Do you have one of these figures that acts like sort of like your own personal guru? Lucky man that I am, I’ve got two or three. My fancy calculator is flashing and vibrating and sending me thoughts from one of these gurus, straight from the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. The one-three-two (been a long time since math class) punch of her words, the sunshine, and the brain drugs released by espresso is making me feel, well, sunnier than I have since returning home from cloudy (but sweaty) D.C.
Now my mind is drifting and I’m listening to conversations around me. There is a very aggravated woman next to me with IMPECCABLE hair. (I am in downtown Newtown, Pennsylvania, one of the region’s TOP sources of Expensive Grandmas™.) I hope that she has a guru, too, and hears from her guru soon. You can’t buy spiritual clarity, but it’s almost as important as great hair.
Wait, what am I talking about? There’s a spiritual clarity store in Newtown, too! I buy my incense there.
Expensive Grandma™ is now hanging out with her daughter. When speaking about their excitement for our new president, they got very loud, as if they are trying to speak directly to my “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” button, hoping it will yell back. Now that they’re talking about someone’s pending divorce, it’s all whisper quiet. The complaints seem to center around the husband being too much of a self-centered asshole (...). Do your thing; I’ll try to climb back into my head and stop eavesdropping.
She then yelled in my general direction about “TRUMP HATERS” and was crying within about two minutes. Politics seems to be, for some people, like a TV show they can tune into to distract themselves from their lives. It works. Clearly, though, many good people vote for people who seek to harm people they wouldn’t seek to harm in their day-to-day lives. Some do it for the chance of having a little bit less to pay in taxes, no further questions asked. Some do it because they grew up with a cold, authoritative man in the house and they’re just used to it. Hell, I’ve got the musicians who scored the soundtrack of my youth on my shirt as I sit here at age thirty-three; the comforts of youth often remain comfortable.
Also, some vote for assholes because they too are assholes.
You can get a quarter of the population, more or less, to go along with the worst ideas you could possibly think of. After this many years of participating in democracy, I’m unfazed by that. I find the apathetic infinitely more fascinating.
I’ve got a Libertarian friend (hi, Tony) whose principles, I suspect, are as firm as the grip of a hungry dog’s jaw is on a steak that has suddenly fallen from the sky. (Dog metaphors are reserved for people I LIKE, to be clear.) Kudos to Tony for representing what he believes in. We don’t have to vote together to talk music and beer.
Same with my southern grandpa. We don’t have to have the same opinion of Elizabeth Warren to cruise around the beach roads with the windows down, looking for the best bar to drop into.
What is more puzzling is the people who WOULD agree with the principles that led me to march on Washington last weekend, but somehow take issue with the part where I got off the couch and actually did it. That seems to be the safest path - stating that somehow everyone and everything that touches on politics is equally toxic, and that avoiding having a fixed opinion on ANYTHING will mean everyone will respect you equally.
I get that. For me, life is too short to not speak your mind when someone threatens your fellow citizens. Among other sub-Howard-Stern-level things he’s said, the person in our top leadership role said he touches vaginas whenever he feels like it. Recently. Not acceptable for a twelve-year-old’s fantasy of being an elderly man; even less acceptable for an actual elderly man (of power).
To say nothing of “punishing” women who have abortions.
I understand that “I Got Mine, Jack” thing. Really. It’s tempting. But it’s hard to justify not caring about the world outside your front door once you’re a couple decades into caring. Most of the people out there, wherever you go, are pretty cool. Much like the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I’m in too far to stop now. Check back with me after I get mine, Jack.
You do you. As for me, I went to Don’s house the same weekend he moved in and reminded him he’s only got 30-odd percent of the citizens on his side. Staying home would have been a statement, too - especially to the girls and women in my life.
Please, think he’s a fantastic man if you want to. If you are a nice person, I will listen to your case for him or anything else. Sell me on Nickelback, kid.
On the other hand, if you feel like seventy years is long enough for someone to show you who they really are, try to imagine how satisfying it was to have made him livid by simply walking down the street.
Sure, he’s gonna take my health insurance (don’t forget that the active artists and musicians you know are often independent contractors). (Also don’t forget those pre-existing conditions I wrote about 300 blog posts ago.) But he’d be doing that to me even if I was sitting here wearing one of his shitty Chinese ties.
You continue to do you. I don't wish ill will upon the non-voters who chose to not stop the golden arsonist. Similarly, I don’t wish ill will upon Don Drumpf, [former] fellow New York City Neil Young concert attendee. I think that he should go to his special tower and be the BEST Expensive Grandpa™ EVER! Dispensing gifts wrapped in golden, non-recyclable wrapping paper with golden, non-recyclable bows to all the kids in his life. All in his special tower! Seriously! It was working so well before. We literally used to be in the same rooms, listening to songs of love and peace.
I think that, like all great artists, Don Drumpf lives inside his own head. An artist of infinite depth, complexity, and mystery!
Artists, though, maybe shouldn’t have their finger on the big, red Goodbye Everything button. We are too sensitive, too mercurial. Maybe he won’t press it. Either way, I’d better cut my records - and cut ‘em fast.
I’m gonna keep singing songs of love and peace. And a little jabbing humor here and there where appropriate. I wrote about cancer in prose and songs because it was part of my experience. I will keep writing about the things I experience during the time I am alive. From the same heart. Same mind. Same conscience. To remain true to my morals in times of increased deceit and immorality will mean turning off some older, closed minds, but perhaps I will gain two or three young, opened minds for each old one I lose. Decent trade. Those spiritually old people (not to be confused with physically old) weren't coming to my gigs, anyway!
So, we will poke some fun at Don because, hell, he's no snowflake! He's a big strong man. With the best brain. The best words. He can take it. You can tell he's secure by the way he puts his name on big buildings.
But we will aim for respect among each other because we have common goals.
I like to know the conservative viewpoint because I come from a nearly all-conservative family. I will never stop trying to understand. But know that those of us who represent inclusiveness are sincere and are also not going anywhere.
I mean, unless I suddenly come into a bunch of cash. Then I'm getting a big black Hummer with a custom license plate that says "FEELINGS R 4 PUSSIEZ" and retiring to Florida to run over small animals all day.
'Cause, then, you see, I'll have mine, Jack!
Saturday, January 21, 2017
March Day. I was up puking at 5 AM. I hadn’t slept. My wonderful girlfriend, while prepping for her 6 AM drive, helped me procure a puke bucket, some mint tea, water. She even cleaned the bathroom floor.
To relax, I put on some Everly Brothers documentaries (they’re MY Paw Patrol, ya see). After napping a bit, I reemerged and contemplated missing this protest, sitting around reading tweets, wondering if I have any Italian Four Cheese Cheez-its left, missing the chance to kiss my girlfriend at the party of the year….
As she later put it (in a Seinfeldian way), it was a puke-’n’-rally!
I got on the road at 11, and by the time I drove to the northernmost D.C. Metro stop in Greenbelt, Maryland, the entire corresponding off-ramp was CLOSED, a sign flashing “LOT FULL.” "What an annoying yet beautiful sight!" a tired and dehydrated Greg thought. There were so many people at this one particular Metro stop that even the surrounding apartment complexes and office parks were jam-packed with commuters’ cars.
Nicky got there at 10:00 and couldn't even board a train until 12:00. With my delayed start, I didn't have to wait at all. Hey - thanks, vomit!!
The cell providers pushed to their max, I arrived in D.C. with no way to reach Nicky among the (at least) half-million people. I was pretty far from the actual march route, but it seemed that there were marchers all around me anyway. So many, in fact, that I had no clue which direction to walk in. After a brief panic, I relaxed and went into photographer mode.
Before long, I was simply IN the march - the first time in my life - and I felt elated. It was AMAZING. I’d gone expecting to focus on the celebrity speakers. As it turned out, I never even found the stage; the real joy was in being part of this gigantic mass of smiling, singing, chanting people. Like riding a wave.
I’d had the UNDERSTANDING that only a quarter of our people actually voted for Drumpf, but out here on the streets, you could FEEL that this is not his country and will never be. It dawned on me that we have a common focus and that’s how BIG change happens.
At a certain point, a few of my queued-up texts started to send. I received a few lagged texts from Nicky, as well. We were in touch long enough for me to learn that she was across town at the Washington Monument. I asked someone where it was and attempted to make my way down 15th Street to meet up with her.
This proved to be impossible. The flow of humanity coming the other way was so vast and forceful that I had to just stop on a corner and hope she’d receive my text about my updated location. I hung out by a cop car eating an orange when, suddenly, there she was! I kissed her on 15th Street and we rejoined the march, together.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
A guy that looks a little like Derek Trucks just did a double-take after walking past me. It’s never been clear to me if I’m technically allowed to hang out in the living room at Tyler Hall, the old mansion at my county’s community college. It’s just that I’ve loved it so much for so long that I can’t help but pop in and write something on the couch. One time, I even recorded a couple of songs in the nearby stairwell with its incredibly deep, rich echo. Even the sound of the living room itself makes me want to record an acoustic album, guitar sounds bouncing off the paintings and the old fabric illustration near the fireplace, the dim but imposing chandelier. Maybe the grandfather’s clock would even chime at just the right time in just the right key?
My favorite part of trespassing is when the location’s management shares your photos on their Instagram.
Ten minutes have passed without security escorting me out. I always imagined that Stella Tyler herself would approve of my usage of the house, what with our shared love of music, the arts, nature, and even the female form (if the sculptures she made for the formal gardens are any indication). I once even wrote her a song once:
waterfall vapors and dead leaves
when I open her window and breathe
she told me this is how it felt
a hundred years ago
I don’t necessarily insinuate in the verses that I was having an affair with the ghost of Stella Tyler, but then again, it wouldn’t be the only song of mine that referenced involvement with a woman born before 1930.
Riding down the country roads of Bucks County, darkened and desolate January-style, Nick Crocker and I headed to Sellersville Theater to watch The Official Albert Lee play a red guitar. We took the long way there (there is only a long way) and talked about everything from my quest to record two beautiful albums to the beauty of our expanding families to the stresses of caring for a paralyzed and oft-confused parent to the seamless way some lady from Syracuse has eased into my life to make the good great and the terrible tolerable.
I met Crocker in a period when, feeling emotionally deep-fried from recent family events, I decided to stop being ambitious and see if I could just enjoy myself. Turned out I could. Especially with White Russians (and Irish Jollys). These were the times when I’d come into New Hope with Marcella in one hand and my Sigma guitar in the other, drink whatever anyone put in front of my face, and sing with whomever summoned me to the part of the floor that we called the stage.
The night I had TWO White Russians, I had the gall to sing “Running Scared” by Roy Orbison while Barry Peterson played guitar, knowing full well there was an impossible high note at the end. I went there.
I shouldn’t have, but I went there.
We had long, beautiful nights in that many-named bar. At the time, this era felt like a period of recovering from the previous period; in hindsight, it was yet another golden era. It seems you can keep finding yourself in interesting new chapters of your life if you don’t let your spiritual waters get stagnant.
Crocker used to sing at this bar all the time and, at some point, decided I needed to be his new friend. I agreed. Yet another friendship begun over a tall glass of Neil Young. His exuberance, his bottomless well of insane stories that are definitely all true, his high-end coffee, high-end tequila, and higher-end advice have added to my life immeasurably, particularly as it keeps getting even harder to find blood relatives to share an evening with.
Plus, his new dog is cute.
Crocker is also interested in helping me with my musical goals. During the period where I took a pause from writing and recording, we started doing acoustic gigs - my first real foray into being a professional musician. The huge uptick in my stage time has been great for my chops and my confidence. But when Nick would really perk up is when I’d sneak in one or two original songs in the third hour of a bar gig.
The more I told him about my plans for these first two LPs, the faster I drove. He was pretty sure I ran a red light at one point.
When I decided to finally throw some sort of band together to do original music - even if just for one gig - I thought of Nick first. Our December show at Broken Goblet Brewing, old and new songs of mine played by a six-piece band while trippy short films of mine were projected onto the wall, was a somewhat ramshackle but deeply satisfying musical excursion. We had a packed house that night and some of the folks were raving about it a month later at a New Years party. It’s been encouraging.
Now that my songwriting factory was back in production, I knew it was time to start shipping.
I want my albums to be beautiful in a way that it can only be with other gifted people bringing their skills to the table. I am hearing a vibraphone. I am hearing a string ensemble. I am hearing a country-rock band. I am hearing my folk group Vagabond singing/drumming/fluting two of my songs of blurry-eyed longing in an old, echoey room in Noble Earth on Bristol's Mill Street. I am hearing the reverberant foyer at Marcella’s house and imagining singing my songs of remembrance while looking up at her arched window.
I feel fortunate to have written songs that are worthy of such events. I want them to played on WXPN and lot of other places.
I feel that my time with Marcella gave me a quick influx of life experience from which I can sing, play, and especially write. The well is much deeper. I can't wait to share this music with people. There are some deep, sad, hilarious, beautiful stories behind these songs. Remind me to tell you about them.
Back in the apartment, our LED globe lamp is making our roses slowly change color. I've got a new autograph from the speedy hand of Albert Lee on my Sigma guitar (my "living room" guitar) that I thought would encourage me to play guitar better but instead brings to mind Albert’s kind, mild-mannered energy.
I am glad that my dad survived to meet his granddaughter. They met in the parking lot of his assisted living home last week. Before Pam and I drove away, I looked at the baby for a little while and teared-up while contemplating the juxtaposition of her tininess and fragility and this strange and dangerous human society she has been born into. I told Pam I am happy that Penny has the parents she has. She and her brother motivate me to not give up on humans, but rather to keep representing decency and love both on days of abundant sunshine and days of muddy sidewalks.
These new family members also motivate me to keep telling my story in images, words, home movies, and music. I am inspired to tell my stories to people alive now but also those who will be alive after me.
I’ve got so much more to tell you. Remind me to write about the friend of mine who lives in a box of yams, the terrible gigs that I have come to love, and my 92-year-old girlfriend Nancy.