Shake

It’s spring. Take a bath. Shake off the dirt and the cold and the ice.

1)

Last night, I went to the open mic blues jam (OMBJ) near my house, which I’ve been known to frequent but which  (lately) I’ve been frequenting with less and less of the frequentification. I blame herniated cervical discs and slow-melting ice and fucking cold weather. I blame complacency. I blame a touch of generalized malaise and acute SAT, or Social Avoidance Tendency. I know that none of this avoidance will lead to the doing of any good. None of this will bring me any sort of enlightenment. None of this will help me transcend the Big Fucking Here and Now. And so I’ve been actively seeking to move past it.

Adam, whose creative work ethic I admire, always gets himself to these OMBJs despite having a far busier life than I do. He is my role model in this regard. He is my musical cattle prod. (Hmm… this may sound kinkier than I mean for it to.) How about: He shames me with his seminal tenacity. (Yuck. Wtf?) Okay, look: he’s tireless in engaging in creative things. (Phew!)

I believe there’s also a social component that gets Adam to the OMBJs.

Before I left for OMBJ last night, I said to C: “I think Adam is more social than I am.”

C’s response was some form of: “Um… ya think?”

She’s good at zeroing in on realities that take me months to figure out. It’s one of the reasons I married her.

2)

Here’s a reality: There have been an awful lot of deaths this winter. There always are, I guess. But it just felt extra bad this winter. Some were people I knew intimately. Some were people I knew of, but didn’t know personally at all.

Winters are tough for the frail and the old. This winter killed my grandmother. Last winter killed my 92-year old neighbor, Joe. Three winters ago killed my mother.

Winters are also tough on the young and the strong. No matter what age we are, we are all dying a little every day. Winters speed up the process.

Sometimes I think I’m dead already.

Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, winter is my favorite season. I am a glutton for… well, all sorts of things, really.

And even though this past winter was hard, I got some really great photos out of it, which is pretty much all I ask for, anymore.

3)

C was out of town three or four weeks ago and I accidentally got piss drunk alone on Jameson and cried while making turkey burgers.

I mention this to impress you with my ability to operate a gas stove while drunk and bawling. And it was pretty much a bawl, I have to admit. The kind of cry where you can’t catch your breath and you heave and you cough and it just doesn’t fucking stop even though you know it’s stupid and you look ridiculous.

It weren’t pretty.

The dogs were fascinated by this behavior. The possibility of food. The drama of wailing. I think it confused them. I think it put them on edge. (Like, more than usual.) They hovered near the stove. They sat on the kitchen floor beside me while I shoveled perfectly-seasoned turkey meat into my dry mouth and wiped my wet eyes with paper towels. They yawned a lot and made noises when they yawned.

But they eventually got bored with all the drama and took to the couch.

Moments before, I’d been listening to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. The reason I’ve been listening to them lately (ironically) is because of their positivity. Macklemore gets hated on quite a bit in the hip-hop world, but I like him. I feel like his stuff is honest and I like that. I like his willingness to bare himself, to talk about his weaknesses, his addictions, his recoveries and his relapses, to take himself a little less seriously than most. I find this inspirational.

So I was grooving along to Macklemore. Let’s say it was “Gold.” Let’s say it was “Cowboy Boots.” Let’s say it was “My Oh My.” Look, I don’t really know what song it was, anymore. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if Macklemore was even still on or if iTunes had switched to Frightened Rabbit or some other thing I might have had in heavy rotation. If it had, then that might better explain the crying. But let’s say, for now, I was still playing Macklemore. And let’s say it was “My Oh My.”

It’s not important which song it was, really. The thing was, I was smiling. I was possibly dancing in place. Maybe I was singing.

And I was cooking turkey burgers.

Then, without warning, I was crying. It started in my throat. Then the eyes. A fullness. A flood of the wetness. A swelling up. Then: a gush. A goddamned exploding dam break.

Whatever the cry started about is not important. Because whatever started it, it eventually became about my mom.

Every death and every sadness now is about her.

When I cry, I cry for her.

Every time.

4)

The point is: last night I went out to the OMBJ, right? And Adam and I got called up to play at the same time, along with a few others, including this great drummer Glenn and this really talented saxophonist, whose name escapes me right now.

Adam called some fun songs and we jammed and it was good, one of the better sets I remember us having together. Things just seemed to be clicking. For all of us, I think. We were all on the same groove. And that’s really great when that sort of thing happens.

The saxophonist whose name I can’t remember had a particularly good solo during the last song we played together. Afterwards, I told him I really enjoyed it. He thanked me and then he went on to say something about how the songs really just felt right tonight and how so much about playing depends on that: on enjoying the songs, on whether or not they feel right and whether or not you like them and enjoy playing them.

I agreed with him. I said I knew exactly what he was saying. I’ve played certain songs where nothing new or interesting comes out. And I’ve played other songs where the interesting stuff flows and I have no idea where it came from. Sometimes it’s the exact same song.

The notes we play or do not play happen because of the song we find ourselves playing at the time we find ourselves playing it.

5)

I’ve been struggling this week to put words to some flash pieces I’ve had on my writing to-do list. I’ve been wanting to get a few of these on paper so I have something to bring to the “Editor Speed Dating” at Conversations and Connections in DC this weekend. These flash pieces are part of a series I want to make into a collection, eventually. But for now, I just want to get them done and maybe send them to some places.

But they just aren’t gelling right now. For some of them, it’s the words: I can’t find the right sentences and voice to make them work. For some of them it’s something else. It’s something Adam put his finger on last night while we were talking after the OMBJ. It’s a problem that happens with all sorts of creative projects, and it’s this: I can’t find the reason for them to exist.

So I’ve been sort of spinning my wheels with two of these pieces this week and it’s frustrating mainly because of the other projects I’m NOT doing while I spin and spin and get stuck. And just staring at my screen. Resisting (poorly) the urge to visit social media sites. Getting distracted by the heaps of unopened mail and bills stacking up beside me in my office.

And by groundhogs.

Thank god: It is the season to be distracted by groundhogs.

Groundhog

So instead of working on those two pieces any longer this week, I decided to sit down today and write this little thing and put it here. Because I just felt the timing was right for it. I felt it was the right song for now.

I simply had an easier time coming up with the reason for it to exist.

I won’t ever find a publisher for this little rambling essay and I don’t want to. I won’t ever go on a reading tour because of it. (I may never do that anyway.) But all I know is that for whatever reason it has more of a reason to exist than anything else I can get on the page right now.

Listen to me:

The notes we play or do not play happen because of the song we find ourselves playing at the time we find ourselves playing it.

6)

Brad Listi, whose podcast Other People I like a lot, wrote a thing yesterday which I enjoyed. Maybe “enjoyed” is the wrong word. I mean, the piece isn’t exactly a ray of sunshine.

Appreciated.

I appreciated it.

Resonated. That works too.

Anyway, toward the end of it, he writes:

We’re dying right now. We’re being born right now. This is the truth.

Thousands upon thousands of cells, dying. Right now. In our bodies. For real. Thousands upon thousands of new cells being born. Every single second. Not a theory. A fact.

The nature of everything is that everything is always changing.

It’s spring, dammit. Lots of things have died this winter. But things are being born again. And it’s time. It’s time to warm up. Wake up. Take a bath. Shake off the dirt and the cold and the ice. Change.

And then:

Call the songs we need to call to make the shit happen. And if we can’t call the right songs, hopefully we can depend on friends to call the right ones for us.

And maybe eventually I’ll get the intended shit down on paper. And maybe eventually I’ll stop crying alone in the kitchen, drinking Jameson and making turkey burgers and listening to Macklemore while the dogs yawn.

And hopefully it will be before my long fucking winter comes.



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