This book, in all its leatheriness, is weirdly intimidating. I’d better make some marks on it now and break it in. It is a book that came preloaded with North Carolinian love.
My voice sounds good tonight - in the car, anyway. I fall in and out of love with it all the time. I just finished eating some road food by the river. A few nights of subpar sleep and the thoughts of health management become harder to find. They will be back, though, as will sleep.
I have two very close female friends. One is slightly younger than me and relates more to my Larry David side. One is slightly older than me and relates to my Willie Nelson side. I’ve been talking to Ms. Larry more this week. She asked me if I think she’s become more negative lately. I answered. I’ve seen her crash and I’ve also seen her keep moving by setting new, big goals for herself. Continuing is winning, I said. Like me, I also said. She, perhaps, reflected on the forty-seven pounds of subtext in that statement and asked me: how do you manage to stay positive?
I slept on it. (A little.)
Creativity, I said, keeps recharging my battery.
Previously, Pam and I talked all the way home from Manville. Love, family, goals, friends, health. The McGarvey Twins are both doing really well, no matter what life throws at them. We both had our lives change last autumn in ways expected and unexpected. 99/100 of our loved ones went above and beyond, sharing our overlapping pain and joy. 1/100 didn’t. Why spend any time focusing on those ones? I guess there’s enough time in the day. Converting the disappointment into the weapon of anger is a way to feel in-control, but then you’re just another schmuck who thinks a weapon will make him happy. Forgiveness is better. Life is short. Then again, where were you? Then again, forgiveness is better. Then again, where were you? Jeff Lynne said in that song “End Of The Line,” “the best you can do is forgive.” I’d believe Jeff Lynne more if Jeff Lynne was Roy Orbison. But that's not Jeff Lynne's fault. Also, he’s probably right.
As for me, I am here. Gina and Joe are expecting me. I wonder if I will come off more like Larry David or Willie Nelson tonight. You could drive yourself crazy trying to figure out how other people perceive you, so I don’t. Life is short. Just be nice.
It is tomorrow. I am in one of my secret hideouts. In the middle of a nearby town by a big window with a big vase of flowers on the table, attractive people milling around, and jazz music playing a little too loud from the speaker beside my head, assaulting me with beauty.
I arrived at Gina’s and Joe’s house and was love-mugged by their dog Lily. Imagine a bag of English muffins running toward you tongue-first, looking at you with Teddy Ruxpin eyes that seem to exclaim, “TELL ME of these SCENTS you carry with you in your shoes and jeans!!”
I pick up the guitar and everything makes sense. It feels like I’m on a mission. No commander, no objective. Not even a TANK! Just some invisible mission that Congress didn’t authorize. No enemy but my own pull toward suburban complacency, the "dusty five-string guitar in the closet” scenario. Basically, the enemy is TV and junk food! The mission is to create and connect. To be emotionally open. Mentally alert. To create a trail of breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs you can dance to. I turned down beer. How un-Irish! I couldn’t figure out if I was more foggy or groggy and I knew that alcohol wouldn’t help me decide.
We were playing music that I didn’t know - older folk and gospel songs that I hadn’t heard before, and some songs that Gina had written. I was ready to dive into a new lake of sound. I recognize the sound that comes out of my face more and more as time goes by and appreciate it for what it is, rather than wish it sounded more like Don Everly or pre-coke Stephen Stills. I probably should’ve just listened to Nick The Drummer telling me my voice is a good instrument all those years ago.
There we were, brown-skinned Martin guitar face-to-face with a big ol’ Gibson, Gina and her guitar and sweet voice between us, in their great old house in Bristol. The kids in Bristol are sharp as a pistol, and we weren’t too bad, either. I feel like a grown-up now, so Gina and Joe seem younger than they did when I was a teenager. Gina was the only teacher that played - or even mentioned - Patti Smith in class. Even at sixteen, I recognized that there was something special about that. Last night, I sang harmony with her on a few Patti songs and felt like I was earning some unexpected stamp on my Adult Card. A full-circle moment. We made plans for a gig happening later in the year. We even sang in true, three-part harmony a few times. All of this happened without Lily The Dog noticing.
The people sitting next to me are very smart and it’s taking everything out of me to not listen to their conversation. I will turn on the brown noise app on my cell phone. Technology taking me further into my imagination rather than further away from it - that’s worth all ninety-nine cents. The smart people sitting next to me wanted to know if I’d recommend the Bob Dylan book I’m reading. I said nice things about it, but that hasn’t stopped Bob from leering at me while I write. Some people just can’t be pleased. With my cell phone partially obscuring the book, his eyes are still visible, gazing at me all black-and-white and 1962-like.
It’s last night again. I’m on the sidewalk on a cold February night and I’m holding my surprisingly heavy guitar case. I look down and notice I’m not wearing the green scarf I arrived with, a scarf I acquired this week at the world’s most affordable consignment shop - Bucky’s The Closet in Manville, New Jersey. I resist the urge to walk back up the block to reclaim it, reasoning that it's another good reason to get together for more music as soon as schedules allow.
I had decided that I wanted to spend a little time in the cemetery at St. James The Greater Episcopal Church (Est. 1712). It has a good atmosphere and is more photogenic than the ones populated by the young whippersnappers of The Greatest Generation. I find an opening in the wrought iron fence and enter the brick sidewalk, quickly being obscured in the shadow of the church and the dark of night. While I wait for a bolt of inspiration, I text a picture of myself playing upright bass to Nicolette. Being 5'7", I probably look a little like a rhesus monkey trying to play a canoe, but she seems impressed. She reminds me, though, that I’d asked her to remind me to finish my home recording project, a project I did not work on that day.
New is more fun than old. The next song is always more interesting than the last song. But you do want to take the old songs with you as you move into the future. If you made them with your heart open and your mind engaged, there’s probably something there.
Back in the graveyard, the wind is bone-rattling (get it?) and I atypically go back to the car without taking a picture. I reason that the graveyard will probably be there the next time I’m in town. It's a copout, but at least it's a copout with solid logic backing it up.
I go home, tuck myself into bed, and enjoy some late night talk shows with some Ben & Jerry’s I acquired on the drive home. If you’re keeping score at home, you’ll note that I won the battle and then went to bed with the enemy. Still, there are worse uses for a Wednesday night in the suburbs.