New Years Day 2020
this condition which I carry, as so do many others, has shown itself to me, and I know now more than ever before, that it is only pure evil. taken from me the closest of friends, the kindest of hearts and even my own mother. every day I have to understand the severity of this evil, this corroding thread of futility that lies in the shadows waiting for me to stop treating it. last december it took the life of a person dear to my heart, and left me to question if our efforts to overcome are even worth the cost. im not ready to cry, I just wish it would stop, but it never will.
It’s been like a year and a half since I have actually posted something on the blog. The above paragraph is dated on the last day I opened up the blog to maybe write and post something. The paragraph is in regards to my dear friend Wesley Jones who was found dead in his car on December 23rd, 2019. He was my best friend that I had made in sobriety. We went through a year long rehab together, a summer program at the local college together, lived together, worked at the same rehab together, played softball together and he was my go to guy for everything. I recently started some free grief counseling in hopes of unpacking the loss of Wes, and the mother of my son who also died in November of 2020.
This morning I spent some time reading through all my entries. A lot of them are telling stories of darker times in my life, where I roamed the streets of different cities addicted to drugs, just trying to get by. My life was chaotic and wild, filled with pain and hopelessness that was all self imposed. It made for some pretty good stories though if I must say. I’m grateful to be alive and have survived it all.
This blog started on a Thursday night in 2017. That Thursday night in 2017 when this blog started is funny to reflect on. At that time I was just over 2 years sober, starting my second semester in college, working full time as a counselor, living in my work’s on site staff apartment with Wes, and I didn’t even have my driver’s license back yet. I was still trying to figure out how to live life as a functioning adult, it’s crazy to think that even two years sober my mind was barely even coming back to some normalcy.
I hadn’t been introduced to community radio yet, and I had only been to a few shows including Sound and Fury fest that year where I broke my ankle stage diving during Bracewar’s Icemen cover. Hardcore meant a lot to me as teenager and it helped me in a lot of ways, but through drug addiction, incarceration and homelessness over the years, I kind of forgot hardcore was even a thing. Reconnecting with it in 2015 was a heaven sent in thinking of where I’m at with it now, with the radio show and people I’ve been able to meet.
But back to that Thursday night in 2017. I was living in the staff apartment and watching Thursday night football. I had recently taken an interest in sports writing and been getting wrapped up in memories and love for certain athletes, especially professional sports in the 90s. I even was at a point where I was considering changing my major to journalism in hopes of pursuing a career in sports writing or broadcasting. I think it was the opening night of the 2017 NFL season and I was watching Bears vs. Packers, just thinking about how cool the NFC north rivalries were and I had some opinions about the Bears quarterback. I didn’t have a laptop at that time, just a shitty windows phone, and I started googling how to start a blog or what platform I could use to start writing about sports. I found WordPress, and created a free account which would eventually become this current blog.
I had no idea what to call the blog. I had no idea which direction I wanted to take it, but I knew I wanted to write about that Bears/Packers game. I think the first name I picked for the blog was, “Primetime Classic” as homage to my love for Monday and Sunday night football, and really any primetime sporting event on the big networks. They are still nostalgic to me. My mom used to always have primetime sporting events playing on this little white television she had in the kitchen in my childhood home in Virginia. I think the sunset picture of Dodger Stadium was the first image I added to the blog, and I think it still on my account somewhere currently. I roughly got the blog set up and then I wrote my first post, you can still read it on the blog if you go all the way back to the beginning.
It was so cool for me to put my opinions and thoughts about sports onto that first blog post. I wrote the whole thing on that Windows phone laying in my bed late into that Thursday night, feeling like I was Stephen A. Smith already. I started watching sports differently after that, and I began writing all kinds of different entries about baseball, basketball, the LeBron/MJ debate and whatever I else I felt like writing about. You can still read all those entries on the blog. My homie was in county jail waiting to catch the chain to Wasco, and I started sending the entries to him because he is an insane creative writer.
It’s cool looking back on the first years of the blog because scattered in those entries are my reflections on my struggles, my thoughts on real life shit and just expression of whatever trivial stuff came to my mind. I think when you come from where I came from, sitting down to write something about Barry Sanders and posting it is a huge accomplishment and it is really fun. When you’re living under a bridge contemplating ending your life, you never think you’ll have your own apartment to sit in and write about your favorite athletes.
After my mom died in 2018 the blog turned into more of a space for me to write about the pain of that loss. One post I tied in my own grief with LeBron’s finals run in 2018, and how he would handle the loss after he carried the Cavs on his back yet again to face Steph and the Warriors. Right around that time is when I got the opportunity to get involved in community radio, which is when I think this whole thing really took off and changed directions.
I was still contemplating switching my major. As I got closer to earning my alcohol/drug counseling certification I thought I’d finish that and then turn my focus to journalism or broadcasting. A friend of mine asked if I’d like to co-host a radio show with him focusing on local high school football and sports. I was blown away at the opportunity given I had spent the past 9 months dreaming of being a sports writer. So of course I jumped right into the chance to get on the radio. I quickly learned the ins and outs of community radio programming, it was a big deal at first, the thought of actually being on the radio talking about sports.
We had our first couple shows interviewing local coaches and players, and I loved it. However, I wasn’t able to really flex my creative brain. I kind of had to take a backseat and roll with whatever was happening, which I was okay with. I think we had a Monday night slot from 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM at first. I would go to work from 8:00 AM- 12:30 PM and then go to school from 1:00 PM- 5:00 PM and then back work from 5-6, hit an AA meeting from 7-8 and then head over to the station and prep for the show. I had gotten my license finally and a Volvo wagon at this point so I was able to drive around town which was pretty cool.
After a few months though, I realized how much work it was to cover sports. I mean there is just so much going on with all of it, that the preparation for each show seemed endless. Each high school had 20 different sports teams, each college had even more than that, and there was stats for each player and team, and back stories on each of them and each coach. I attended local games and had a little $20 voice recorder I brought with me that I would get interviews on from players and coaches. My co host made us some fake press passes that I laminated and made into badges, we wore these to all the games and were able to get on the sidelines, pretty funny now looking back. It never felt right though, I loved sports and I loved talking about them, but it just wasn’t my thing, it never felt natural. I rolled up to my co-hosts house once to go to a Friday night high school football game, wearing a Have Heart tee shirt, jeans and some torn up Vans. He made some comments to me about wearing something different, and I knew after that it wasn’t for me.
Through the sports show I had learned how to program a radio show from beginning to end. I learned the mixing board, the mic setups and everything else necessary for it to run smooth from top to bottom. One week my co host was out of town so I had to run the show solo. I had my aunt come on as a guest because I was living with her at that point, and we always had organic banter that was funny as hell. She came on with me and we had the best time ever, the show was hilarious and entertaining and it felt like exactly what I was supposed to be doing. Shortly after that I parted ways with my co host and reached out to the station manager about starting my own show, which he was totally down for.
I had been listening to a lot of Ceremony at that time, it was fall of 2018 at this point. I had seen them at Sound and Fury and The Echo that year and I was listening to The L Shaped Man a lot. I was so inspired by Ross Farrar, his creativity and pursuit of education, and Society Verse. I knew my aunt and I had what it took to do a show, I just didn’t know exactly what it was going to be or what I would even call it. I knew that I wanted to incorporate music, interviews and humor. My aunt and I had this organic Seinfeld type humor, where we could bring trivial social situations to a humorous discussion and we bantered with each other so naturally.
At some point in 2018 I changed the name of the blog to “Your Life In America” because the writing was starting to shift away from sports and more to my past stories of drug addiction and how different my life was becoming. Because I was listening to The L Shaped Man so much and wrapped up in Ross and Ceremony, I decided to use YLIA as a homage to Ceremony and Ross and it seemed fitting for what I was envisioning. I remember thinking I’ll just use it for the radio show too, it’s already a thing, it works for the show, it’s simple and so many hardcore bands got their names from other band’s songs. I was worried about the copyright stuff so I wrote a letter to Ceremony and Ross and sent them in the mail to Relapse Records and Bridge 9. I copied and pasted the letter into the Ceremony big cartel contact us box too. I wasn’t on Instagram at the time so I didn’t realize I could probably send Ceremony or Ross a message and it would have been fine.
I never got a reply so I assumed it was okay and like 2 months ago Ross actually liked one of the flyers on the YLIA IG page so I feel okay about it still. I remember I texted my aunt and saying, “What about Your Life In America w/ Dillon and Rosie?”. She loved it and that was basically the beginning of the radio show. We recorded a few shows on that $20 voice recorder in her room, and then in January 2019 we went live on the radio with it every Thursday. The early shows are hilarious you can hear them all on the YLIA SoundCloud page, it was literally Seinfeld on the radio. I really fell in love with creating content at that point, different segments, different music, it was all so much fun. I had the idea of starting a side series called, “Your Life In Prison” where I interviewed friends of mine who had done time in the prison system just to shed light on what that experience does to people.
Your Life In Prison was a hit, it s up to volume 11 now and I have done two interviews with people who actually called from inside the state prison and we did the interview live on the radio. That’s one thing I love so much about the show, is that I can take all kinds of interviews or whatever I want and broadcast it live on a FM radio station, it’s a dying tradition. When I was in high school there was a guy who played hardcore on the University of Riverside college station every Wednesday. Me and my friends would call in and request songs and then he would play them and give us shout outs, that was always so cool to me and I love being able to do that now. Wes actually did a 3 part Your Life In Prison series, where he broke down everything you would ever want to know about life in the California prison system. With him not being alive now, having those shows up on the SoundCloud page is pretty special to me.
Now in 2021 the show still has only handful of listeners, but it’s still my thing, it’s still my younger self creating something I dreamt of doing. My life is so busy now, it’s gotten so much bigger, YLIA seems like such a small part of it. But every time I get behind the mixer I am reminded of what it means to me. Over the past year I have had the privilege of interviewing some of my favorite bands who made some songs that have become part of my DNA and mean more to me than I can explain. Being able to do those interviews has been very special to me, especially Jeremy from Fury and Anxious. Aunt Rosie doesn’t do the show regularly with me anymore, life kind of took us both in different directions and the show is mainly hardcore releases and interviews, but she will always be my co-host. The birth of YLIA will always be her and I.
Another crazy story related to the show is how I met my current girlfriend. On the blog awhile back I wrote an entry called “the girl with the pink hair” about a dream I had where I met this girl I fell in love with and married. On June 29th, 2019 the radio station held a concert fundraiser where I got a 4 hour block to play music and interview all the bands that were playing the show that night. I had been playing this band Basha in the weeks prior, because I liked their music and they were going to be headlining the fundraiser show. They were scheduled to stop by the studio around 5pm on the day of the fundraiser show to interview with me. I was expecting an older female punk band for some reason, I pictured like 4 girls who resembled the singer of Vice Squad. Holly and Amber of Basha rolled in to the studio, Holly was sleeved with tattoos and Amber was absolutely beautiful rockin hoop earrings and the cutest hair style.
Someone had made me some YLIA stickers to hand out at the show and they were scattered across the table inside the studio. One of the first things Holly said was, “Your Life In America? Is that like the Ceremony song?”. I was like, “Yes!!!”. She was the first person to ever make note of the reference and I thought that was so cool. It was so hot in the studio that day, I had bottled water for them and took the big box fan off the floor and set it on the table right next to all the mics during the interview. I fell in love with Amber right then, we found out we were both counselors and there was just a connection between us. We were all going to see Ceremony and Fury the next night too, it was just a crazy hour of meeting them and the interview was great, the whole night was great. You can listen to the interview on the YLIA SoundCloud page it’s called “BASHA Interview” I think. The way we found out we were interested in each other was actually through Amber referencing “the girl with the pink hair” story. Amber and I fell in love, she moved to California and we live together in Carpinteria now with our little orange cat Tom. But yeah if I never took the action to get the free WordPress that Thursday night in 2017, then the radio show may have never happened, YLIA may have never started and I would’ve never met Amber. Life is a trip.
I guess this blog post just turned into a brief history of Your Life In America, I am glad it turned out that way. I knew I wanted to write something on here today I just didn’t know what. My life has been crazy man, I don’t really know to explain the feelings behind my perception of it every day. It has been a really hard year for everybody, I don’t really know what to say about that. There is beauty everywhere at all times no matter how fucked up things are. I am glad I was given the chance to live two lives. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all my friends, influences(good and bad), inspirations, Amber, my family and Casa De La Raza. I love you all more than you know. I am glad I was given a second chance…