It is the close of the first day of November, and I’m laying in bed, taking a minute to reflect on the journey taken and also where I find myself at this stage…
I’m in a comfy bed in a house, food and clothing close by, and jobs to work with (I hope) enough to earn to pay the obligations I owe. I have listened to music and seen new sights and met new people and found myself in a supportive place. I am in my ‘second chapter’ and looking forward to new trips and learning new things. In this day and age, that’s all anyone could ask for.
I have friends near and far, and I have possibilities. I have life, and I have the wind at my back and a clear trip out in front. I have myself. I have the capacity to enjoy simple things.
In mighty endeavors, one has to start with simple steps, those building blocks of dreams. I’m thankful for those steps and the grace to recognize them. I would hope that everyone (in their own way) can develop the capacity to see those steps in their own life….
“I’ve never been lonely. I’ve been in a room — I’ve felt suicidal. I’ve been depressed. I’ve felt awful — awful beyond all — but I never felt that one other person could enter that room and cure what was bothering me…or that any number of people could enter that room.”
“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”
-Jean Paul Sartre
I think it must be too easy to be alone during times of relocation. You’re in between one ‘life’ and another; everything on which you might have depended seems hollow, separated by time and sheer space. In a new place, you have no fixed identity amongst your peers and prospective colleagues and prospective friends, and the social web is very make-shift, dependent on signifiers of trustworthiness and responsibility on which most friendships increasingly depend. Will it survive if you decide that your congenial self isn’t your true self? In this environment one, it seems, must be polite or die. Certainly to the confidence-deprived (among whom I seem to count myself) this seems to carry the weight of canon law.
Parallel to this fear is the condition of not being in tune with one’s emotions, in all of their very complicated and multi-faceted forms. If you suffer from this, you have my sympathy! It is hard for us to take our own side in life without seeming to be sociopaths or outright assholes. But without reinforcing and listening to ourselves, we can only be powerless to empathize with and offer anything to anyone else. To draw the circle out further, we have to find a way to do this in such a way that we find peace in not expecting others to be our emotional ballast even as we divest ourselves of reciprocal obligations. When we can freely empathize and see ourselves in others without expectation, then maybe we can enjoy our solitude, our rootlessness then seen as being in the moment, intimate with the wider resonances of living.
I sit in a Starbucks in a town I’ve never lived in and listen to the rhythms of the space even as I have Larry Goldings riffing away on my iTunes playlist. I will drive places and do things and meet people and go down to my sleep within sight of the Piscataqua river, smelling the wood of the house and the sounds of the Interstate. It is fall here in New England. Here I am. I am intimate with no-one, and yet I’m in a wider community with everyone.
THIS is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best.
Night, sleep, death and the stars.
We are creatures of habit. We like our routines, we get comfortable, that rarity in a lifetime of relentless change, our bodies and minds being pushed along against our will, never necessarily thinking or feeling the same thing (exactly) twice. Habit is a kind of quiet, a point where we don’t have to be stuck in a reactive survival mode. We get to branch out and bloom instead of creeping along like vines.
When we move, our habits are disrupted. Giant molten fissures open up within us, bringing forth interesting feelings and impressions, mixing past and future, and in those cracks (if we don’t end up going crazy) we find bits of inner quicksilver that often don’t appear to us during the majority of our mostly-sedentary lives.
I begin at this point some three weeks after I began this post, and am inclined to regard the previous paragraph as being mostly true, if not a little precious. The fissures have brought darker and more dynamic forces to the fore for someone who fears change as much as I do. The quicksilver is there, thank goodness, but navigating an icy lake of existential dread and absurdity to get there has (at times) felt more than that of which I felt capable of surviving. C’est la vie.
Interestingly enough, within this brief timeframe outside of established work, community, and residence, one can momentarily navigate large and radical thoughts with more constructive intuition than in more “normal” times. I have thought about quitting the job I just got and getting back out on the road, with no thought of possessions or money, mad enough for anyone to contemplate (to say nothing for someone of brutally limited financial means like myself) and I don’t flinch at it–I find myself regarding it as almost logical. Why?
I have been smacked upside my head by the realization that there is nowhere to go. Also by the thought that there is no such place as home. I have been obsessed with this, owing to my fixation on where I belong and where I feel some sense of identification, and the older I get the more ineffectual these thoughts have become. I wasn’t prepared for the inner negation of fixed points in my life. It has frightened and (?liberated?) me all at the same time.
Like Whitman, I behold a day erased, a lesson done (and yet not done,) a point of death to everything that came before. Can I do what he did in reply, seeing the night and the sleep and the stars in beauty? Can I stay in some kind of grace in this new strange set of circumstances?
Traveling anywhere makes me dreamy, overthinking and over-remembering everything within some kind of great imagined continuum of a perceived ‘greater destiny’. As I’m sitting in the concourse waiting for my flight to board, some things that have popped up:
–I stayed up last night reading some of my older journals, and (foolishly) I expected to find prima facie evidence of my evolution beyond endless self-absorption and waiting for others to make their decision before I make my own. No such luck. Consternation at the discovery and at having expected to find a different outcome…
–Janitorial staff cleaning windows and plastic partitions; a small older woman working gradually along the long length of the gate. Possibly a grandmother already? I wondered if she and everyone else who has to pour their work into a chore that’s never finished ever get to be passengers in their own right, gazing out over the tarmac, wondering what they’ll find at the end of their ride, the people they’ll meet…
–When masked at a gate before boarding, Having Jon Hassell on your playlist feels in tune with the private space behind the mask…
So the original conceit for this little blog (random musings during 30 minutes of repose in the middle of a physical workday) went the way of all flesh when my schedule got changed and I ended up getting a lot busier and less verbose, more tired and less reflective about the indeterminate space between my artistic pretensions and the grinding work of hourly pay. A modest experiment, the success (or failure) of which is no big thing since this was, in essence, a big air-guitar solo.
I am also unsure of the stream-of-consciousness tone which I’ve tried to use (mainly because my writing has been off-the-cuff, me trying to improvise at the keyboard the same way as I’ve done at the musical 🎹,) and one thing seems sure: I’d like to take a bit more care and time with my entries and not come back to them wondering what in the hell I was thinking during the writing process.
So I’ll probably put the traffic cones and the detour sign up for a bit, owing to a recalibration of focus (and also for some other things, those will come later) and thank you for your patience!
(an excerpt from a discussion I had with a friend about work.)
I never believed in “work”.
I never believed in work as this marvelous redemption of the soul like the Puritans did and like everyone in our country does. It’s trading vast (and irreplaceable) chunks of our life in return for pay that will never be enough, in hopes of some fulfillment that will always be a moving target because our personalities and our desires and our feelings are eternal moving targets. So if money is bullshit and fulfillment is a labyrinth, then there’s been very little difference between any job I might want and the jobs I’ve had.
I used to bitch incessantly about “security”, worried about being a fraud, and lusted after money when I was a musician. I’ve learned more at a stupid menial hourly-pay gig than I did as a working musician for almost 20 years. While the money-lust (or simple poverty of funds) hasn’t changed, I’ve somehow managed to discover that I am a detail-oriented and conscious worker, because that is who I am and not because of what I do or because of anything I’ve done. That said, I’d rather live in art-world than janitor-world, and whether or not I could put my security-obsessed neuroses behind me and carry forth what I learned, while not impossible, is far from obvious.
I would close by saying that I no longer fear having to take menial work in search of my next chapter of life, but I’m not certain that I give a thundering rat-fuck about having a “career”. I’m done with talking about careers. Being me
IS my career.
It’s been a while. A long while…
For those few of you that follow this tiny thing, I’ll start by explaining what the original parameters of this blog were. It was a way to spend 30 minutes of lunch–a sit-down-at-a-table slow lunch–and jot down whatever bits of thought or inspiration that I had during that time. Anything to which I had listened, anything I had read, something on my mind–anything to keep the creative impulse going during the extensive and seemingly never-ending COVID lockdown.
…but then, things changed…
As the municipalities in which I live and work started to come out from under lockdown during vaccinations and subsequent reopenings, my schedule got a lot busier. And then it didn’t. And then it changed completely. I found myself no longer with a quiet expanse of time in which to write during the day, which was the first obstacle…
The second obstacle is one familiar to all writers and other creators–or at least to myself–and that is a seeming disbelief in the meaning of creating yet more words or music or photos or anything in a world where digital technologies have inundated human civilization with more information than they could possibly process in ten lifetimes, let alone the one through which we’re journeying. Does any of this–and I do mean any of it–mean anything?
This question bedevils me. It’s helped to stifle and bring to ground just about every creative endeavor I’ve had in my life. It’s an incessant battle against my cynicism (and as a GenX person, it’s very, very, VERY ingrained in my psyche) and trying to reach a place where what I could create might mean something to me, let alone other people (and that’s another post somewhere down the line.)
That’s the rub; figuring out how what I do might feed my fractured, exiled soul in this digital cacophony. There’s no right or wrong answer. I might have more such silences along the way, but for the moment, I’m back. Not writing during the day (or still writing that much,) but here nevertheless.
I’ll have a few things to chat about: more Bandcamp selections, the rebooting of culture after such a long interruption, moving, aging and impermanence, and maybe whatever I can capture in a photo along the way…
I bid you peace. ✌️
(Welcome to a new part of my humble endeavors, which will introduce you to snippet reviews/reactions to music to which I’m listening at the moment, in order to spread the word about a lot of little (perhaps) known but wonderful recordings out there. I’ll try to be somewhat substantive, but these are just largely reactions, sparks of my enthusiasm or any other gut feelings that strike me. I’ll write as much as I can cram in 30 minutes. All of the selections can be found on Bandcamp, either on the website or on the app.)
1. TaboTago Sessions 04: Live at Zionskirche, Berlin 2017/12/10
I’m not versed on German electronica, and I came across this and was intrigued by the concept of an ambient concert in a historic church, divorced from any theological content. European churches (the older ones, at least) are vast stone resonators for the choirs and organs that used to (and still sometimes do) inhabit them. If there was a better place to do atmospheric ambient, I can’t think of one. That said, I didn’t know what to expect from a long-track recording in concert from a group that draws on inspiration from Germany’s 1980s electronic scene (mainly Krautrock and Tangerine Dream), whether or not it would be poppish nasal synths or something else. What unfolded over the next 45 minutes felt as organic and yet unexpected as anything I’ve heard yet. The encore is much trippier, slightly Jon Hassell-esque than the first track, and one I like even better.
2. Hiemal: Aether
Hiemal is a French composer of what is described as “dark drone ambient”, but I find it as anything but! Listening to his long-track pieces reminds me of the effect of standing in front of a Mark Rothko painting, looking at (seemingly) stationary colors and finding them in actuality to be in a state of flux in terms of brightness and intensity. Profoundly meditative with a high, HIGH ceiling.
3. Dur Dur of Somalia: Volume 1 and Volume 2 (Analog Africa records)
I’m listening to this as I write, something I came across today. There was a time when Mogadishu (the much-suffering and bullet-pocked capital of the equally suffering country) wasn’t a war zone. There was a time (in the 1970’s and 1980’s) when the capital played host to a flowering of bands, playing music that blended Arabic-language Somali song with the style of funk music that reigned in many corners of the musical world at the time. Dur Dur was one of them, one of many bands whose musical legacy has persevered through the times of war and famine that followed. Analog Africa is a German label that has devoted itself to finding and preserving as much of these historical recordings as possible. A delightful postcard from a different time.
It’s near the end of my lunch break and I have less than three minutes to pen something down. So here it is: I walk around doing my job, and I find myself looking forward to finding the next weird and wonderful album on Bandcamp; forward to feeling the warmth of the approaching spring as I walk back to my car, as I also drive between jobs. I look forward to the small phone conversations I’ll have, and to whatever might be next on my ‘Chillax’ or Electronica playlists. I look forward to whatever joke someone sends me out of the random. Is this “happiness”? Is it visceral, rainbow-colored? I don’t know if I can call it that, but I do know this: it is an energy that keeps me going, keeps me walking, keeps me asking, wondering, and just basically living. It’s hard to define sometimes, and often it seems imperceptible to workaday discernment. It is nevertheless there, and it has stayed with me through a lot of valleys and also the peaks. The energy is the thing! Whatever you choose to call it–that’s just advertising….