroom

For those unfamiliar with how Bourbon Street Live is set up, let me explain. The building is divided in half. There's The Quarter side, which is to the right when you're in front of the building. And there's The Ballroom, which is on the left. The two sides are mirror images of each other. For some events, the doors in the middle of the club are open so that people can go back and forth between both sides. More often, the two sides are closed and have separate entrances and covers. Our side was a rock concert. The Ballroom had a Ladies' Night, which I am told is a hip-hop dance party. These events were separate.

It was after 1am last night and I was on The Quarter side, sitting at the bar in the back, listening to Forgive The Fallen, and talking to my friends. Lara was working at that bar. She opened the door to the other side to get some more alcohol. She came back noticably shaken. She said she wasn't serving anymore beer that night because she'd have to go to The Ballroom side for more and a stabbing had just happened. I thought to myself that she couldn't have said stabbing, though she said it very clearly. Someone else then came up to the bar to try to order a beer and she told them the same thing, which instantly made me know that she really did say it and it was serious. When you see the emotion on a person's face and hear it in her voice, it's clear to even the most skeptical person that it's not an April Fool joke. During the next few minutes, people on our side tried to leave to go home. Most of whom were leaving didn't even know what happened, but word quickly got around because we were not allowed to leave. The police outside were making everyone stay inside. A few more minutes went by and the staff turned the sound off to the band and announced that everyone had to leave immediately for our safety. The staff members that I saw were very professional and calm considering what was happening. As soon as we got outside, it was immediately apparant just how serious the situation was. There were countless police and more arriving on the scene. There were many police on horses. Roads were shut down. I could see and hear absolute chaos on the other side while looking through The Ballroom doorway. People were trampled on top of each other. I saw crying, yelling, screaming, hopelessness, and panic. Just like us, people weren't allowed to leave on The Ballroom side at first. But when they were allowed to go, it was chaos. I've seen police react to situations before, but you could definitely tell they had a much different demeanor than those times. It really gave us all a sense of the severity. We stood and watched from the parking lot across the street what was happening. What was weird is that I didn't see anyone leave The Ballroom for the first few minutes because of being trampled on one another, but a police officer came up to our group. She yelled at an African-American man and asked which side of the club he came from. When we all said "The Quarter! He's wearing a Slipknot hoodie!" to her, she left. I'm not sure if he happened to match the description of someone, but I found that odd. I'm not making any accusations here; I'm just telling you what we all saw happen. I want to give the officer the benefit of the doubt, as I know they were dealing with total disorder and a serious, violent crime. But you could tell it made the man feel weird and we all felt odd about it, too. I also noticed police going up to some other African-American men who came from our side. I did not see them go up to anyone else, but I also did not hear what they were saying to them. Those few minutes after the crime resulted in a lot of "What? That didn't just happen, did it?" moments. 

I saw a lot of my friends leave the club safely, so my group of friends and I decided it was time to leave to go to Nam Kang. This was also the time we started finally seeing some people able to leave The Ballroom side. And then we saw more and more come out. My friends decided we needed to leave immediately and as fast as possible. Understandably, the people on the other side were so emotional and trying to leave quickly as well, and we knew that if we waited it would be chaotic. I tried to back out of my parking spot and other cars were just quickly leaving, driving the wrong way and there were many almost-accidents in that lot.  I think a mix of the emotions and the sense of urgency people felt made them not look where they were driving. And this was just with the few first who got out. I imagine it was much worse after more people were leaving.  I can't say I blame them, but we wanted to get out of there ASAP. As we drove to Nam Kang, we saw even more police driving to the scene of the crime.

More awesomeness: Nam Kang

Nam Kang is an awesome Korean restaurant that stays open until 4am and I really appreciated it last night. It was great to be with a group of friends, most of whom were at the show, so we could talk about what just happened in a calm environment.

Here's a photo of us:

My thoughts: Great night overall


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My Funeral

I strongly want this to be read at my funeral:

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds, it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow

Since the first time I heard Dawkins speak these words in his beautiful manner, I knew it was what I wanted to be read at my funeral, even though I never really gave much thought to that before. But when I heard these words, I just knew that’s what I wanted. I then found out that Dawkins himself wants this (plus a little more) read at his own funeral.

I’m not planning on dying anytime soon. Life is good and I hope to continue a long, healthy, happy life. 🙂  But I figured I’d put this out there so that when I eventually do pass away, my wishes will be on record. I also don’t want any religious or supernatural traditions in my funeral whatsoever. This means that I don’t want any prayer or any mention of an afterlife or a god at my funeral. (However, what a person wants to do in private is up to him or her). I’m mentioning this because I’ve had some loved ones pass away who had funerals that were very different from the persons they were. So I want it to be clear that I don’t want my funeral to be religious and I want that to be read. Other than that, do what you want. I’ll be dead, so I guess I won’t know what you end up doing anyway, haha.

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In Remembrance of Bryan B

On August 22nd, Bryan B passed away. He was a close friend of mine and he positively changed my life in many different ways. He was certainly taken from this world far too soon. I miss him terribly. I will never meet anyone else like him.

Here are some photos of Bryan. All of them were taken by Jim Lucio:

May 29, 2005

Bryan Burken
80s Prom Night at the Ottobar. June 2005.

The final Underground at the Ottobar. November 2006.

This was also taken outside the Ottobar the same night.
I remember I was standing in front of him while it was being taken.

Update – New Photographs added September 23, 2009:

There is also a video tribute to Bryan here: Video in Memory of Bryan Burken

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Reflecting about Mike Q

As I mentioned about a week and a half ago, I finally found out the reason Mike Q passed away. When I found out, it was almost like finding out he died all over again. Well, it wasn’t fully as bad, but about half. That’s still bad enough. I had to process almost everything all over again. It made me ponder everything. But I’m glad I know. I feel a lot better and a lot of questions have been answered.

After he died, the most his friends heard was when his aunt posted on his MySpace profile that his father found him next to his computer over Labor Day weekend. She said that was all they knew. People weren’t sure if they really didn’t know more or if they just didn’t want to say. We would understand if they didn’t feel like talking about it yet. They were (and still are) going through something very painful. But we all wanted to know. Most people just assumed it was drugs. It was thought that he probably overdosed, went to sleep, and never awoke.

Let me tell you the abridged version of my friendship with Mike. We met in 1999 at the Brass Monkey. My friend, Andrea Schwager, was in town and so we were hanging out in Fells Point, looking for something to do. I ran into my friend, Tim Kaye who told us that we should walk over to the Brass Monkey to check out this band called Velvasheen. I heard good things about them, so we decided to go. My eye was instantly drawn to Mike from the moment I walked in the room. I didn’t know at that moment who he was. But he just had this magnetic personality that you could feel from across the room, even if you weren’t talking to him. Moments later, I saw his band play and thought they were great. We met, talked, exchanged contact information. After the show, we got to know each other and became close friends very quickly. We hung out often, shared secrets and not so serious tidbits of our lives. We discussed music. We went to shows together. He used to play solo open mic at the 8×10 every week back then. I almost always went with him. There are a lot of good times we had there. We jammed on music together. He remixed one of my songs. He convinced me to go by “CherryTeresa”. We went to Ocean City together for my senior week. (I could write an entry on just the stuff that went happened when we went there. Crazy stuff! Haha). I lived with him temporarily when I was going through some rough times.

Like many other people in this world, Mike had experimented with drugs. But he started doing it more often and dabbling with more dangerous substances. Slowly, there was a change in Mike’s personality. He became harder and harder to reason with. Sometimes I felt like I was not talking to the same person I knew before. He eventually never wanted to go out. It wasn’t a temporary hermit thing. He stayed like that for a while. So for a few years, I barely saw him. If he went a while without talking, he would get back in touch with me eventually. I would hang out with him here and there. Sometimes it was just because we coincidentally ran into each other. Other times, we planned it. But it was always so good to see him and we always enjoyed seeing each other again.

Then, for a couple years, I did not see him or even hear from him. I heard he was addicted to heroin and not going out much because of that. But out of nowhere, he contacted me and asked me if I needed a job because he was working for Apple Tech Support and knew I would love that job. I got the job and even though we worked in different departments and had different schedules, he would make sure to either come visit me or sneak out during my breaks to see me. When I saw him, one of the first things I noticed was that he had gained a lot of weight. But I was happy about that. Why? Because most heroin addicts I know gain weight when they first get clean. He seemed alive again. So enthusiastic. He was that acting more like the magnetic person I had first met that night when I was still in high school.

I lost touch with him and other people at that company. I had to stop working there due to my health issues at the time. And shortly after, they laid off a ton of people. (Apple decided to move their tech support to India for U.S. customers, which didn’t last long. Now they’re back in America).

I saw him a few months later because he came to visit me. I never asked him if he did heroin or confronted him about his past drug problems. But he told me what happened. He told me how he was addicted to heroin and how he realized how it was ruining his life. He was on a methadone program. He said he was determined to turn his life around. The thing that worried me was that he was obviously abusing the methadone and not just taking is as prescribed. He pretty much told me that.

But he eventually did end up turning his life around. Earlier this year, he went to rehab and got off the methadone. He was clean. He was doing well at the job where he started working. He was making music again. He re-connected with a cool girl who he was dating. He had plans and goals and it seemed like he would achieve them. He was planning on moving to New York. He did get into debt because of some issues that happened while he was on drugs. He fell asleep at the wheel because of the methadone, so there were legal bills. He had health/teeth problems caused by his drug abuse. All that stuff was pretty depressing and enough to make someone want to give up on life. It could make someone want to just say “screw it” and do drugs again. But he didn’t. He was fighting the odds and winning.

But then he died. No one knew what happened, but figured the logical explanation was: He must have relapsed. It was Labor Day weekend. He probably wanted to have a good time. His tolerance went down because he stopped using. He took too much. He got sleepy as opiates tend to make people that way. He laid his head down on his desk and never awoke.

He lived in his father’s basement. His father is the one who found him. It turns out that after he called 9-1-1 and the police showed up, they searched the place for about six or seven hours. They found no drugs there at all. His family also searched the place afterwards. Nothing turned up.

The toxicology results showed that there were no drugs in his system. They then ran other tests and eventually the results showed that he had died of acute bronchial pneumonia and that his lungs were filled with fluids. I am guessing that the past drug use didn’t exactly help his overall health or immune system. His basement also flooded a few months earlier, which may have contributed to that.

But the point was that he didn’t directly die because of drugs. When I first found that out, I felt so relieved. But part of me was thinking “What does it matter? He still died.” And I felt like it was almost worse that he didn’t relapse. He went through all that work to better himself and he died anyway. I just kept thinking about all the things that could have been and probably would have been. And I thought about the fact that there are at least two people I know who died after kicking heroin.

What saddens me is that I didn’t see him in the last few months of his life. He would try to get back in touch with me but I pretty much ignored him because I had almost given up on him. I didn’t know that he had went to rehab and I assumed he was still in drugs. The last time I saw him, he was acting like the weird druggie again and not himself. I used to try to save people but it never worked and only caused me frustration. I decided to distance myself from him. I feel awful. I just wish he would have told me he was clean. I wish I would responded to him more. One thing that does make me feel a lot better is that Becky (the girl he was dating before he died) told me that he talked about me often as if we were still in touch and he had nothing but positive things to say about me. She said she had no idea we lost touch by the way he would talk about me. So I’m glad to know he didn’t seem to resent me for that. But I still wish I could have been around him, especially since he probably was the old Mike Q again and acting like that.

Mike, I truly miss you and I am sorry I didn’t believe in you more toward the end. You were such a good friend to me. You did so many wonderful things for me. I never asked, but you did them anyway. I never even came close to repaying you and for that, I am a jerk. Please know that I do think about the real you – the you that the world saw when you were clean. I remember the good times more than the bad. I think about you a lot. I always have. You have influenced me in many ways. I am still somewhat in denial that you passed away. Part of that is because you are still a part of my life.

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I killed a bunny last night

    Saturday night was the Lennex show at the Stone Cellar in Ellicott City. Do I need to describe that I had a good time? No. That’s a given.
    I went to Fletcher’s last night to see Oddzar and Truth Be Told. Great music and fun times. The place had a good amount of people for a Monday night, but it wasn’t packed. But it was better that way. Quality over quantity. For real. A lot of the people who went to the Lennex show were there.
    Of course, I did my typical “I’m leaving after the bands are done! I have to work tomorrow” thing. Then it was “Okay, I’ll go downstairs. But only for a minute!” And eventually it was “Well, it’s 1:30, I might as well stay until close”. And then the “I shouldn’t be outside talking, I will only get a few hours of sleep” situation happened. At least I turned down going to some of the afterparties.
Mike Miller from gODHEAD showed up later. He was hanging out downstairs. He’s a nice guy. gODHEAD are on tour with Jonathan Davis and played at the 9:30 Club earlier that night. They’re playing an acoustic set Thanksgiving evening at Fletcher’s (not with Jonathan Davis) and I’ll be there. I’m looking forward to it.
    I was in a great mood all night. But during the drive home, I hit a bunny! I tried not to hit him, but he just ran so quickly that even though I braked and swerved, it didn’t do any good. Still, I’m not happy about that. I’m surprised it was a bunny. I haven’t seen too many in that area of Mount Washington before. I’ve actually been slightly worried that I might hit a deer or fox because they are everywhere in my neighborhood since they turned the golf course and the quarry into neighborhoods for the wealthy. The animals’ homes are gone now and so they just run into the street. I feel badly for the animals, especially since they are so cute! Haha, I know it shouldn’t matter what they look like. But still, it makes it even sadder. I didn’t even know there were foxes in this area until they built those $600,000 houses. Rich people ruining everything! (JK). 

Edit (4:04 PM EST) – I forgot to mention that I won the Retarded Dance Contest last night. I know that’s not a politically correct name for something, but I didn’t make up the name. And I should mention I didn’t have much competition haha.

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Mike Q update

I found out how my friend Mike Q died. He’s the one who passed away on Labor Day.  It took a long time for the autopsy reports to be completed. He died of acute bronchial pneumonia.
At least I know now.      

I will always remember how he lived more than how he died.                                                                                      

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Horrible news and good news

Things have been busy and hectic for me.

Horrible news – A good friend of mine, Michael Sean Quental – better known as Mike Q of Velvasheen – died on Monday evening. I don’t know too many details right now. But this is very upsetting. He was only 27. We were pretty close at one point in time. Some of you may know that he re-mixed of my songs.  I lived with him temporarily. We went to Ocean City together. And we had just tons of other random memories. His viewing is tonight. Sorry to those of you who have been emailing me or sending me myspace/facebook messages that I haven’t responded to yet. I won’t be able to respond for at least a few more days.

Mike Q and I at his house circa 2001.

Good news – School is going well. I like it. It’s a lot of work and my four hour class is long, but I like being busy.
Also, I am going to be collaborating with some really awesome musicians in the very near future and performing with them. This is in the very beginning stages, but I am optimistic. More details soon.


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