November 2017 M T W T F S S « Feb 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Part One: Heart Hurt, Then It Looks
moreover, this whole damned thing is much, much harder than it looks. of course, that is the much coveted illusion, ain’t it? we — when we observe — we want to see civilized laboring, elegant failure, plucky keepwithitness, and general untapering (detapering?) glamorousness. but of course, its actually much more awkward and gross — like most things in this life that we treasure in the abstract. a delicious meal starts with dirt and shit and sunlight, goes on to selective murder/culling, and then violent application of heat and laceration to the preformative dish. and then, only at the very last, do we take all that, put it on a plate, and enjoy its sweet prettiness before we send it down our throats to turn back in to dirt and shit — in darkness.
it is not unlike being musical. at least, it is not un-similar to what it has been for me.
well, and there is plenty to it that is nice and direct. but to get to those civil, effete places you must mingle in the mire-ing mud for so long. yes, the end result is an isolated moment of song. an hour (or so) of sweet and savory directed consonance and dissonance. and there is a mechanical element there as well: playing the instrument (its just abstracted physics made practical), breath, vocal cords squeezing, larynx bumbling up/down, left and right.
but for that isolated moment to come to pass — so much weakness, acceptance, learning, pain, sacrifice, loss (of thing unrecoverable or irreplaceable). i don’t really think you can just wake up from all-pleasant living and start singing the blues. a shadow of it? a semblance? the beginnings of a shaping of it? sure. imitation is, itself, a kind of art (one that implicates a sense of loss — of self and/or direction and/or direction and/or agency — and beingfulness). but the genuine article is pretty obvious when you see it. hear it. feel it. what-have-you.
of course I am reminded of the anecdote where Olivier asks Hoffman: “my dear boy — have you ever tried acting?” (or something like that). after all, if the semblance of soul is close enough to the real thing (close enough for love, as they say) then why not just get close enough and be done with it?
though, consider that deeply, to build one’s house from something that is close enough for a brick to serve — won’t that house be susceptible to all kinds of attack? mightn’t it be hard-pressed to hold it self up? when the rooms are empty, it serves. but as a home, it will suffer. it will slowly (perhaps almost imperceptibly) sink, crack, compress. until it has holes — and the wind and the rain can get it. and weeds grow up on the facade and grow through it — stretching it apart. until the house is open to all the world.
why then, its not house. for if it can barely support itself, let alone people inside it. how can it house the things that elevate a structure beyond mere physical construction? can it hold memories? ghosts? can it hold tears, wails, or sighs? can it offer resistance to the man who closes the door and leans against his house?
enough, perhaps. enough for long enough. but eventually, it will not be enough. and then one of two things will have happened: either a) the denizens of said house will have vacated for something that is true and can hold all the various vagaries and joys of living. or b) the slow decrepitation of the house (while it still holds folks) will lead to a sympathetic decrepitation of the folks within it.
and there’s the rub.
to truly be something is to truly be it. and close enough is not being it, but being close enough that it: might as well be it.
but when what is close enough becomes, in effect, being something, it (ironically!) truly becomes being something in the mind. and so we slip from veracity into something like poor reproductions of veracity. it was like this into: it was basically like this. and then, the inimical move continues down the line — what was not close enough before is now the stage that is just shy of the genuine thing. and so, if we are trending towards relax in that guise, we will accept that new not-quite-enough as just-enough (which is now occupying the chair of what truly IS). and so on and so forth until, we are mutated. we are changed. we are shadows dancing on our own, evermore distant seeming, cave walls. metaphor melt, similes fold. everything was everything. but then, somehow, everything is just this small, hyper-limited, hardly varied thing-scape.
what i’m saying is: ain’t no half-stepping, folks. the easy way does not simply diminish oneself. it diminishes those you share yourself with. in all ways. everything, in this universe, rolls down. in order to climb, one must strive. ain’t no half-stepping. and its harder than it looks.
Part Two: Soft. What. Light.
the flipside is much less bleak. after all, all darkness would just be a kind of bliss ignorance, wouldn’t it? it is only our present ignorance that makes us think otherwise.
and i guess i’ve felt that much of my adult life has been living in two worlds. in the one — the one sort of responsible for the depressing shit above — its all internal. in the mind, its brambles, thirsty shadows, hungry shades, prickly realizations, constant, self-actualized unhappy striving. etc, etc, etc, monsters, demons, and bears.
and then the other world is the rest of the world. it is external. and, by comparison, its a pretty damned happy place. or, at the very least, amenable place in which to be and to toil. and it is bright. bright, in aspect. and literally, bright. even the night and the literal dark, when compared to the streamless dark of the minds unfathomable corridors, are pretty nice. pretty warm. pretty inviting.
what follows, then, are a few bright. colorful. mirthy moments from the now late year. it is gone, but not forgotten. not replaced. it stands in a place and it carries a place. indeed, it may stand in the place that it carries. or vice versa.
yeah, acknowledged — i have a lot of photos of myself. not only do i like to document where i’ve been, i think my innate anti-prettiness makes a nice companion for all the pretty things I get to see. i like to inject myself into the photo. its like pretending i’m outgoing or extroverted.
of course, this is a photo that is pure, pure introversion. this is what I would be all day and all night if it were possible. oh the things I could do.
also this photo reminds me like early 20s Newroom editors. and that’s just right up my alley. except i hate editing. with a passion.
the homey, Noah (aka “Soul Khan”) got married this year. though it was after a week and half of strong touring with the Screaming Headless Toros (and i flew back to New York with them and then went through customs and then walked up the stairs and then went back through customs to head to Toronto. never left the airport) and just before flying down to Kentucky to play for a dear friend’s sister’s wedding (and no, didn’t stop off home then either) and though i basically got sick 25 minutes after leaving this wedding (and I’d known it was gonna happen — stupid body. stupid immune system), I am glad I was able to spend the full 26 hours in Toronto and be there for the big day.
not least of all because we got to do this in our suits. and that’ll be an important detail down line, i expect.
sure. on a gig. probably between songs. backing up Natalie Forteza at the Winery at St. George. again, one cannot over estimate the value of a novel gig. and i like this pink tie (which i’d gotten the previous year from being a groomsman in the wedding of another dear friend. down in Georgia.
and why what a smile. that, in all my searching, is the rarest expression. even when I know I was happy. so there, universe. Brutus was an honorable man!
Soul Khan gets more love because he made big steps this year. here, i think we were in North Carolina (but I’m not sure). did a gig at an indoor festival at a big university. it was raining bitterly. our green room was a locker room (complete with showers, and, yes, lockers. could not resist creating this photo once we figured out that Noah could fit in the locker.
i believe we even had a clever name for the photo. but that’s long gone. as i recall the gig went fairly well but i was very sleep deprived and had flown in from somewhere else (though i know not where) and so after the gig (which was early evening) we went back to the hotel, ate, and then rather promptly passed out. and then woke up at 430 in the morning to catch a plane home. and even that was more rigamarole than it should have been. if memory serves.
this was a photo Ken McGloin took. it was at a wedding on Martha’s Vineyard. when i saw it, my firs reaction was: and thus had i become a Hipster. it was just all to perfect. i wound up accidentally breaking those glasses a few days later and I think that may have liberated me. or… i am in severe denial.
either is likely.
well, Blake the Snake gave me this watch. and I love it. the winder-upper stopped working a couple months ago and i need to get it fixed. and i will. upon finding the time and loose change. in any case: 24 hours! ANALOG?!?!!!! it may be i am easily thrilled.
for i was.
would say my favorite moment of the year probably comes from ignominy. oddly enough, it is often the times when you could feel the most insulted, most helpless, most angry, most vengeful — it is often those times when it is easiest to step back and laugh. in this photo, we’d (Aabaraki) waited to book a hotel in burlington, VT until the day of the show. of course it was beerfest. ALL the rooms were booked. we got luck, on the semi-outskirts of town we found a really nice hotel room with a single room left. but it had a cot and bunkbed. and, grownmen though we are: we had to stay there. after the gig, we came home, bunked in, and watched some terrible television movie.
good times indeed. good times indeed.
not sure why this one. but, you know, Hello Brooklyn. damn. 2014.
i came to St. Barths this year with the explicit intention of refocusing the heaviness of my mental regard (it is equal fault of muscled brain, thick skull, and prominent brow ridges — my “heavy regard” that is). on what — for it has certainly been thoroughly music this past year. well, upon composition. and explicitly, my own composition. but that entails many things. for one, i have neglected practice for sometime (been to busy actually playing, but that is a poor excuse) and to play the sounds in my head well I will have to step up my technical and creative prowess several echelons — or else, at the very least, start hiring someone else to play piano.* along those lines, some ear-training and harmonic research is required. i’ve picked a few pieces to either transcribe bits of or find the written music and (painfully, as i can’t really read music) stumble through. also, something i’ve found very lacking when i listen back to the renditions of pieces i’ve written — my facility with counterpoint. considering how much my ears appreciate it, I should more thoroughly understand the basic tenets of it.
all those things are the raw ingredients for what music, i hope, is to follow.
and then, there is the matter of composition itself. i write songs fairly well and, though i haven’t written many, I have little doubt to my abilities there. but, no matter how much i am in envious awe of my peers and the beautiful songs they write, my own music (that is what I wish to have exclusively under my name and what, in all likelihood, only i will ever play and sing for audiences) never wants for such elegant simplicity.
i have found the old journal — from when I was 22 and graduating college — where I chide and console myself for the “little, ugly ideas” that seem to be my only means of high-level musical expression. i meant it not simply to say i was terrible but that I did not have the necessary bent to create long, sweeping concepts. to instantly contrive epic, romantic gestures. that my ideas — while possibly very good, if you ask the right person — are small, compact, ungainly little things. six bars here, 12 bars there. a piece.
but, at the same time, i didn’t want to simply write a collection of ugly, frumpy 30 second nocturnes. nor did i want to turn my way to something serial or minimalist and have those bitsy, ugly darlings become cells of some grandiose repetitive thing.** but, i this journal entry (written on a late MetroNorth train from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central) I ask myself if i can find some new avenue for exposition. something where the little ideas can become sweeping, grandiose, epic, and all that shit. without losing their natural bitter diminuitivity.
and thus, have I contemplated and tinkered these past eight years. learned while on the job. sketched down notes and melody scraps. try out things as improvisational sketches, or as basis for digital sampling, or as stuffy orchestral music. and none have worked, over all, because i came too late to music. learned to late about harmony. and thus my twenties were spent almost completely in a cycle of tepid ignorance followed by shy acceptance followed by deep contemplation followed by assured acceptance followed by prideful ignorance followed by sudden embarrassment, followed by deep acceptance, followed by reasonable understanding.
this: over and over and over again. and, possibly, it will continue still into my 30s. but the string quartets I wrote, and the jazz tunes for quartet, and the solo piano “meditations”, and the weird form of hiphop i wanted to call “New Rap Resources” — all were wanting. but the wanting showed me where the holes in my craft were and so, finding them at last. i would put my head down and attempt to fill them.
and then, again, i find myself 30 years old. having had a year so incredibly busy as to boggle even my own mind. i get calls for works. i get praise. yea, even unto accolades. and yet, in my heart, i know that what they claim of me is ultimately false. for it is too early and too unproven and to slight to really be worth the excitement people show. and so i wonder if it isn’t, perhaps, false excitement. or weak enthusiasm. or, like the euphoria one feels after sex — a fleeting belief that what you have been a part of is, indeed, the best and most important thing in all the world (a moment which, for me, is always colored by the unignorable under-thought that is most certainly is not).
but Akie at 30 has something that 20-something Akie never had: his twenties to reflect upon.
if what i have done up until now is a pale shadow of what I would do then I know, at least, that I would do it if i could. and now i can couple that with something like acceptance that is shan’t be some masterwork of a 26 year old boy. so: no shortcuts. no furious gambles. no almosts. to do what i will, i must will myself to do the prerequisite work on its behalf.
to that end, I was maybe 20 when I first thought about the #alienLoveSongs. a song i was co-writing with the guitarist in my college band at the time (a song we called G-fudge for a host of juvenile reasons) which having been forced to come up with lyrics to a music constraint, I pulled from a bit of rhyming poetry I’d been writing:
…bump the wizards and the magic
you should roll with me.
we’ll sparkle like neutrinos
like your eyes…
and, several years later (at 24 or so) i began to harken back to this project. something told me this should be the first thing. a song-cycle with a broad fantastical, scifi boned totem at its center. but also an incorporation of the idea of music as part of story-telling. explicit story telling. and the song-cycle idea was a way I thought might be good to string together those little ugly sounds into something greater than the simple sum of its parts.
and it was that strange verse which i could remember — though, for the life me, i cannot find the old poetry book from that Junior year where I wrote a pages long continuation of the story in that second-person format.
the first song — which, even then, i know was Alien Love Song #3 — came very quickly. perhaps in a night — as these ugly little things are wont to do! and it was all i could do to not play it all the time. any time i saw a piano — look at me! i’ve “written” a thing. and, as luck would have it, i found myself in the company of great musicians*** who somehow saw the value in my goofy idea and helped it along at various stages. anywhere from simple encouragement — finish it, bermiss! — to playing my one completed song with me at the sporadic solo shows i did from time to time and place to place.
writing the second song was the beast. i am 24 in 2007 when i decide I can make my first stand with these #alienLovesongs — and life is generally very nominally life at that point. but by the end of 2007 my mother becomes very ill and dies (even as, in the process of leaving us over several months she gives us innumerable gifts which cannot even really be appreciated yet) early in 2008. the same year Barack Obama wins the Iowa caucuses, the same year i turn 25, and my younger sister graduates from college and we all go as a family to witness what Mom could not. ah yes, 25 was a fraught year and I made little progress on anything other than to continue in my hapless luck of meeting great musicians and getting to play with them. i believe I was working some five or six different parttime jobs at that time. upstate New York, New Jersey, and in Brooklyn.
recovery took a while — and continues still, for somedays I think all life is a recovery from even the very traumatic instance of birth. but in March of 2009, my grandfather (my mother’s father and the man from whom I get my middle name) passed away. and it was another grand upheaval of things on all sides.
it is strange to recall for the morning of his passing, was after a night of unexpected snowfall in New York City. i had gone to bed the night before after a strange day of work, play, and late, late, late driving. my father — who also lives in Brooklyn — was away for some thing or another and so it was i who got the call from a home health attendant early in the morning****. I was closest so I had to get up — after maybe sleeping two hours — and frantically dig my car out of the snow (what is it about death that makes us so frantic? here, at last, is the time when one can take as much time as one desires and it will all fit and yet we rush to arrange for funerals and memorials. it is still strange to me) without a shovel or, really, anything. i probably used CD cases (i still carried CDs in those days).
and, because of the snow, when I got to the house. it was still a while before the paramedics showed up. since we knew which funeral home we’d want to use (i was spending the time calling to siblings and coordinating and such — again, that strange sense of urgency) we opted not to have the paramedics take him away. instead, the funeral home was called. so i filled out the police report in the living room — which i think you need to do in order for the paramedics not to take a person who is dead (ensuring, if provisionally, no foul play or the like) — and when the funeral home came it was just one guy.
so, also, it was I who accompanied that gentleman up to my grandfather room, helped him cover the body, place it on the travois-type conveyance he’d brought, and carry my grandfather’s body down the stairs of my childhood home and out to the fan — grim reminder of when my brother and i had, just more than a year earlier, carried my mother down the stairs in her wheelchair to take her to the hospital — a stay from which she did not return.
so, heavy times indeed (and my heavy regard has grown no lighter, certainly). and what is strange about it is that is couldn’t have been more than a few days later that i first got the call from Ari Folman-Cohen about a gig he was supposed to do with someone else opening up in St. Barths and would I like to go.
that was the first venture down to this place. like a bastion of respite from the unmitigated horror of life and life’s ends. we came, suddenly, unwittingly, to paradise. and it was here that I finally wrote a second alien love song. i did not think of the connection at the time and yet first lines of that song:
i hear my momma singin’ low
wonder what she’s singing for
at any rate, this will mark our fifth time down here. each time we come, I have felt the resonance of that escape from reality. the first time, adventure on the island reigned all my thoughts. but even so, i wrote without knowing i would. the times since, i have prepared to be here. brought reading and research materials and i have striven to be productive.
and this time it comes at the end of this mad year — as I said above. and when I feel, at last, that this thing is about to become ripe in my very hands if i do not pluck it from my soul now and share its meat.
why did i call this post Milestone — damn me, in all the remembrance and pondering I nearly forgot what I meant to state in few sedate but portentous paragraphs. that yesterday, here. on the cranky upright piano in the living room (which i used to write the beginning of You Don’t Know My Name some four and half year ago):
i have at last composed the final moments of music to the Alien Love Songs. a denouement to the struggling attempts of thar 20, 24, 25, 27, and 29 year old man-child to create something that, whether the world ever knows it or not, is a complete statement of a matured (if young) artist and is true to his own self.
now, then, I must work to fill in all the blanks between. but the end is in sight, for the end has been cited.
and, if anything, i must work harder and with deeper and more unassailable intent to complete this piece in truth. to the cosmos, we humans are all small and ugly things, i’m sure. nonetheless, we trouble on. death be damned.
[december 13th. Gustavia Harbor, St. Barths. 11:30am]
*and that seems like it would be way less fun!
**that is not to say, i hope, that i dislike serialist or minimalist music. indeed, i think that some of the most compelling contemporary classical music I’ve heard belongs to that school, wittingly or otherwise. and i enjoy it immensely.
***if indeed my luck’s largely ambivalent relationship with me has one exception it has been that, no matter how terrible or weak my music is, i have always been able to engender the companionship and proximity of monstrously good musicians.
****maybe not so early. but i don’t recall the time. it had been the kind of night that ended at dawn. so whenever she called, it was to suddenly soon
afternoons on island are, once again, all about practice for me. i challenge myself with new harmonies, new songs, scales — the whole nine.
and also, vocal workouts — for this is a gig where voice loss is a constant threat. gotta stay limbered up, and even then, i’m pretty hoarse.* but there are different avenues for sound production and i think jazz standards sound nice this way.
if i’m really engaged, i’ll do one every day til we leave. won’t that be nice.
*for some odd reason (Caol Isla, day and night) i wanted to write: “i’m a pretty horse.”
…there is a song that I am thinking of. I can’t get it out of my head. but i can’t quite remember what song it is. it is a niggling feeling. like an itch at the back of your throat. irritating, unignorable, but also — impossible to alleviate. the fire in unquenchable.
for the composer, this is the most dangerous place to be. is it a song I’ve heard somewhere out in the world? something from the radio or from behind a conversation at a concert? something of that ilk that now, when I am finally more rested than I am exhausted, has warped to the weft of my distressed mind? and become some ghostly strain? some exotic particle shot off of a stable song and now fissioning in my brain til there is naught but its haunted quasi-presence left within me?
or (more delightful, but somehow perhaps even more dangerous) is it a song which i have only heard in my mind. in the yawning empty cauldrons between thought where grow my illicit dreams? dreams, which for me, have almost never been dreams these last ten years. not dreams, but music. to die, to sleep — no more. and to sleep, perchance to sing. and, in so doing, translate the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to each day. translate them in to something ineffable. inchoate. and yet, fleeting (and thus, beautiful — for beauty is sometimes simply the absence of a thing that is at once there and not there and for which one longs) and finished.
the wine-dark sea; the smoke-thin sky
so we came, then, back to St. Barths. our 5th time. though the band (Aabaraki) is a motley assemblage of itself down here sometimes. the first year, it was without Brian — but for the five or six days he came down on his own. the second year, we were whole. the third, estranged. the fourth, attis was new to the band and the adventure. and now, Luke Notary is down here with us. so, really, the only full-term veterans are Ari and myself. but I think the band has a united consciousness. and thus, whoever is down here or up there or away or present — we all share in the event of our fifth time down here.
so, the dramatis personnae are just that: Brian, Ari, Luke, and Me. and with us, a host of minor players (if we consider the band a collective protagonist): the Baz Bar staff (waitresses, chefs [cheves!], managers), patrons of the bar (island regulars, solo visitors, couples on holiday, local musicians), the french language, and the island itself. some are folks were know from before; some folks are new to us — and some seem even new to themselves.
as always, it is a kind of paradise. mostly warm and sunny days.
and our collective protagonist is possessed our four humors. and i am, i think, the holder of things dour, intentional, plodding. ponderous, i guess.
our evenings are for work. we get to the club at 630, eat dinner, then set up the stage and make our set lists. sometimes we play at 830. sometimes we wait til 9. and we play til anywhere from midnight to 1am.
the rest of the day is ours to use as we see fit. there is overlap but there is much that is solitary. for my single self, i keep to the dark fervently.
wednesday night: 400am (technically thursday)
three gigs in. stood on the roof with all the lights off. circled by bats hunting. the Big Dipper looms large in the sky. large enough to be intimidating. like it could, at any moment, swing down and scoop a portion of the earth away. (or its possible i need to lay off the fantasy novels, because I am picturing Warlord Caladan Brood and his D’riss Hammer — look that one up.)
one feels very tiny. it is the thing about nature. here, unlike the city, there is little pollution. but also, unlike north NY, few trees. you are at the summit. the sky is just a looking glass.
one can love this. and the unnaturalness of the city.
one can exist in both places at once. longing for each. belonging to each.
stretched across a divide. between the primitive and the civilized. if there is meaning to life — then this bridge is part of it.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday — in rained bitterly. on and off. there were sunny reprieves, but never enough for things to dry out. strange to say it, but I prefer this weather to the unending daytime sun. at night, let it be clear and wide and still. but during the day, the gusting wind, the muted (basically monochromatic) sky, and the hiss and roar of millions of rain drops — they are a comfort.
strangely, the rain did very little to keep folks away from the restaurant. the first few days were clear and the place was spottily attended. something in the inclement weather brought folks out in droves, however. lots of wild and crazy times at the Baz Bar.
each time we come here, i get duped into going out to the club at least once. Thursday night, i took that leap.
thursday night: 229am.
just got in from things. gig went well. met some NYers. then, despite my apprehension, i let myself be dragged yet again to Le Yacht Club. only this time to the very *elite* “First Floor” lounge. it was loud, smokey, and — indeed — elite.
there is an art to that kind of hang. even as a wordless American. one which i can achieve in short bursts. thus, for the sake of those gathered, i did burst.
then i hung for a brief while and then came home. i’m not partier, alas. c’est la guerre.
what remains is then is my time spent to myself. and there is much of it. for beaches never offered me much in the way of joy. i love the ocean but, like Socrates with Alcibaides, I prefer to observe its beauty from afar. it calls to me, but not in a literal sense. i send my mind floating out over the surface — way off of shore and then, suddenly — down into the depths. while the rest of the band make regular pilgrimages beach-ward, i am content to be in the house with its wonky upright piano and working through harmony problems in the Alien Love Songs. i suppose that when i am old and i look back on my life, it may be that i regret all that sun and swim and boyish joy.
but it may be, also, that i think only of how much MORE time I could have spent working on music. since it starves me of sleep — even here! — i must bow to its inescapable pull.
thus, i have spent nearly every night up til the cusp of dawn. it is truthfully my time. and i thrive in it. my thoughts spiral out in every direction like wild wind. i grasp and think and understand and misunderstand. i hope for things I cannot control and wait for things that may not come. it is a vivid place the mind and the mind’s dark.
sunday was special. here on the island, it is the only day off. nearly all the shops are closed and thus the tourists keep to their yachts and hotels. and the staff of all the various restaurants and stores all get together and eat and drink and are merry — for they work cruel hours for young people during the week (cruel because it is the evening time, when such souls want to cavort. playfully, coyly, nastily).
the band was little different. a full dayOff, and so the fellas rented a car and drove about the island. hiking, swimming, even surfing, i hear. and they were gone from mid-morning to late evening. during that time, the house was mind.
so i set up in the living room. notebooks, manuscript papers, voice memos from the iPhone, recordings of old versions of songs. and i went to constant work on the shit. i made a pot of coffee which i drank throughout the day.
twice, i paused to eat a yogurt. but before i’d even completed the little cup, i was back at the piano re-trying some voicing or chord movement, or rhythmic interpolation of something. it was, in short, a GRAND SUNDAY. such as I have not enjoyed in many, many months. dedicated, almost wholly to music.
around 10ish, some of the folks from Baz Bar dropped by and invited us out to dessert just down the road. i went for the cappuccino, stayed for the churros, and left full of sickly sweet vanilla rum.
the band went on to a bar in St. Jean with the staff. i climbed back up the hill to knot up a few more loose ends in the scheme of things. i think i shall spend next Sunday much the same. tethered to music.
THIS is the life.
it is monday again. the second week of our two-week stay. so, for the next six days. gigs every night and reading throughout the day. i have purchased a nice collection of Cuban cigars and i intend to smoke at least one a day through the week. damn, but it is pleasant to do so.
in a week, i’ll be back in Brooklyn. back in my cluttered apartment, with its cats and it ghosts and it creaking atmosphere. and i’ll be cramming every available moment for musicking back into my days.
for this respite is a relief from the toil, but also it is a devastation from the satisfaction of the work of bringing music to people in every way possible. from the respite, i renew my faith in the art, in the world, and my own fortitude to slug on through the consistent, unmitigated ignominy which is part and parcel of the whole scheme. and it will serve me well, as i rejoin the fray for an indefinite time. i may have to hold for years before another break like this.
drink deep, then, Akie. drink deep. and sing in both sleep and waking. for there will come a time for every song — be it in reality, myth, or dreams.
and so we give thanks. not merely for a day to be amongst family — some of us cannot — or to eat bountifully — some of us cannot — or to take off from work and be at rest — some us dare not. but, no, we give thanks for what, though we hold it to be self-evident, unassailable, indeed — inalienable, is only given to us by lucky chance. being here.
opportunity. opportunity as chance. a chance at life. a CHANCE at liberty. and a CHANCE at happiness (though the pursuit of it leads us down many a winding road).
oh, there are crimes. great, heavy, suffocating crimes for which we, as a country, must all undertake the burden of blame. for without those crimes, we are not as we are today. we have done wrong, and heaped wrongs upon those wrongs, and yet still come through in tact. for that, we should give thanks.
we give thanks not simply by being thankful, but by reinvigorating the machinations of that thanks. thank your friends, and your neighbors, and the food you eat. thank those who made the food. not only cooked it but, indeed: MADE it. thank the decency that is MORE rampant in everyday people than the evil that rears its head above the kind mob. thank the darkness in which you sleep. and the light in which you work. (or vice versa: #livebymusic).
and give thanks to the day. and the moment. the moment whose provenance is all the moments before it, ill or good.
but thanksgiving is not simply an emotion. or a state of mind. it is not a day’s pause for reflection. the act thanksgiving is more than that — it is the sundering of self in the service of continuing good. a reaffirmation of choice. and a course correction when we have been base, or ill, or malicious and yet have still plundered on.
we give no quarter to greed or avarice. we give thanks. it is a notion that is greater than the savage and violent history of this land. for, though the practice is imperfect, the notions — like the universal laws of science — hold true even as they grow to mean things greater than their first discovery.
abstractions, yes. but noble ones.
even alone, in my crumbling apartment on Thanksgiving — i am not afraid that all is lost. for there is nobility in working even now, even still. to live and die by the sword of aesthetics — it is a privilege, even as it is a constant kick in the teeth. this next sip of bourbon, puff of cigar smoke, strain of Coltrane, memory from down the relatively short path my life has wended thus far — all brought to me by my circumstance. and the circumstances around me. and the history and the generations of love and loss and regeneration and slaughter that comes down to us precious few who still stride across the earth. and, from where I sit, even down just to me. the most preciousest few: one.
one who is thankful. and can bend to his work because he lives and, indeed, can.
well. i’m certainly not complaining. its Monday morning, going on 2am. there is something to be said for the pleasure of spending a weekend playing one’s own music. and for very pleased audiences no less.
sometimes, the hours and miles traveled seem completely out of wack with the aggregate fruit of their labor. sometimes — still, even now — it seems like the way through is a kind of pervasive madness.
sometimes, it keeps you up at night.
its been a while since i did any real sleeping, so, I don’t think it will be a problem tonight. but tomorrow is a new day, another chance to wrestle the saints of inspiration and the demons of despair. another day full of wind, and sunlight, and tribulation to leather one’s face, and one’s heart, and one’s soul.
this is what the fledgling sword in its forge feels. heat and energy and pressure — all conspiring to make one fly apart from their component parts. only to be hammered back in line and made, possibly better… certainly, at least: less imperfect.
and after tomorrow — another tomorrow. and on. and on.
and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
creeps in this petty pace from day to day
to the last syllable of recorded time.
every evening, when the last note is struck, and the lights go out. and there is nothing but flux-thinking, breath still in the throat, and the silence before the (possible) eruption of applause from a happy audience: i hear Macbeth. and i am the walking shadow.
and then, the lights come up and we all go home. and i am trying to do it again, the next day. and the next.
sound and fury. signifying nothing.
so glad my 11th english class did a whole two-weeks on Macbeth. WITH a test. that soliloquy was the extra credit. and i didn’t remember it. but from that time to this, i have always had it in my heart — to cross Shakespeare over into some Whitman (and why not, after such a lovely evening playing with Jus Post Bellum?)
now, then, this is enough. too much perhaps. and it too has strutted — though its hours are upon the page.
with that, i fade into night and sleep. and, of late, memory.