16 September 2016

That Which I Might

I think I like to believe that noodling around on my ukulele and on that cigar box guitar I impulsively bought last summer at a random ATL festival has made me a better guitar player.  I'll never be very good and I'm cool with that.  Whatever dreams I ever had of rock stardom are a distant (if [still!] oft revisited) memory.  I do still, however find myself 'learning' songs with chords I'm not familiar with...no realistic chance of successful execution, but always with the same prideful arrogance with which I pursue / have always pursued all meaningful / pointless endeavors.  I'm okay with that.  For years I thought there was some magic chord progression I would have to hit to be a 'good' guitarist....it's finally dawned on me that I'll never hit those changes.  That's just not me...I wasn't born to be a guitar player in the classic sense - in any conventional sense if I'm honest.  Truth is, I don't love it enough to dedicate the time it would take to be considered a 'good' guitar player.  It's a time killer and I DO love killing time so I'm cool with whatever that says about me.  The benchmark, for the record, for me at least is Tunnel of Love by Dire Straits.  Mark Knopfler is an unequaled / unexpected freak in my estimation and it's borderline obscene to think that I could ever match the natural talent of a certified virtuoso but everybody has to have a dream, right?   

This wasn't the first 'moment of clarity' I experienced today but it is as significant as (if not more so) anything else, considering that some version of its implied internal dialogue has bounced around my conscious / subconscious aquarium since spring but has remained unarticulated until right now in this eternally random hotel.  It hints at the root cause of my near-manic need to solo-vacate the premises for an ever-increasing length of time every year.  What is the 'root-cause' you might be asking?  If you can allow yourself to be honest with yourself (myself) for a second, you already know - there simply isn't enough time to think about all of the things.  

Prior to even boarding my exquisite / uneventful flight to Denver this morning, I felt unprepared - knowing full well that if I'm anything, I'm 'prepared' on the regular .  It wasn't that I hadn't held the mail etc., it was that I hadn't 'held' my brain.  Who does that?!  I hadn't allowed myself margin enough to internalize what it might mean to see Chimney Rock with my own eyes.  As with all other destinations on this installment of my self-diagnosed / self-medicated vacation, it was an unknown.  It / they exist(ed) simply and solely as 'stars' on my Google Map for as long as it / they have been a recognizable thing.  As I flitted along the clouds hovering effortlessly above the patchwork of greens and grays that is the American heartland this AM (yester now), I realized that I hadn't done my homework.  

I was sad admitting to myself that I had neglected to prepare my mind but how does one even do that?  Is that a thing?  Could I / should I mentally clear myself to the point that I could fully appreciate this magnificent geological monolith prior to?  After this afternoon's drive, the answer is an unequivocal no.  I cannot, and my ineffective Instagram pics do not / cannot / will not ever give / show / intimate a single molecule of insight as to how I felt when I first saw this ancient stone skyscraper rising from the prairie floor.  It was cool earlier to be back in Denver for a bit and we all know how attached to prairie dogs I am, but that wasn't the thing.  Cheyenne was something but I don't think I fully settled into what this road trip might possess until I saw Chimney Rock - with my own two hands.  It's only been a minute (tick,tick,tick) but I dig this vacation thus far.  You should to. The hell of it is, CR was a subtle (honestly expected / unexpected) letdown - there are bigger fish in my bear trap. 

Having finally qualified for vaca status (by my singular measure alone), I was able to get back to the business at hand. That 'business' never manifests itself in the same way but it's always exactly what I was wholly prepared / unprepared to accept / experience.  For instance, I had NO idea that I would be as taken as I was with 'Carhenge' but there were certainly some expectations.  Maybe it's that 'expectation' that's the issue?  Maybe it's as simple as not knowing what a sunset will look like in a place until you get to that place and see said sun set in that place that makes one desperately seek it.  You can't know what purple means to nature until nature shows you what it means to her.

I live on / in eight lanes of traffic.  Everyday.  Coming and going.  I want to know what purple looks like...I want to know what purple means.

I haven't written publicly in some time now (and I'm sure you get that by how whatever this piece is) but I feel as though this lucidity (however fleeting and incomprehensible it may in all reality be) should express itself.  Verbally.  Unedited.  It's not that I have discovered the 'answers' or whatever, it's that I have found a vehicle that I know how to drive through that which I might.

My clock is a 24-hour click-click-boom.  It always has been and it always will be.  It's ALWAYS go time.



24 May 2015

Rolling Down a Hill

Saturday, as has become my Memorial Day weekend tradition, I spent the afternoon in Piedmont Park at the Atlanta Jazz Festival.  If you haven't been, you need to go.  Atlanta is overloaded with free fun and this is one of our best events.  It's always a bit transformational for me, but this year it was especially so.  I can't effectively articulate what it fills me with, but my heart and soul are filled when I leave there every single time.  If I need to describe to you the complete sense of peace a body feels while sitting in cool grass on a warm summer day as the sounds of horns and strings dance and float along the breeze, I'm afraid you'll never understand.  That's fine if you don't.  I do though and I'm sure that I'm a better man because of it.

Yesterday, from a shady blanket oasis I spied a group of kids rolling down a hill.  Interject the sounds of children's laughter into this already idyllic tranquil scene and what you have is a moment of magic that will forever be etched on my brain.  That statement will come as a shock to anyone who knows me and if I'm honest it shocks me a little too.  For much of my life the playful squeals and joyous screams and unbridled laughter of a group of children has been a source of great anxiety for me, a disturbing inconvenience to be tolerated.  What a dick, right?  The upside is that this is changing for me almost daily.  Maybe it's because I was such a serious introverted child that I can't make that connection in my memory.  I don't think I was a sad kid necessarily, but I don't recall ever being overly expressive about much of anything, and certainly not about something as mundane and pointless as rolling down a hill.  This is a true story that I had literally blocked out until yesterday.  I assumed I had done the same thing as a kid and I'm sure I've agreed with others as they recount the simple joy of said hill rolling even though I didn't have a specific memory of it.  Digging deeper into my mental archives however, I realized that I hadn't.  I remember watching other kids roll down hills and thinking how stupid they looked.  (What a weirdo, right? And again, what a dick.)  Confronted with this startling realization, that I had in fact never rolled down a hill as a child, I felt overwhelmingly sad for six-year-old me.  So yesterday when my friend asked if I wanted to roll down a hill, I jumped up and shouted an enthusiastic 'Yes!'

There's a funny thing about being a grown ass man...sometimes you don't realize just how tightly wound you are.  As tired and overplayed a cliche as it is, it remains true that being an adult is an inconvenient pain in the ass a lot of the time.  We all feel similar pressures, the same but different demands on our time...the world moves faster everyday and it's a full time job just to keep up.  That's true for all of us.  Knowing this fact all too well and simultaneously being faced with the option to literally unfurl my very self along that grassy slope was an opportunity that I couldn't let pass me by.  How often in life, do we do that?  How often do we let good judgement or responsibility or duty or any of a thousand other noble qualities prevent us from not only seeing, but seizing the very thing that will bring us joy?  I've personally been guilty of letting the 'moment' (whatever that has ever meant) slip away at times I know and I'm sure you have as well.  At some level, it truly is unavoidable.  Try as I might and even though I like to convince myself that I live exactly in the 'is', I don't always.  I was alive and living in the 'is' yesterday in every possible way and it's the best decision I've made in a very long time.

Having no personal experience to draw from, I spent a few minutes studying the mechanics of the actual thing as demonstrated by the gaggle of laughing rolling children on my right.  It seemed easy enough so I walked to the top of the hill with as much giddy anticipation building inside of me as I can recall in recent memory.  I lied down on my back, took a deep breath, rolled up the hill slightly and then threw my weight into the spin.  What a sensation that first rotation was as the sky spun into the green earth and then back to the sky...twisting the blues and greens faster as I descended, swirling into a perfect blissful mix of dark and light.  Feeling the cool of the grass and the warmth of the sun at the same time, alternating as I tumbled farther down until I came to rest at the base of the hill.  Dizzy.  Smiling.  Triumphant...yes, triumphant.  I know it's ridiculous and I'm cool with that but when I looked up all I could do was shoot two clenched fists into the air as if I'd just won the lottery!

I recaptured the ability to just let shit go, if only for a few brief idiotic seconds.  In that moment, nothing else mattered.  I didn't really care who saw this particular grown ass man making a fool of himself.  I wasn't worried about the deadlines or the commitments or any of that other cloudy bullshit.  I was free.  As free and as unaffected as I have been in far too long.  It was a good time.  I collected my wits and went back to the top of the hill!

I hope that it's a beautiful day wherever you are in the world.  I don't claim to be wise by any stretch but I do stumble upon good advice from time to time and here it is; if you find yourself beside a hill today, do not miss your chance to roll down it.  That can mean whatever that may mean for you.  Don't be afraid to just let it all go.  BE ridiculous!  Unfurl your inner 'you' and don't give a second thought to who might see.  Don't you owe yourself that much?

14 December 2014

Breakfast In Hell

In spite of my unequaled predilection toward public displays of expressive thought, I've managed successfully to suppress said urges in silent pursuit of a differing ideal.  That you have no idea what I just said or what I'm about to ramble about means as little to me now as it did when I was a more public rambler then.  With little or no fanfare, I shelved this blog for much of the year so as to concentrate on the at least internally oft celebrated next obvious.  It was a well intentioned but poorly conceived plot and of course the book inevitably has stalled...you didn't really think I could pull off the next great American novel between March and Christmas did ya?  Even my hubris has limits.  Writing for a specific purpose has proven to be my insurmountable Everest and if I'm honest I've been itching (begging!) for any inspiration to write about something (anything!) other than the dipshit predictable characters that have been furtively dancing around the margins, refusing to be written all year!  Suffice to say that I've somehow broken through that creative divisive surface and I'm writing again...for a different reason.  That's a good thing...if I were a shark, it could be said that I'm about to breach.

I've experienced an unexpected windfall of success and positivity on a professional level in the last week or so.  It's not the finish line in any regard, but certainly a line I had to cross.  Personal reflection at such a time for a dude like me is unavoidable and that's happening right now.   If you've read anything I've written ever, you know I believe in 'paths', right?  Everybody's got their own, nobody can walk it but them...blah, blah, blah.  I won't belabor nor debate the duplicity of the Nick Cave phenomena implicitly stated, but the events of this past week place me squarely, dare I say force me almost back into a contemplative, reflective space.  That's where I'm most comfortable...and creative for that matter; I like it here.  The simple fact is for me at least, attaining a thing, reaching a goal isn't the point of the path.  Recognition is important and I'm as honored as ever to represent the firm in a now increasing capacity and I've been truly humbled by the adulation heaped upon me this week.  All good things, but I need to put that success behind me, refocus and continue on this path: success quickly becomes a roadblock if you allow it.

Long story short?  We should hear a song.

It's a story song.  This particular song is the retelling of a legend and like all good legends is based in, at least from my not-so-exhaustive research, some fact.  There is a public record of a man, a young river driver named Sandy Gray and there is in fact a place in Ontario called Sandy Gray Falls and it is indeed located along the Musquash River.  The actual history behind the legend and subsequent song are blurry at best so I accept this song as the "official" record of the events of that Sunday morning in 1899.  

Listening to harrowing tales like this about the men who endeavored to tame and shape this wild continent, to exert human will over the parlous forces of nature in order to carve out a life render within me a deep sense of awe and astonishment...inadequacy even.  Men, who against all odds walked a singular path with hopes only of providing a brighter future for their family.  I'm not talking about men like Rockefeller and Ford.  They shaped this country for sure, but they were egomaniacs - especially Ford.  If you don't believe that, pick up a copy of Fordlandia.  Henry Ford believed he could recreate his vision of a utopian middle America in the rain forests of Brazil as a means to harvest cheap rubber.  His experiment ended in abject failure as you might imagine, but that is a lesson for another day.  

I'm talking about men whose names are lost to history now...the men who cleared the land for farming and laid the tracks of the first railroads and set poles and strung wire to bring electricity to the masses...young men just like Sandy Gray...who fought and died in battle, who with no deference toward their own wellbeing, just simply got the job done.  This story is about a young, brave (if reckless) man who tragically lost his life but I see it as more than that.  The take away here is that all of these men were just doing their job.  They weren't heroes by definition.  They were just men.  I fear 'just being a man' is a lost concept on this modern America.  Of course pragmatically speaking, Sandy certainly should have dove for the banks of the river with the rest of his soft-hearted compadres, but if he had, a little known folk singer wouldn't have written a well crafted song about his short life 100+ years later and an even lesser known blogger would be twiddling his thumbs this Sunday morning.  I applaud, hell I absolutely celebrate his audacity.  We should all have a little more Sandy Gray in us.  

At any rate, I love this song...literally let it play ten times minimum in a row every single time it crosses the rotation.  Further and just as an additional unexpected aside, if it's the last thing I ever do, I'm going to take this girl I know for a hike up along the banks of, near the mouth of the Musquash River to Sandy Gray Falls someday and I'm going to sing her this song.  That event won't make my life epic, but it will be an important point along the path.

"I'll be damned, we'll break this jam...or it's breakfast in hell."

07 March 2014

Next Logical Step

One year ago, give or take I started a project.  I tasked myself with taking a single photograph everyday for a year.  No one is as stunned as I am that I actually followed that path all the way through.  It’s certainly not an original design, but what is, right?  The intent as originally conceived is to gain a deeper insight into the authentic person one truly is.  I admit that may be an idealistic pile of hippie nonsense, but at the time I felt like it was worth a shot.  In hindsight, it was the best if not the only move I could have made.  

It’s a rare thing to be consciously aware of whatever it is that is all around you on the regular.  And though that was the goal of the project, I think I too often photographed out of necessity – to fill my quota.  It became more of a photography exercise than a self discovery endeavor.  I’m okay with that – there were a lot of thoroughly decent photographs and it did shed some light for me personally.  All things being equal, the project was a success.  Tonight as I look back on the year, my initial evaluation at the end of that first month is reaffirmed.

My hope at the start was to try to learn something, anything about myself.  What I became quickly conscious of is that I have a pretty damn good life.  It’s not always what I thought it would be, and everyday doesn’t always turn out like I think it should or how I hoped that it might.  Life isn’t always fair, but that doesn’t mean that it has to suck.  Everyday is a new adventure and a chance to make another memory, an opportunity to make that day better than the day before.  Taking (365) photographs in daily succession didn’t teach me this specifically, but it did illuminate for me that which I’ve too often missed – the simple good that happens right in front of my everyday eyes.  It reminded me to seek out the positive thing, the illusive obvious joy that resides in the minutia of every second of the day. 

It’s difficult sometimes to not get sucked in by the bullshit of life, especially the bullshit that is of one’s own making.  Everyone deals with whatever it is differently.  For me the sometimes forced positive daily creative aspect of this exercise effectively averted my attention from what had become my near obsession with the negative. 

I’m satisfied with the outcome but now I’m done with it.  It’s far too egocentric to sustain publically.  I’ll continue to snap pics of my everyday and I might even post some here from time to time but (365) as a thing is over.  As an aside, I’m perplexed by the fact that no one seemed to give a shit about the music I started adding (31) days in.  That was/is effectively a primer on all things musically cool and it fell sadly on deaf ears as far as I can see.  I suppose, helping the world see and dig the same music as me isn’t my job after all.  Oh well, now you’ve got an epic playlist if you want one.

So now what?  I’ve been painting a lot more lately, painting the canvases that I want to.  My limited success (and/or lack thereof) on the festival circuit inadvertently forced me into painting what I thought would sell and I hate that.  As such, I have pulled out of all of the festivals I had on my calendar for 2014.  I need to refocus on the art, on the act of art making.  I’ve always painted for me only until I started getting paid for it – that must get rectified with a quickness. 

Past the art thing, I want to refocus on the craft of writing.  When I started this blog in the fall of 2011, it was deployed as a therapeutic device, and it still is at some level.  Writing has always been exactly that for me, but I want more out of it now.  As much as I love posting whatever random is on my mind, it is far too often only about me.  In spite of that wallowing fact, sometimes it has been really good and I'm proud of those moments, but sometimes it is little more than self-indulgent drivel and I’m sure I’m better than that.  Perhaps it’s my incomparable arrogance speaking, but I feel like I have a helluva lot more to say, that I haven’t made my voice heard yet.  I’m sure I’ll keep writing it, but this blog isn’t the best venue to develop that voice.  To that end, I’ve decided to finally write the book that’s been bouncing around my brain for the last (20+) years.  I’m aware that I just committed the cardinal sin of public proclamation that I railed against earlier this year but that’s a risk I’m willing to face.  The undertaking of sifting through a lifetime of unfinished thoughts, incomplete plot twists, character profiles, forgotten outlines and unrealized scene structure is daunting but it sends a charge through me that I haven’t felt in a long time.

There are of course, endeavors of greater import that I could and should probably busy myself with…this ladder isn’t going to climb itself, is it?  I no longer however see any reason not to ardently pursue all of my passions equally.  If I am who I say I am it’s the obvious next logical step.