Sunday, December 24, 2017

Those Who Know Know

Christmas Eve. Eye is twitching just a little and my head feels like an overworked laptop that needs a restart and an operating system update. I am fortunate to have a bit of alone time before launching myself into Christmas. There is a chance of greatness because my girlfriend and her family are absolutely wonderful, as are my sister and the rest of my local family. A chance of fucked-upness because the days of having non-upsetting interactions with my dad are over. It’s something that takes a few hours (on a good day) to emotionally recover from.

I don’t know if he is aware the holiday is coming up, and if he is, he might be feeling guilty and confused about it. Losing his mind to dementia, having lost much of the use of his body to a stroke. He’s worse off since the pre-Thanksgiving hospitalization when he was on the brink of death due to sepsis and a heart attack. The doctors did amazing work, but the guy that came home from the hospital (after a few weeks at Mount Horrible Nursing Home) is a much different guy.

While we struggled to get him out of the vehicle, he started yelling, in regards to my mom, “she’s a killer!” It’s nice to not have to live at Mount Horrible any longer, yet the return home seemed like just another negative experience for him.

My mom, incidentally, is the reason he was alive when I came home from New Orleans. Sure, she gets white paint on our stuff from time to time, but she’s no killer.

To have been moved back home is a good thing, but the overall situation is not and I’m having trouble pretending it is for the sake of conversation. It’s been devastating for my sister and I, yet so drawn-out that we don’t feel compelled to bail on our commitments as you might during a more compressed crisis.

I was playing a gig the other night and, while I thought I was playing well, I wasn’t getting any feedback. Sometimes, nobody wants to be the first to clap. In my emotionally worn-down state, I took this to mean that I was doing a bad job. This fucked with my head as I was, very unhealthily, looking for a loving audience to repair my damaged psyche.

“Those who know, know,” Jolly said. The people who could see that I was in some sort of crisis are the same people who are on my side, anyway. What played like a feature-length movie in my head was, in the room, a blip.

After the illness and death of Marcella, I felt unshakable. Like I’d been through the worst. I hadn’t. Now it’s one of my parents. It doesn’t matter that it’s been drawn out since January 2011. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t have the fighter’s spirit that Marcella has. It’s my dad and it’s devastating. That relationship is a universe of complex feelings and sweet memories and strange dynamics and illnesses and deep, deep, deep love. An endless stream of New Jersey locales that have some sort of Dad Memory attached to them.

The day of the latest move, I was just angry. Angry because it’s easier than sad. With anger, there’s control. When he was in the hospital and he’d so recently been close to death, I was able to just be sad. It felt healthy. Anger is a head-against-a-brick-wall to sadness’s long, winding river. A river, at least, takes you somewhere. The scenery will eventually change if you take the ride.

This situation has shown me how supportive my girlfriend is, how strong my mom is, how unified my sister and I are. How resilient we are.

To leave your kids to make decisions like DNR status is so wildly irresponsible, but because of our close and very communicative relationship, we just speak freely about such things and come to our conclusions. It crossed my mind that our relationship could’ve easily ended at MANY junctures if we had opposing opinions about the many financial and medical decisions we’ve had to make without his guidance.

I am so lucky to have her. I’m glad they made two.

And I’m glad that he’s my dad. I talk about him at almost every gig I do, especially when one of those great, old Everly songs is coming up next. He shared his favorite things with me and now they are my favorite things, too. I feel like I’m enjoying them for him.

As this year winds down, I feel that the support of my loved ones kept me from going off the deep end. 

A new year is coming and, in that year, I want to get more love but need it less. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Those Are The Ones I Keep

I've enjoyed expressing myself in prose and visual art over the years, but it's through music that I communicate the most directly, with the most emotion. I consider this my life's main task.

Since my 2015 trip to Nashville, I've had a renewed focus on my songwriting. I'd already written a few hundred songs by that point, released a few things here and there, but I felt lost. I have found my way with the help of my late girlfriend Marcella. Even in her absence.

I'd written about a lot of almost-wases and might-have-beens, troubled rock stars, crooked politicians. I'd written about a lot of imagined things. When I resumed my writing, it was time to write about very real time spent with a very real person to whom I felt I owed a debt. This called for not only a resumption of my work, but a raising of the bar. This music - existing only on-stage so far - has received the kind of feedback I hoped it would.

The October 2017 debut performance was, more than a fun night, a life highlight. Even more exciting, I've found as I've dug into my archive that there are three albums of material that I feel just as strongly about. Three more song cycles, each reflecting different eras, different sides of me.

I don't know that I've accomplished as much as my friend and collaborator Patrick thinks I have, but I know that I have spent an incalculable amount of time crafting these things and that, in each of these forty-two songs, I said exactly what I wanted to say.

The truth is that I don't understand a damn thing about writing (probably why I failed English in college); I only know that I keep showing up to work and, sometimes, magic happens. Sometimes I play the song back and it reminds me of a tune that might be playing on a jukebox in some strange dream you're having at 4:11 AM.

Those are the ones I keep.

I look forward to sharing this work with you soon, and I send my thanks to the folks who have been early supporters.

For anyone who is interested in helping me release this work, you can help support me by purchasing music and merchandise at (name your own price), attending a gig, or by leaving thousands of dollars under my windshield wipers. It's the blue Scion in the parking lot; ya can't miss it!