Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I don’t know why there’s a picnic table in Neshaminy Creek, but I’m making it mine for the moment.
I’ve been looking for renewal. I usually find what I’m looking for. The hard part is just figuring out what it is. My signal-to-noise ratio had been out-of-whack recently. Getting in my own way. Succeeding at the day’s tasks but not always showing up emotionally. Happiness without peace. I think living next to the ocean helped me to quiet my mind down enough to hear my soul. My soul was saying it needed a recharge. Less screens, more breeze.
The moment from the trip that I recall with the most depth is the night we were watching that really long episode of Louie. Every commercial break, I’d run out to the beach with my beer and look at the moon shining over the ocean, breathing in the night air. Then I’d run back in, shake the sand off, and watch the next act.
Brown hat, yellow aviators, red corduroy pants, lime green “The Goose Is An Artist” shirt, black Toms with a colorful pattern on the inside. I look like me and I feel like me. I am getting my recharge at my favorite place, Tyler State Park. I’m relieved to see how much beauty is available to me back home. Life isn’t only beautiful when you’re on vacation. Wherever you are, work day or not, you have to go look for it and not wait for it to find you.
I had THAT moment a few times. I think it’s called bliss. I transcend. My body and soul feel high and free. Cleansed. It happens for a few seconds, then I ride it out like a wave. I try to stay in the moment and not open up the Pandora’s Box of worries and other scattered thoughts. They’ll be there next time I look for them. They might even be sorted out in my subconscious in the meantime. I’ve experienced that in many different parts of life, but nature is my most consistent source. I used to regularly get there while improvising music. I should do more of that.
I parked at the far end near the stables, walked over the covered bridge, past the disused hostel (I imagine that an amazing party preceded the new No Trespassing signs and that there are discarded t-shirts, panties, and roaches under the floorboards), up the very steep hill that helps me gauge how out-of-shape I am that day, past the awe-inspiring overlook that faces Swamp Road and Rose Bank Winery, down Dairy Hill Trail, across the walking bridge, through the forest that leads to the community college, through the courtyard next to Tyler Hall (1932) that houses Tyler Formal Gardens, into the college for a cup of coffee.
I try to read more of “White Bicycles” but I’m having trouble focusing. These college girls look like kids to me now; when did that happen? Focus. Down the winding path that borders the archery field that Pappy The Dog used to love running freely through, over the old stone bridge, into the paved path surrounded by wildflowers and a chorus of insects that inspired my song “crickets surround.” It’s a soothing cacophony and it makes me want to set up a tent and live among it. I used to dream of coming here with a beautiful girl who appreciates it as much as I do.
The smells of the park are rich and intoxicating. The creek, the honeysuckles, the deep forests, something like a wood stove in the distance. It’ll get ya high, man.
I remember the day I was supposed to be seeing a math tutor at college but went wandering through the woods instead. Finding a path that connected to Tyler Park was thrilling. I was not yet a driver, so it was a big deal to have access to my favorite place three days a week. I recall studying there once. I don’t imagine it happened often. I even managed to fail English. Just like Ralph Wiggum did! I’d previously failed Gym in high school. There I was; a guy too busy writing and hiking to pass English and Gym. Unpossible!
I stopped at the brown walking bridge on the Nature Trail. These days, you have to limbo under a horizontal tree to get there. It was built about ten years ago and turned into a public art piece, filled with Sharpee-based insights and insults, museum-quality illustrations next to cartoon dicks. It was even written about in the local paper. I took my girlfriend there and she drew a beautiful, complex pattern as well as some musings on her past cancer experiences.
One day, somebody came in and painted it all brown. The Boy Scouts or the parks department. As if the trees had called to complain about the cocks. Pissed me off, but then I did something about it. I’d already photographed my favorite parts, so I put a few dozen highlights from the old bridge on my otherwise vacant Flickr account. Now people can find them if they really want to. I think I’ll make a shirt of Marcella’s cool design one day.
Meanwhile, artists and rebellious teens see that brown paint as a clean slate. An invitation to create more. Have at it, artists and teens! I made four contributions yesterday. You should go look for them. Bring a Sharpie. Maybe leave one, too. I returned a quote that I’d seen there around 2008: “The difference between the ordinary and the miraculous is your undivided attention.” I added “Click Here!” and a mouse cursor next to the quote in homage to the technology addiction that so many of us have.
It’s tomorrow and I’m eating the first meal I’ve cooked myself since returning from my two weeks with the Di Sandros/Babyaks/Robertsons. Whose idea was THIS? I’d be better off eating Polaroids of the meals they made me.
I played a gig with Crocker yesterday. It was going poorly and I went through the familiar wrecking-ball-of-self-doubt bullshit. The John Lennon/Dennis The Menace side of me was on the verge of emerging. I wanted to abuse the audience. I mean, how miserable are these people that they won’t clap when people sing a song for them?! Peter Griffin: “Who hurt you??” I held back. I looked at Crocker and breathed in a little of his slim-Buddha vibe. We took a break and I looked at my iPhone for some information that would fix my life. Like other drugs, the iPhone cannot fix your life.
The only thing to do was to play for me and my friend instead of the audience. Some red wine also arrived around this time. All of the sudden, the music took over. The music takes over pretty much every time. You stop paying attention to the crowd and you step into the music like a pair of comfortable old boots and ya start stomping away. This is when the audience starts attention to you.
Nick played at least ten songs I’d never played in my life. I just went with it. I like the challenge. That spontaneity factor is how I choose my collaborators. I get bored without it. I arrived home around midnight with free food and booze in my body and a wad of cash in my pocket that hadn’t been there before. Not bad for a Monday.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Oh, no. All the people working at this coffee shop are different than before my trip. How did they grow new a new batch of baristas in just two weeks? Is that the collective noun - a “batch”? Or is a “frap” or baristas?
One of my Joes get murried right before My Not-Very-Hurried Southern trip. One of my Joes lost his dad this weekend. I thought of him when my mom asked me to take a walk around the lake with her. I’d been planning to have a Loner Weekend, slowly acclimating to “real life” (spoiler alert: life is always real). But I took an hour to connect with a parent in honor of my pal Joe.
Joe is a journeyman. He started in the same working-class town/high school as me and eventually left to explore the outside world and his own inner world. He has certifications in things that I can’t pronounce. I am drawn to Joe because he knows things that I don’t know. I think of Joe when I buy too much candy or when I eat meat when other options were available. He’s not preachy; he just tells the truth. Joe is in my song “My Grass Is Greener.” At that time, he was flying to India “pretty soon.” These days, he can tell ya about it.
At home, I changed my default coffee to black, I switched from ice cream to no-sugar-added frozen coconut milk, stopped buying beer. I cut out most starchy foods when I was twenty-three. I’m on my way to health, but I’m not there yet. It’s partly America’s fault but it’s mostly mine.
When I was seventeen, I started limping. It was my new thing and I just went with it. Like I wanted to be able to say later on that “I was an old man before it was cool.” Then I had back pain and shoulder pain. I had this pain most days of twelfth grade and the duration of my disjointed college career. I remember working at Payless ShoeSource and laying flat on the bathroom floor in an attempt to get some relief from the back pain. I don’t think I was ever able to convince the manager I wasn’t in there taking drugs. Those of you who have diseases with invisible symptoms know what I’m talking about.
During periods of self-discipline, I would stretch every morning. This helped. An emergency-level case of iritis when I was 21, however, brought things fully into focus. One eye turned slowly red, a red fog slowly traveling left to right. Then it was in the other eye. In George W. Bush-era America, I didn’t have health care, so I just waited. Once it was at an emergency level, I drove myself to an eye specialist. Even the drive was a challenge since I could barely see. I tried to get state assistance since I couldn’t pay out-of-pocket for insurance. I’ll never forget how viciously the clerk mocked me for having my mom assist me. Remember that I couldn’t see well during this period. America is a cruel place for people who don’t have deep pockets.
However, the ophthalmologist, Dr. Keenan, jumped through hoops to help me. As if my red eyes were my body’s Check Engine light. Through bloodwork and x-rays, it was found that my iritis was being triggered by a disease called ankylosing spondylitis. My body was trying to destroy itself. The rheumatologist at Einstein Medical Center initially wasn’t taking me seriously and didn’t even order x-rays. Once she saw the x-rays (which I ordered myself), she went into Overcompensation Mode. They gave me a drug called Enbrel which I was supposed to inject into my body every few weeks. I don’t think they asked me; it was just at my door the next day.
I spent some time reading about the drug. I was supposed to take it along with a horse pill-sized version of ibuprofen. I read about the side effects and opted, instead, for a diet change that a European doctor stumbled upon in the ‘70s and about which many AS/Crohn’s sufferers were enthusiastic. Low-starch. Pfizer can’t patent an “eat healthier” pill, so the doctors don’t mention it. But it worked.
I feel considerably better at 31 than I did at 21. I’m not sure if I’ve ever emailed Dr. Kennan to say thanks, but I’ll do it now.
Writing with my morning coffee. This is great. I should do this every morning. Even the mornings when I don’t feel like it. Hell, that’s when I’ll REALLY tell the truth!
Now I’m thinking about another tall, charismatic friend of mine. Righteous. I don’t care if you think I’m gay for these people. I can’t control what you think. Actually, it pleases me to realize how much I admire my male friends. I recently gave my sister an old cell phone of mine and she noticed that the Address Book had a disproportionate amount of women’s names. It made me… wonder about myself. I felt better when I realized she was looking at my Address Book as it existed in 2011, the year when I was fresh off a massive heartbreak and perusing OkCupid when I should’ve been perusing forests, my notebook, and my guitars. These days, my Address Book is more balanced, my motivations being more, uh, fully-clothed.
Anyway, Righteous is a goddamn genius. I think of him and I picture a three-story office building full of companies and he’s the CEO of all of them. Do you know people like that? I call those people Onion Brains - people who continuously reveal new layers of their personalities and never seem to get to the last one. I feel a little bit like that sometimes, too. Thirty-one years is enough time to be a lot of people. I’m in the mood to be creative with Joe and/or Righteous. The three of us are an interesting forty-two guys.
I think I read that my name means “Observer.” I wonder if that part of my personality is part of why I can get disconnected from myself and my own journey so easily. ‘Cause I’m looking out more than in. Writing has always been my best gateway to my true self. I don’t have to worry about my vibe clashing with my conversation partner’s, since my partner is a piece of white paper. Somewhere online, I read a girl saying how attractive she finds guys who still write in a book with a pencil in 2014. I prefer black, leaky pens. Of course, if my laptop didn’t weigh so much, I might write with it.
This paper notebook DOES have a great feature that the laptop doesn’t: NOTHING! No icons, no Pokes, no crashes, no dying battery. If it gets rain on it, it just make the text look drippy and trippy.
Writing’s a challenge in that I have to connect to me. That can be harder than connecting to wi-fi. Freewriting is a gateway to a panoramic view of one’s mind. Maybe tripping does that, too. Haven’t tried. When I was writing during my Southern trip, I was interested in writing scenes from the movie of those two weeks. Now I’m home with all the beauty and baggage, dreams and nightmares that I associate all these towns with.
After only two weeks, I got to a point where I could barely remember what I did in my life back home. Now I remember. I leave! I say hello to the family cats, watch Craig Ferguson, bathe, fill up my water bottle, and leave.
I get a lot of joy from living out of a bag or two. Maybe it goes back to some of the more uncomfortable moments of childhood. The idea that I can just grab my backpack and leave. I loved coming home after two weeks and seeing my stuff, but I also loved seeing how much stuff I DON’T have. I have clothes, records, books, videos, knickknacks, a mannequin, stereo, bed, TV, guitar amp, my grandpa’s old Gibson, electric piano, creepy paintings, a safe with old photos/greeting cards/lyric manuscripts, minimal recording gear. That’s about it. I like to donate an old shirt every time I get a new one. I keep things moving. I gave away all my CDs last year. Everything I own has some reason for being there.
I have some kind of fixation with keeping a minimal amount of things. I felt this way before I had a house fire. Like I want to be able to uproot at a moment’s notice. I guess it might be a fear of getting stuck in a town that’s low on both culture and nature.
Where I live, people get mad if you sing your own song. Where I live, nature closes at 6.
So I leave. My favorite escape is Newtown. It’s right up the road. I sing along to some songs on the radio and then I’m there. It has my favorite park and it has a beautiful, walker-friendly downtown. My new friends The Crockers live there, as do my friends The Jollys. Sometimes I sit in front of the library (from 1760) and read. Sometimes I sit in front of America’s oldest movie theater (1831) and write. It has a used record/book shop that smells intoxicatingly old. It has a shop called Zebra Striped Whale that carries coffee, tea, and dessert and it’s impossible to be sad inside it. I think it’s purple but it might be yellow. When you’re inside, you feel like you’re in a children’s book with great illustrations. At home, I drink out of a mug that has a painting depicting their building and the purple building next to it. Colorful cartoon people are milling about, a dude is playing guitar for some girls, the sky is blue.
When I’m in Newtown, it’s just me and the old stone buildings and it doesn’t matter what era it is. I’m floating through like a ghost and I only have to be a person with an identity on the rare occasion I run into a friend. It’s nice to hang out downtown and be an observer. That’s not the town I wake up in, but that’s my downtown.
When I was dating Megan, my time spent in Newtown was a bit of a culture shock. It’s not just that the people and buildings were dressed better. I figured out the difference later on. Some of the people who grew up where I grew up questioned whether or not they would have a future. Most of the people who grew up in Newtown only questioned WHAT their future would be. That’s big.
I’ve known a lot of Meg[h]ans. I guess it’s an Irish thing. There have been a total of five Meg[h]ans in my Address Book. I kissed all the Meg[h]ans I met before Marcella and none of the Meg[h]ans I met after I met her. The Megan who lived here showed me around town. Mostly places open to the public. A few that weren’t. No matter which bar we’d walk into, everyone said hi to her. I only found that disturbing in retrospect. She was an introvert who was also the life of the party. A drunken romantic. She carried a blue notebook and used her left hand. Our hair, eyes, music, and humor also matched. She always spoke like she’d just smoked a bowl of exceptionally mellow weed. Which she might have.
Imagine if jazz was a person. I dated jazz.
I missed her desperately for a long time. I wrote an album about her. I kept one photo. She’s covering her mouth and looking at me with the intense eyes of a shell-shocked person who knew she was about to let her guard down and take a chance. I don’t miss her anymore. I remember her like a fascinatingly beautiful movie I watched a long time ago but never bought on Blu-ray.
I was once known around town as the guy who was dating Megan. Now I’m the guy dating Marcella. She’s even shorter. Marcella’s more of a brunch gal than a tavern gal. They know us well at Pat’s Colonial Kitchen. We should pop in soon so they know we’re OK. I’ve been lucky to be her guy for over two years. It’s been a chaotic time for both of us and we have been sources of strength for one another. A warm blanket. I supported her when she had brain surgery last year. I’ll never forget the look on her face when they were about to wheel her into the surgery room, but I’ll also never forget the way I whispered our secret nonsense song into her ear and I made her laugh through the tears. That moment is representative of our relationship.
We met exactly one week after my house burned down. And that fire was about two days after I returned home from my dad’s house, where I’d been staying to help him recover from a series of strokes. His long-term girlfriend left him shortly after this. I was optimistic that he would take this opportunity to have a fresh start and regain his health. It broke my heart to see that he didn’t. Marcella would tell me over and over again that other people’s health is ultimately not my responsibility. I have trouble with that. I want to inspire. I want to fix things. Nick Crocker says that, too. “I’m a fixer.”
It was a heavy time and I did lose myself to some extent. I wrote a bunch of songs in the days leading up to my dad’s strokes and the last one arrived the day it happened. That was it. I shut down. I squeezed out one song to play at JC Dobbs that summer, but it reminds me of how emotionally clouded I was at the time and it makes me uncomfortable. This was the same summer that I got the call about my Uncle Joe. Leukemia. Fifty days. I don’t know how I would’ve made it through that period without Marcella.
Or Lido The Pug. The moments of rolling around in bed with those two creatures are some of the happiest times of my life. In the first two years, we traveled to Centralia (home of the famous underground mine fire), Hershey, Annapolis, Topsail Island (twice), Chapel Hill (twice), Nashville, Louisville, Lancaster, and Nashua.
She’s from an Italian restaurant family and each meal they give me is better than the last. Coming from a household of three, it was overwhelming to meet her extensive extended family. So many syllables and so many nicknames. And physical displays of affection?? This was all new. My people are repressed and weird and proud of it. I think. These people are different and I grew to love them. It was hard not to.
Since Marcella’s been in my life, I’ve periodically ordered salad with legs in it. On purpose. Since Marcella’s been in my life, I’ve felt loved continuously. The last girlfriend rocked my world when the weather was perfect. Marcella has rocked my world during torrential downpours.
Strength is not a barbed wire tattoo and a car that makes the loudest farty sounds in town. You can’t buy strength at the mall. Marcella has strength. Four rounds of chemo and then SHINGLES shows up. Worst of all, she has to look at MY ugly mug a few times a week!
I liked how Neil Young’s book had a positive tone. He didn’t shy away from rough stories, but his focus was on people who helped him be great. I’d been spending a lot of time being angry at people who didn’t give me as much as I gave them. Being angry didn’t help me accomplish any goals. Without knowing a shred of info about me, the lady at Hunga Bunga Java told me to get rid of all the negativity in my life. “Only do things that make you happy.”
I like when people go through dark times and keep their joy. I think I am writing again partly because I’ve shed some of my anger and that’s allowed me to access some deeper levels of joy. I’m also writing because I finally realized I have to throw the cell phone in my backpack if I want to focus. I hope you do what you have to do to connect to your joy, too.
Well, it’s 8:54 PM, so I guess I’m finished with my morning coffee now. (Thanks, coffee.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I haven’t been able to find Jack White’s new record anywhere in town. The bastard sold 40,000 in a week. 40,000 vinyl LPs. 2014. I’ll get it one day. Jack said he was inspired by the idea of being physically isolated and thereby being forced to finish his projects without distraction. I like that. I’ve given myself a self-imposed limitation by going to a coffee shop to write with a laptop with a dying battery.
I am gonna pretend that I realized, before typing, that I just reconnected with the battery theme from my last installment. Nope! I love that about writing. So often, themes just fall into place when I’m not paying attention. I’m not a genius; I just show up to work a lot.
Usually work that doesn’t pay. I can’t believe my credit card hasn’t dissolved into a pile of colorful dust as one of these baristas swipes it. I’ve been good about money on this trip, but I got myself tied up in a high-interest credit card and it’s making an intense time in my life even more frenetic. It’s kind of a helpless feeling. There is no safety net. However, maybe people as dense as me need to go out to the end of the cliff and walk a few feet out to realize we’re about to fall. Meep meep.
I’ve done so much already during my two weeks in North Carolina with Marcella’s family. It’s hard to know what to tell you, Doris. I promised I’d tell you about Nonna. Nonna is somewhere in her very, very late ‘40s. She speaks English as well as I speak sports. She’s slightly ornery in that great way that older people sometimes are, but she’s also very sweet. I like seeing people who have survived many decades with their joy in-tact. I got into a habit of connecting with her once or twice a day at the beach house. She didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand her, but we understood each other. And each time that happened, I felt a little twinge of joy - we communicated! She saw me recover my acoustic guitar from the living room and could sense that I was picking it up like a man who was reconnecting with his love. She was right. I have many loves.
I still haven’t finished reading “White Bicycles” and I haven’t taken my supplements today.
I’m dipping a chocolate macaroon into a nearly soup bowl-sized cup of coffee and all is right with the world. I’m 0.1 mile from Cat’s Cradle, a name that pops up a lot in my bootleg collection. I’m about as close to Surplus Sid. I want to visit him after this and I want to leave with a funny story. 
It’s tempting to decide that each new place you visit is nicer than where you come from and will inevitably return to. That the people are nicer. And so on. I’m learning that people are basically the same everywhere. To a large extent, you find good if you’re looking for good and bad if you’re looking for bad. Down here, the atmosphere IS nicer. Better weather, less traffic, more nature, more history. The students seem optimistic about the future ahead of them, the adults seem largely content with their present. It is very comfortable. Makes me wonder if I should try to end up here. Of course, there’s something to be said for completely leaving your family, especially if you’re not making the kind of money that would allow you to fly back regularly. I have a small family but I love them. Then again, I need to build a career somewhere, at some point, and this place feels aligned with my sensibilities. 
I am wearing a total of three articles of clothing. Marcella bought me Tom’s shoes last year and I love them and the way they are degrading. I don’t know if they’re supposed to - maybe I’m not supposed to be hiking in them. But I love it. I’m letting my record collection do that. I flirted with the idea of protecting them in plastic sleeves, but at some point, I decided to just let them age. Paul McCartney has the right to have jet black hair, but why bother? Don’t we earn our greys? Time marches on and I’m marching with my records. Even without their protective sleeves, those damn things will be able to play music longer than I will. Spin the black circle. 
I’m a few yards away from Vinyl Perk. I went yesterday. It’s a narrow room packed with handpicked, reasonably priced vinyl records. Not only that, but the man behind the counter will make you delicious pourover coffee, ask about your trip, and tell you about the jazz record he’s playing on his turntable. I suspected that my anecdote about visiting Chet Atkins’ grave may have clarified my status as a Certified Music Nerd. I connected with one of my tribesmen. Spin the black circle. 
Maybe some of you felt like you got to know me with that last note I wrote. I felt the same way, believe it or not. I’d gotten out of the habit of self-reflection. I’m not sure that it’s a good place to live, but it’s a good place to visit. I used to do this every few weeks in my mid-twenties. Sometimes, I’d find within these notes the seeds of new songs. I’d write you a letter and scrap it for parts. 
I am afraid of the psychological effect of returning home. I don’t have much going on there. Well, I have my loves - some human, some cats, some dogs - a few music gigs, some work. And bills. I literally didn’t pay my three main bills this week. I’ve earned all the money and more, but the well-paying job of being a freelance Brand Ambassador has the terrible downside of paychecks with unknown arrival times. It’s a stress I brought with me on vacation, but writing out a game plan helped get it off my mind enough to arrive in the moment. To collapse into now, as Michael Stipe said. Besides, you can’t pay a bill - or do anything else of consequence - by simply worrying about it. You deserve to be happy. I deserve to be happy, too, Doris.
One thing that makes me happy about returning home is I will get to plug my recording equipment into my reverb unit and maybe record some of my songs. I like how my voice sounds with a big echo. When I look into Jim James’ eyes, I think, “I understand you and your silo, you goddamn echo freak.”
I worry about getting into a rut. Then again, I glanced at the past month of photos in my “travel” folder and I saw pictures from a man who does manage to keep life interesting. I wrote “I worry about getting into a rut,” but what I really mean is “I worry.” I worry but I’m often wise enough to see that I’ve begun to skip (the vinyl metaphors return) and need to reset my needle. 
I like writing because it’s a challenge to connect. To really connect. To remain emotionally open and mentally focused. To connect with anxieties, dreams. All the things that are easy to gloss over in the typical conversation. Poking out from behind the brick wall.
“Are you even sure Buddy Holly’s a jew?” There are some odd statements echoing around this coffee shop. I think I’ll hit Record on my iPhone, just in case something funny or weird enough to go into my sound collage happens.
I was fifteen when I began doing visual art, starting with manipulations of clip art that I’d do in a class (this would be called “glitch art” now) and also recording both jam sessions with friends and abstract noise pieces. At some point in my late twenties, I tied all these existing recordings together into one gigantic sound collage. It is now 5.5 hours long. Just as I do with photography and other visual art, I find a lot of joy in being able to take little snippets of life and turn them into art when the light bulb of inspiration flickers on. 
Embrace the et cetera, I say. You don’t have to wait for someone to tell you to be creative - you can just do it. So I do. This is the beauty of digital technology. I feel that our duty as creators in the digital age is to be our own curators - to know what to archive, know what to display, and just as importantly, what to discard. If I have 40 photos from the same event, I give myself the challenge of finding one photo that captures its essence. It might be the clearest, most technically perfect shot, but it also might be a weird, blurry thing. Either the picture speaks to me or the picture gets deleted. I imagine a young girl in the 1930s with a sepia-tinged photo of her family in a locket. She knows that one picture really well.
I love this pressure. Deadlines are good for me. 
I’m back at The Robertsons’ again. With my power cable. I love my girl and all the people here, but I’m hoping I have another hour or two to be self-indulgent. I’m really enjoying writing on this trip. 
I just received an email from a girl in Portugal. I follow her Tumblr blog and she connects me with gorgeous art. Very eclectic. Just like everything else in the digital age, these smartphones can give you shit with depth or just shit - it’s a matter of how you use it. I’ve found some brilliant art on Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram. I even started saving my favorites, so I can see them on my constantly-shuffling desktop background. Between found art, my own art, travel photos, and family photos, I have about 10,000 pictures. I’m happy to have all these bread crumbs leading back to the past, but even happier when I have a brand new batch to throw down.
I shared some good energy with the owner of Vinyl Perk. I popped back in so I could take a photo with him and document that part of my trip. I like being around people who have good creative ideas and execute them. 
Surplus Sid and I discussed Megan Fox. 
I’m thinking about inspiration and I’m thinking about balance. The drive that I have to do good work is so overwhelming. The thought that gets me out of bed is usually about something I might be able to accomplish creatively. I go from a groggy thirty-one-year-old with joint pain and morning breath to a hummingbird, my heart pounding with excitement. 
I’m thinking about balance because I’ve been concerned that I’ve drank too much of The Robertsons’ whiskey and used too much of their wi-fi. I’m sure everything’s OK. I would like to send them a bottle if I ever catch up on my bills. I’m also thinking about balance because my girlfriend has felt guilty about not being out-on-the-town with me very often on this trip. What she might be forgetting is that she’s dating a guy who’s basically a loner; comfortable with people, but capable of filling up a week or two on his own and doing it with true happiness. 
So I’m doing that. I’m spending a certain amount of time with her and I’m spending a certain amount of time with Carrboro/Chapel Hill. I gave myself the goal of going to a different coffee shop every day. Bean Juice Tour ‘14. It’s a great way to check out the area while only spending about $5 a stop. It’s been perfect. And cheap.
I’ve been trying to maintain that sort of balance since her diagnosis in February. Jenni and Aunt Donna both advised it, as did my own instincts. Love her, love me. I have to love both of us if I’m to have enough energy for either of us. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Been thinking about batteries. I don’t hold a charge for very long, but I hold one. I gotta sleep, process creative ideas, connect with my goals, connect with my obligation$, connect with loved ones. I have to move. That drive to downtown Carrboro and, as it turned out, down a gorgeous country farm road that wasn’t REALLY on the way home, made me feel alive. It also made me feel alive to do time-consuming work on my computer. It’s all very tedious and I fucking love it.
Anxiety. Not a specific worry. Just anxiety. When I was in 1991 yesterday, Bob Dylan was talking about evil thoughts vs. good thoughts. Sounded vaguely religious to me. What I would say is lazy thoughts vs. inspired thoughts. Weak battery thoughts vs. charged battery thoughts. I like that charged battery mindset. I was there at the coffee shop today. Getting high on caffeine sure helps. But it’s not the only route. 
Right now I’m going down the Yuengling Highway. It… works. But I guess I want to be high more than I want to be low. I want to accomplish more things. Wait. Do I know how to relax? I told the Robertsons I only relaxed as a child while I was swinging on a swingset. I only felt relaxed today when I was driving down a country road and taking a walk downtown. I guess I am someone who needs to move. Is that my nature or is it symptomatic of anxiousness? 
Now it is the next day. I got into a habit of writing the date. But I also got into the habit of just not writing at all. I think I’ll just write now right now. While this post-coffee/post-shower energy is flowing through me. 
I want to be great, happy, and free and I’m wondering which moves I can make toward those goals today. Health, money, and music are the main gateways to these things. Love and art exist, too, but they don’t really require much planning. I art every day and I love every day. “28 Moons At Topsail,” or whatever I’m calling it, is two lovely pieces. That’s new. Maybe I’ll put it on Etsy right now.
Now I am slackjawed and staring at a TV and feeling like 
Now it’s the next day. I wrote all that other stuff thinking I was writing for me. What the smuff - I’ll make this public. 
I’m sitting at a beautiful desk in a room with big windows that allow sunlight tinted by the many green trees surrounding us to flood in. It’s beautiful and relaxed because it’s the American South and it’s progressive because it’s three miles from University Of North Carolina. It’s a great blend. I believe it’s the best place I’ve ever been. 
A guy on Franklin Street gave me a high five just for wearing yellow aviators. 
I asked my cell phone where the coffee shop was and it gave me two screens’ worth of choices within three miles. A cool coffee shop doesn’t make a town great but I can’t think of a great town without a cool coffee shop. As I was leaving Looking Glass Cafe yesterday, a sign on a bulletin board noted that a “musician-friendly” apartment was available for about $400. 
I tried writing the other day at Open Eye Cafe, but a traditional Irish folk music group was playing in the middle of the room so I just sipped and grinned.
Her battery isn’t holding a charge as well as mine is. She took it to technicians and they gave her bad news and a big bill. But she was built well and, on a good day, she operates pretty much like her old self. That smile makes me feel that everything is OK.
Yesterday was a bad day. It hurts to not be able to climb into her body and fix her ailments. I brought about three bags’ worth of my possessions on this trip, but none of them can fix her. I have to use other tools, instead. Humor. Back rubs. And the most important one - time. Just hanging out, even if it means I’m watching soccer or home remodeling shows on TV and I feel my brain jumping up and down like a toddler having a tantrum at a Garrison Keillor taping. I like Garrison Keillor. Don’t get me wrong. I also didn’t terribly mind looking at Jillian Harris. 
But the point is to be there. We are at different speeds. I’m at 45 RPM, jumping up to 78 RPM when I have that second cup of coffee. Dipping down to 42 RPM late in the evening if I have a drink and accidentally lean my elbow on the turntable. She’s at a comfortable 33 RPM. Sometimes uncomfortable. Sometimes she’s stuck in the runout groove. (Is this making any sense to young readers? Oh, yeah; they’re the ones buying vinyl.) 
But she’s there at 33. And she IS there.
I didn’t know how I’d cope with the news, but I knew I would figure it out. I went blindly into the future. Here I am. And there she is. Watching soccer. 
I asked Little Tommy to remind me to finish reading Joe Boyd’s “White Bicycles” and to take the various supplements I brought with me from home. He periodically adopts his best stern adult man voice and directs me to “READ YOUR BOOK and TAKE YOUR SUPPLEMENTS.” It’s cute as hell. And he’s not wrong.
There are two kids here, one with the same calm demeanor as his dad, and one with a restless silliness that reminds me of my sister and I at her age. As far as I can tell, they have a lot less darkness to contend with than we did and that makes me very happy. We had to deal with a lot of stuff kids shouldn’t have to deal with. They have a lot of structure and they have a beautiful home. Of course, any home with love is a beautiful home. Regardless of what the fire marshal tells you. And like my sister and I were and are, they are loved.
I like those moments of being naked, feet on the cold bathroom floor, toothpaste circling the sink. It’s sometimes the first moment of the day my mind really feels free. Ya know? When you’ve gotten away from all the devices and books in which you could document an idea, the ideas start flowing like a shower head! It’s about time I install a water-resistant digital recorder in my bathroom at home.
But I digress. I digress pretty much exclusively. 
Today’s shower idea was to write freeform pieces like I used to and post them online. I have a file called “notes.html” with pieces I wrote from 1998-2011. It’s 300 pages long. I used to leave them up indefinitely. “Yeah, but you can post a thing today and delete it tonight.” That’s true, Me Of Two Hours Ago. I can. I also could amend it so it’s one big-ass note documenting a week of my life that will never happen again. Yeah, I’ll do that. 
I don’t know what’s gonna happen. That’s something that you and I have in common. Doris. Can I call you Doris? Sometimes, Stephen Colbert addresses the invisible TV audience as “Greg” and you can bet I laugh my ass off each time he does. 
But it’s true; we have that in common. We don’t know what’s gonna happen. I have recently watched both Cosmos and cancer close-up and one thing they have in common is that, from a certain angle, they can make the typical everyday goals and concerns look meaningless. But I can’t help it. In my unprofessional, sometimes unfocused way, I am focused. I have meaning. I want to do work that I’m happy with and that other people are affected by. Some guy who was friends with an old collaborator texted him to say that the chorus of the song “gettin’ closer” was stuck in his head. I still have that screenshot and I treasure it. I don’t know who the guy is. 
I’ve written a lot of songs that I love. Lots of people I know probably haven’t heard me sing a song. And even more people that I don’t know. I was in original rock & roll bands during my mid-twenties. I gave them all the energy I had and lots of money I didn’t. I’m very happy I did. The death of each band felt demoralizing, but looking back, I am happy that I didn’t find any success while I was still finding my voice. I got to quietly develop in the shadows. Loudly. Trying anything. Any damn thing we wanted. I wrote a song called “The Things I See In Your Girlfriend’s Eyes.” You’ll never hear it, but I did write it. We played to the backs of apathetic drunks at a sports bar in Morrisville, PA and got louder and wilder every time they didn’t clap between songs. We played a gig in New Hope that was accidentally so loud that Dean Ween complained about our volume. A thousand weird little moments that happened because we got off the couch and tried to do something. All the spoils of anonymity. And then we’d change the name of the band, just in case we were on the verge of having a fan or two who might want to find us again. 
Now I have my voice, a little more of the pain and beauty of experience, a big metaphorical suitcase full of songs, and a real suitcase with two good microphones and some cheap recording gear. The plan is to record about three acoustic guitar-based records, with overdubs of harmony, piano, etc. They will be EPs or LPs, depending on how much sonic real estate I allow the weirdest, unhookiest songs to have. Knowing me, I will let the ugly freaks live among their presentable, more symmetrical neighbors. 
The world isn’t demanding that I do this work, but I will do it anyway because I think it’s strong and I can record it with my roughly $500 studio. It will be down-and-dirty, but that’s what I like to listen to. I’m interested in music that flows out of me with the beautiful mindlessness of a late night looking at the stars with a few medicated pals on a summer night. I want to put out work that feels like it came right from my heart and nothing that didn’t. 
The way I see it, all I have is my emotional truth, a bit of artistry as a word scrambler, a trick or two on the guitar, and a few gears in which I can drive my voice. Not much else. No name. No money. No biz contacts. I know that my songs have made people cry and laugh, and I know my face gets kissed a little more often when I’ve sung something. I’m gonna see what happens.
My heart’s been all over the place in the past two-ish years. I’ve taken so long to record my current batch of songs that an old collaborator accused me of being a “loser” and a “has-been.” Hey, buddy, I didn’t have anything to lose, and I never was! I do what my heart asks of me each day. I’ve had a lot of days dealing with the illness and death of Uncle Joe, my dad’s strokes, my house burning down, my girlfriend’s brain surgery and eventual cancer diagnosis, my mom’s various health problems, and my own problems. Life. Life with love. Life with loves who needed a lot of love. I’ve missed out on some fun times here and there, but I helped some people who needed it. Most of you people reading this are probably good folks with a conscience, too. We probably wouldn’t have become connected if not. Even the aforementioned collaborator is a good guy. We all have a well of anger and bitterness inside us and have to be wise enough to not drink from it. Even though it has trace amounts of whiskey in it. Mmm. Whiskey.
Hanging with all these young people this week has me wondering what I’ve grown into, so far, as an adult. I’m a lot like them. I haven’t put down any roots, but I owe money to some bad people (Capital One) and I am beginning to learn that most of the people and things I experience each day are fleeting and should be appreciated in-the-moment. This is all temporary. That’s pretty adult.
Speaking of pretty adult, I’m gonna go look for her. Talk to you later, Doris.
When I write again, I want to tell you about invader species, dolphins, Nonna, Hunga Bunga Java, and the word “y’all.”