Domenic Palermo is an artist and a musician, founder of both Death of Lovers and the award-winning and Billboard-charting NOTHING. Hailing from the Kensington/Frankford areas of Philadelphia, Palermo saw many of his friends and family fall prey to the trappings of an underprivileged neighborhood, spending time in and out of the justice system. Palermo himself also made a near fatal decision that landed him in a correctional facility, a moment that he vowed to avoid from then forward. Since then, Palermo has emerged as not only a successful artist and writer, but an advocate for Philadelphia and a vocal proponent for change, on an individual level as well as in the cogs of the justice system. It’s with this personal and peripheral experience that he created Belly of the Beats, a nonprofit with several corporate partners that seeks to help the incarcerated and their families.
Our homes aren’t ours anymore. Our beds now sleep strangers. The people inside your walls are aliens. They don’t remember who you are and they don’t want you around. So go away.
A few years ago, I made the honest mistake of picking up a guitar and letting myself bleed into it. High on Percocet and whatever else I could get my hands on, I began to build a cell around myself on a piss-covered sheetless mattress for one. Days and nights passed as I’d sit and scratch scabs off of a hundred thousand old wounds until there was enough to have a cassette tape that helped better explain myself.
Five years later, I’m crammed in a van overflowing with anxiety, despair and misery that’s being perspired in by three other desperate souls whom I’ve invited into my now-mobile solitary confinement chamber.
We’ve been dragged and drugged along America’s greatly unforgiving asphalt for another thirty-five-day set now and we’re nearing the place that used to resemble some sort of home, which has become nothing more than a crumb in the eye or a stubbed toe.
Any sort of ending would indeed serve us all well.
Days upon days, night after night spent thinking too much. Spent missing too much. State to state, city after city, avoiding anything. Ignoring everything. When you call and ask if I’m OK I must confess, I lied breathlessly, “Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.” But the truth is, I’m not. There are no words to describe the condition the tugs and tears of grief’s collar leave around my neck from being yanked around the country. It’s hard to not act natural and cower and tremble in the corner with my tail between my legs.
It’s not us trudging across the great lands and grassy green hills of Mother Earth, it’s Her trudging across our weak bodies, putting her full weight on our starving stomachs, suffocating us until submission screams out of our bloodshot eyes.
Time spent in here. Time spent there. Time spent in hotels if we’re lucky. Time spent in homes of others if we’re not. Lying on cat-fur-covered hardwood floors while our ever-so-gracious host carves and chips away at me like an ancient sculptor, interrogating me about our itinerary. I don’t have anything to say. Speak to my lawyer.
Coping methods rip through forests and create new routes and roads that often lead to new lands of desperation and misanthropy.
Maybe you can have a drink. Maybe you’ll have a few. Maybe you can set fire to both ends of that dangling bridge you build over and over again and jump up and down until it all comes crashing down.
Maybe, just maybe, you’ll end up washed up on shore bruised and battered and see the people you’ve known and cared for your whole life just to find out that they have turned into ghosts that you can no longer feel or touch.
Maybe you lost touch with your world or maybe it lost touch with you.
In time, the conclusion of whether or not this was a healthy alternative to whatever I was heading for five years ago may be clearer, but knowing there won’t be an answer is what keeps my nights sleepless.
But when your home is no longer yours. When your friends are nowhere to be found. When all your loves seem to disappear in the rearview mirror, you’re left alone with just your thoughts again and they only ask one thing over and over again.
Was this what you really wanted?
(Photos by: Reid Haithcock)