I only know what it’s like to be in this one head. It is often noisy in a placid place and vice versa. Garrison Keillor says the city is a good place for shy persons. I am alone in the country (just a few miles from the pig farm where my family’s old pet pot belly pig Zoe came from) and I’ve got an off-green patina of angst covering the exterior of my brain. Like a barely perceptible electrical shock that keeps me from peace. Silently. There is no indicator light on my forehead to alert those around me to the conditions inside my head. Perhaps those closest to me recognize my weather patterns.
There’s so much in our blood. I make money, friends, and old women swoon with the musical gifts that course through my veins, inherited from a grandfather born in Appalachia in the 1920s, the Big Band players in the Burns family from Rhode Island, and who knows where else. I also, perhaps, get these overcast moods from my blood. I see the melancholy times as my spiritual payment for the joyful times.
Perhaps it is both nature and nurture. When shit would hit the fan during my youth (in the home or on the schoolyard), I used to step outside my skin and wonder, "isn’t this gonna stick with me?” I heard “you’re gonna carry that weight a long time" like a friendly warning from rock & roll shamans.
Late winter light is beaming through the front window to the delight of the flowers in the transparent blue vase, my skin, and perhaps the woman typing on her laptop. This spot was a tobacco store in the Marcella Days. Now it is a café. I judge your addiction and celebrate mine.
These days, I feel more integrated. Passing years and fallen tears have lead to new plateaus. For a man with an ongoing family crisis, I am far too happy. I do miss plenty of sleep and I do clench plenty of teeth. But I also keep having absurd amounts of fun. I’ve never been happier than I was chasing my little blonde nephew up and down playground equipment the other day in Lambertville, New Jersey.
This winter, I shoveled snow once and shook a musical hero’s hand twice. Country-rock guitar god Albert Lee’s in January, tuneful surrealist Robyn Hitchcock’s last night. While signing my “Living Room Guitar” (formerly just “My Guitar,” 1995-2014), Robyn asked who’d signed near the soundhole. I explained that I signed it under an alias (Chance Raspberry) and then had the curious sensation of being momentarily concerned that Robyn Hitchcock (he of “Man With The Lightbulb Head” fame) might’ve found me to be overly whimsical. He then proceeded to out-whimsy me by signing “Robyn Hitchcock Signed Greg’s Guitar.” Phew.
My wingwoman snapped some photos of us standing in the lobby with the guitar, formerly my dad’s. Just when I figured I’d exceeded my quota of fan interaction time, he started to ask me questions about the guitar. “What kind of guitar is it?” “How’s the action?” One of the voices that most often emanates from my stereo speakers was being used to inquire about this old guitar that I played with Mike Harris at the St. Michael The Archangel schoolyard, pulled dozens of Greg McGarvey songs out of, made a few thousand bucks with, and played “Across The Universe” with at Marcella’s services. Nice. I don’t know what the fuck is up with this jarring, erratic, still-amorphous young year of ours, but I know that it is the year when I shook Robyn Hitchcock’s hand.
Will it also be the year that I jam at Don Everly’s house in Nashville? Some of my dreams are less realistic than others. My friend Dale used to see the guy at Whole Foods every couple of days and, somehow, this fact filtered through the impressionistic caverns of my mind led to the birth of this goal.
Teens outside the window keep picking up the café's sandwich board sign every time the wind blows it back onto the sidewalk. May we all stay this devoted to our impossible goals. In my life, I’ve looked at my hands and seen myself doing things I would’ve previously deemed impossible.
Perhaps I will look down one day and see myself preparing dinner.
Should I walk to the record store or tell this notebook more things? Writing is always the best move, right? I like these prose things because I want people to get to know me after I’m dead. Relatives whose parents are still unborn. Similarly, I want Teenage Penny and Collegiate Nolan to get a taste of the flavor of these days, if they want to. The days when they were new to the team/everything. I love you now and I’ll bet that I love you later, too.
I wrote a note on this other page that says “it was all inside.” I made a few moves last year that felt inorganic but I nevertheless thought might lead to advancement. They did not. By abandoning those thoughts and following my intuition, I managed to write the songs of Count The Colors, the album I begin recording on March 12. It is through these songs that I have been able to see my way forward. What I seek is an audience for these songs about my experience of being human as filtered through my beautiful, scratch-and-dented brain. I want these songs to take me around the world.
There are moments when I feel too short for such a tall order, but if those teens won't give up on that sidewalk sandwich board, I won't give up on my goals either.