Monday, February 29, 2016

One Leap Year Ago

I met Marcella one leap year ago, four regular years ago.

We met at a coffee shop near her house. I bought her a drink and we chatted on the two plush chairs, bonding over our respective illnesses and who knows what else.

She was very scarf-y. Very well put-together in a tasteful way that I can see, in retrospect, shows that she is Cleo's daughter. I‘d had a bumpy winter (my Dad's stroke, my Mom's house fire) and couldn't have been my best self, but I liked her company.

Possibly motivated by the thought of getting some restless energy out through a walk. I suggested we go to IKEA. On the way there, I played her a brand new song called "My Grass Is Greener" during a critical gasoline fill-up. She probably heard "Knit Hat Girl" that day, a song of mine she heard infrequently but never forgot. It wasn't about her when I wrote it, but that doesn't matter; it is now.

I suggested we go to Johnny Brenda‘s next. I somehow got lost on the way there and fought feelings of frustration under cold, gray, Philadelphia skies, trying to stay in a good groove and be someone worth this stranger's time. I was relieved to finally park and be on foot with her, taking pictures around town before settling into a table at Johnny Brenda's. I'd only been there for rock shows previously and hadn't realized how cozy the dining area was.

We read each other poetry and song lyrics, respectively. Our best material about broken hearts. I think she might have told me more about her past cancer experiences to which I would've replied with my stories about my relatively puny experiences with iritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

I undoubtedly told her about meeting Peter Buck upstairs after a Robyn Hitchcock concert, tilting my head back like a Pez dispenser to make eye contact with the tall guitarist, handing him a note I wrote earlier that week: "A Letter To Peter Buck That Got Rained On."

On the second date. she came to my rental house and I walked her to the old, burned-down house, showing her where I used to live. My piano. The small handful of records I left there. (I left The Monkees' Headquarters. Changed my mind a few weeks later and recovered it.) The Stuff Wall. A gaggle of knit hats and fedoras and bucket hats. Later that year, she filmed me performing a song on top of a pile of post-demolition rubble.

I was not easy to be close to during that period and I was continually astonished at the effort she was making to remain in my life, no matter how standoffish I was acting. I think she knew I was the guy who was gonna make things a little better if things ever needed bettering.




Friday, February 12, 2016

There’s No Telling What’s Outside

Woke up in my human costume again. With those tiny red dots that I assume are birth marks. With that scar on my leg from the propeller on Grandpa’s boat. A skeleton taller than Paul Simon’s and shorter than Peter Buck’s.

Jamal woke up in his cat suit again. His green eyes are fixed upon me as if to say, “I know you don’t know what you’re doing, but do it good.”

I rolled outta bed and into a wooden chair to record a song called “I Missed The Deadline (For The NPR Contest).” It’s not nearly as multi-level and metaphoric as it sounds. It’s also not as good as it would have been if I’d recorded it AFTER brewing some coffee in Dr. Nicky’s Mr. Coffee, but it was still an idea that got to roll out of bed, yawn, stretch its legs, and take a step outside, which is more than most ideas can say. There’s no telling what’s outside.

Turned out what was outside was a gorgeous faux-spring rain, unseasonable humidity that felt like a sweet hug from Earth. I smiled and launched back into the world, Willie, Merle, and clementines as my fuel. I went to the strip mall where Rainbow Records used to be and re-dreamed my dreams of buying my favorite band’s European CD maxi-singles in 1994. I wouldn’t have suspected that, one day, those dreams AND Rainbow Records would be dead, replaced by FLAC files and Wig Elegance.

Got home and stepped back into the time machine. GETdownSOULS, a band you probably joined at some point if you saw more than three of our gigs, is playing John & Peter’s Place for the first time. With its facade of bold colors and musical notes, I’d wanted to play a gig there since I was a kid walking around New Hope with Mom and Grandma. It looked like the sort of place I was supposed to be.

Being on-stage was terrifying back then, so I did it as often as possible. It’s 2008 and I’m a very young twenty-five. Back then, I hadn’t yet found the right guitar, and I was still singing like a guitar player rather than a singer, yet I’m surprised at how smoothly this 149-minute recording is going down. Between songs, I come off like some sly, easy-going trickster, but I remember it like I was a one big nerve ending with floppy brown hair. I am thankful that I didn’t know what Dean Ween looked like at the time; I can’t imagine how much more nervous I would’ve been knowing that a Certified Indie Rock Superstar was watching some of my very first gigs.

Back at Dollar Tree, there was music in the air; a lady walked into Dollar Tree performing a concert for herself. The checkout lady assures me she is ALWAYS performing that concert.