On addiction, self-harm, and perhaps even hope
The Rumpus, March 26, 2022

This is what you do when you’re nineteen. It isn’t terribly shattering, what you do, not the kind of thing, if you wrote it down, that the critics would call “searing.” It’s just a road you take for a time. And then, in most of the ways, a road you leave behind.

It will start when you’re living in that shitty apartment, that place in the hippie town north of San Francisco. Only it’s not hippie days, it’s punk rock now. Your hair was long a few years ago, but then someone cut it extra short without really checking with you first, and so the guys from two towns over, the pickup-truck guys, went from shouting, “fucking hippie!” as they drove by one day to shouting, “fucking punk!” the next. You can still hear the snarl in their voices. Fucking suburban rednecks. Anyway, you enjoy the irony, and punk suits you better, you decide. You can thrash, you can lose yourself in the pit, you can fuck shit up. You can get drunk and do some meth and grind your teeth, you can crash, pass out, piss the bed. You can peer through the bristling eyelids of your hangover and find the scars, still red. The scars fit that lifestyle better, anyway.

Years later, you will wish it had been different, but this is what you do.

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Finding the Tune

On the transformative power of Anton Webern’s Concerto, Opus 24, and punk rock
Los Angeles Review of Books, Nov. 10, 2018

IN THREE LINES at the upper right corner of the first page of my copy of the study score of Anton Webern’s Concerto, Opus 24, the words Mark Wallace / July 12, 1983 / San Francisco are written in the kind of rough blue ballpoint pen that has gone seriously out of fashion in the ensuing 35 years. When I made that inscription, at 16 — done with high school a year early and soon off to college — I did not yet understand the Webern Concerto as a masterpiece of both artistic expression and musical design. Nor did I understand it as the piece of music that would determine the course of my life, though that, for a time, is exactly what it did.

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