Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cult People Have Comfy-Looking Clothes

I had on my record of vintage TV theme songs and started dancing, for Baby Penny’s sake, to the theme from Green Acres. Pam walked into the living room and joined me. Penny’s expression fell into bemusement and she seemed to attempt to mimic my arm motions. Meanwhile, little Bonkers The Dog roamed around Uncle Greg and Aunt Nicky’s apartment for the first time, making sure we hadn’t left any kettle corn under the couch or the love seat.

photo by Uncle Greg (Newtown, PA, USA, 2017)

As soon as they left, I had a realization I realized I’d previously realized: the joy in my life is ABSOLUTELY equal to the pain in my life. It’s so perfectly in balance. The heartbreak of a hard day with my dad is always evened-out by time spent playing with my nephew, time spent singing a song for my niece, goofing off with my sister, a nice evening of conversation, food, and movies with my girlfriend, or deep immersion into some sort of creative excursion.

In my life, the right people show up at the right time.

Shit, the joy might actually exceed the misery.

But the misery shouldn’t be glossed over. I feel like I’m in another period of crisis, albeit a lower speed crisis, and as such, I need to understand how my father’s health - and all the corresponding issues - are affecting me. I’ve gotta slow down and look the pain in the eye instead of just moving on to the next distraction.

After grabbing some drinks at The Coffee Room, Pam and I took a nice walk around sunny, Norman Rockwell-esque Newtown and got caught up on family matters. Ya know, it’s a rare condition, this day and age, to read any good news on the newspaper page. Sorry - got distracted. Where was I?

Diabetes is in the picture now and he’s got signs of something known as Sundowners Syndrome. This is in addition to gout, high blood pressure, dementia itself, nerve pain. Even with everything being treated by professionals, it is a large-scale bummer. I can’t imagine how I could keep my head above water if I didn’t live in another town with my beautiful and supportive girlfriend. Still, I strive to be strong enough to weather my life’s storms with or without outside help.

(...An impossibility.)

Here at Centipede Manor, lemongrass is misting out of our diffuser, illuminated by the intense summer-preview sun. I’ve just caught up, via text message, with Jenni; she’s recently flown north to Brooklyn from Asheville. I am editing music with Nicky and a Sierra Nevada by my side and I’ve got plans to make music with my friends in Bristol tonight.

After a dry period, I’m booking work left and right. On one hand, I will enjoy every second of earning and spending that money. On the other hand, I’ve arrived in a time of my life where non-music work is sort of a crutch. The dream of showing up to places with a guitar and being paid handfuls of cash has being realized and it’s only my terrible self-management skills that keep me from going full-time.

So that’s the goal. In the short-term, that means playing bars, restaurants, birthday funerals, funeral weddings, and the like; in the long-term, it means singing my own weird songs for weird people around this weird old world.

Vagabond did some good work tonight. Vagabond is a group of friends I might have met in high school if I’d talked to people in high school. We were all in rock bands in our twenties and, after visualizing such a project while watching Dave Rawlings Machine in Philadelphia, we put together this stylistically eclectic, mostly acoustic group. It’s a great sound and I feel high when I'm inside it. Acoustic guitars, conga, native flute, harmonicas, melodica, multi-part harmonies. We make up our own songs and borrow a few from others, mostly songs we’ve never heard other people do like "Among His Tribe" by Ween.

I just did business with guy called Gino in New Jersey. I am in a gazebo on the Lincoln Highway, dogless in a dog park. I appear to be in hiding. Just hiding from the sun. I saved $1,000 on the job because I know a gal who knows a gal who knows a guy. Word-of-mouth, ya know?

I followed up last night’s inspiring rehearsal with the completion of a new song - “Here In The Future." I think Chris Marston's new song, tentatively entitled “Home,” was the spark that lit that fuse. It’s really beautiful to watch a song come to life. Mavish The Dog seemed to approve. I also feel newly inspired after seeing my album recording fundraiser come to completion after just three weeks.

here in the future
I still waste lots and lots of my time
I spin my wheels
and get stuck in the mud of my mind
so much to do with each day that's passed
and sometimes the clock seems to run a bit fast
here in the future
there ain't time for very much but love

photo by Greg McGarvey (Newtown, PA, USA, 2017)

I know this new tune is a keeper because I’ve been listening to the demo non-stop since I recorded it. I live the song for a day or two if it’s a keeper. It’s a cathartic piece for me. I used it as an opportunity to talk to Marcella in the present day.

I decided I’ll put my brother-in-law Scott’s late brother Jeff in the album dedications, too; some of these songs reminded me of his early departure (not long after Marcella’s). I hope his family can find a connection to some of these tunes.

here in the future
my buddy's going down the slide
sister's in her carriage
watching everyone go by
I dance for her
and sing a little song
she stares back at me
like she's been here all along
here in the future
I give them extra love for you

It made Pam misty-eyed, so I must have succeeded.

Cycling back and forth between music jobs at night and photography jobs in the daytime, I feel like I’m sleepwalking, like I’m on a five-minute delay with the world around me.

photo by Greg McGarvey (Newtown, PA, USA, 2017)

I snapped a photo of a painting of Edward Hicks on my walk to the coffee shop. I live about half a mile from his old house. Working in Philadelphia these past few days filled me with urban wanderlust, but my fatigued body is requesting that I pursue a path of minimal resistance today. I’m down the road from Edward’s ghost, sipping slowly. I’ve lost touch with my projects and therefore myself, but luckily I’ve got a road map.

This stack of papers contains my latest songs - one or two of which still need the final perfect line - and plans for the two albums I’m planning to get out this year. I’ve got an album about, err, myself; songs written in my twenties and featuring various women who no longer speak to me on vibes. I’ve got an album about the love, death, and continuing influence of Marcella. I’ve got half an album of new-new stuff no one’s heard. I’ve got twenty-two fallen-through-the-cracks songs that I want to put out as a series of free, Internet-only EPs. Songs that I want to rescue before they fall into the sewer. Oh, and I’m helping Tullytown Slim with his album of songs about Tullytown.

(Incidentally, people keep accusing me of BEING Tullytown Slim. Do you really think I would write a song called “Have You Ever Seen The Sunrise [From The Landfill]”??)

Point being, Greg The Songwriter is back - after a lull in my early ‘30s - and I credit Marcella with this. If I didn't finish the album about her, I suspect she would haunt the SHIT out of me. I don't mess with Italian women.

Marcella wanted to be involved with getting my songs to the outside world. Whether the world cares or not, she will be part of them making their way out my front door.

The uptick in my productivity also coincides with my move to my girlfriend’s apartment. This lady, currently asleep on the other couch, is exactly who I hoped to meet in this part of my life.

Here’s a direct quote from her: “Cult people have comfy-looking clothes.”

I've been working hard for a long time. I'm at a point where Johnny Banana's Booze Shack won't necessarily reply to an email about music booking, yet I regularly make strangers cry with my songs. There’s a feeling, at times, of hiding in plain sight, but I remind myself that my music has mostly existed on-stage. Gone as soon as I hit the final note.

In my gut, I know I’m on the right track. Five nights later, the feeling of playing three hours of music with Righteous Jolly at Tir Na nOg in Trenton is still with me. Irish folk music, some of my new songs, Righteous’s beautiful “Last Fall” and a song he improvised, Bob Dylan’s “Tweeter And The Monkey Man” (“in Jersey, everything’s legal as long as ya don’t get caught”)... we just played whatever was on the top of our heads and the crowd seemed to eat it up. Or maybe the Guinness and Tullamore Dew just made it seem that way.

photo by Darren McKessy (Trenton, NJ, USA, 2017)

It’s hard to put this joy into words other than to say that it’s where I find my sense of purpose. I did a few non-music jobs after it and, while I enjoyed hanging out with my co-workers, it felt like I was at the ‘wrong’ job. Like I’m ready to cross over into something else.