“I Was Spinning Free…”

This week marks the 15th anniversary of Jimmy Eat World’s breakthrough effort Bleed American.  To mark the occasion, I did a short piece on the record for Diffuser. But personally, the album remains one of those which represents a particular period in time; in this case the summer of 2001.

Having just graduated from college, there was a glaring sense of, “Alright, now what?” I shoulda traveled the world then, but have always been a bit behind when it comes to those sorts of things and would wait a few years for that part of my life to begin. What I did end up doing was heading out on a fairly destination-less cross country road trip with noted culture vulture the Ninja. It was a sense of lingering adventure to do something big before entering the so-called “real world.”

When I say there was no set plan, there was absolutely no set plan. It was for the most part a bit like an Abbott & Costello episode (those who still have both grandparents living can ask them to define that reference). We crashed in random dorms, shelters, hostels and on various couches. There was one concrete idea to attend the Green Party affiliated Campus Greens’ “Rally for Radical Change” held at Chicago’s Congress Theater on August 10.

An e-mail about the event was sent to college mailing lists which stated:

Confirmed speakers and performers include Ralph Nader, Winona LaDuke, Robert Miranda and Jello Biafra.

Invited speakers and performers include Cynthia McKinney, Howard Zinn, Michael Moore, Amy Goodman, Ani Difranco, Radiohead, Common, Chuck D, Zach de la Rocha, and many, many more!

“Holy shit!!” the Ninja and I collectively thought. “That ‘invited speakers and performers’ list is ridiculous.” Radiohead! Chuck D! Zach de la Rocha! Michael Moore! Howard Zinn! The “many, many more” could only make the whole thing even astronomical.

Off we went to take part in this thing and pick the brain of Chuck D.


Of course he didn’t show up. Nor did Zack de la Rocha. Or Michael Moore. Or Howard Zinn. Radiohead? They definitely didn’t show the fuck up.

Who did? Patti Smith, and we helped her load in as she told about a recent trip to Fiji. Ani DiFranco did too, which was cool, but by the time she came on, we were out of there and on the fast track to GTFO of Chicago. There were just bad vibes coming from that place.

First of all, the Campus Greens and more so supporters of the Green Party were idealistic in all the wrong ways. Many of the ones we met with were against the concept of not just a two party system, but also soap. The Ninja and I were quickly disillusioned by people (not all of them I need to stress) who would never be taken seriously by the general public. I mean, they thought we looked trustworthy enough to be in charge of collecting donations for the night (we were not).

The final straw was when Jello Biafra rolled out in a Hawaiian shirt and started railing against the government. At that point we barely had the patience to wait and hear what rumplesuitskin Ralph Nader had to say about giving George W. Bush the 2000 election.

The Ninja in particular hated Chicago. Maybe it was the boot that got put on his car while he went in to get a Slurpee at the Wrigley Field 7-11? It could also have been the girl he was into who, after having an extended conversation with him, informed us she thought he and I made a “really cute couple.” Either way, as we headed out of town on I-90, we passed a dog dead on the side of the road who was headed in the same direction.

“See?!” The Ninja proclaimed, “Even dogs are willing to give their lives trying to get out of this fucking city.”

So wait, what does Bleed American have to do with all of this? It was, for some insane reason, one of the only CDs we had on the trip. The Ninja had been raving about it and I quickly fell into step in agreement. And falling into step about that was much better than falling off the top of the University of Notre Dame’s McKenna Hall while walking along the ledge after consuming enough Tecate’s to convince myself that the spirit of Jim Morrison would watch over me.

But that’s a tale from the trip best left for another day.

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