Friday, March 30, 2012

Late Night Walk

It doesn’t hit me that It’s an odd place to cry until the barista is gives me a second side-glance.  Maybe I’ve been choosing the wrong topics to read about in public - dying, addiction, poverty.  I used to feel like I was on the sidelines wherever I’d go, but on nights like tonight I’m not even in the stadium.

Change is slow.  The flower unfolding, closing shut. You don’t perceive it until that single instant when the bloom fills your gaze - but there’s a crescendoing process that leads you there, an unconscious ocean weathering the rocks into these monuments of our lives.  Acceptance isn’t a celebration, it’s a weary release.  I spent the last few years swimming against the current, until one day my legs refused to kick. It took forever to burn out, one thing at a time, but eventually I found myself living in a ruin, in a life without walls, and these chains began to spill off of me.  These chains I had never felt or seen until they were clinking down into piles at my feet.  I thought I would just fight forever, but something had been shifting below...

I leave the cafe and walk slow, staring into the closing stores and restaurants, chairs on tables, focused servers counting out tips, winged folds of perfect napkins rising from tea cups, dormant til the morning.  The little glints of light on everything glass, ceramic, on glossed lips, the flashing strap of a spiked heel, in the eyes of lonely magazine browsers, on shimmering faces folded over sweaty hands.

The thing is, our great men and women aren’t the ones battling for that publicity.  The great ones are walking among us, are spending their resources, their energy, to provide their families, their communities, and their own bodies and minds and souls with what is actually needed for human lives to thrive.  For the most part, they aren’t dancing through the thoughts of people they don’t know. Yet we raise our admiration to he who tries to fill his insatiable void in the most stylish way, she who suppresses her truest feelings with the freshest attitude, to whoever does the sexiest backflip off the canyon rim. There’s this pain beneath the big personalities. Look at the edges, the white around the iris. There’s this desperation. It is as if you have to earn your acceptance, your worthiness of love, in some elaborate display.  Why must we work so hard? How would the world be if these things were thrown free into the bundle with each human life?  Could our lives be propelled by genuine purpose? Or allowed to roam free without one?

Passing the long sidewalk window of another cafe, there’s a couple who had been sitting by me while I was reading.  Faces break into silent laughter across the pane as they catch me noticing them on another station of a obvious first or second date, the positive surge from their mutual risk of heart is practically burning the place down. 

Great love doesn’t need to throw a six figure wedding, doesn’t lean on the weeping violins of a Hollywood score.  Great love has dirty hands, is callused from the garden, is all courage and hard work and integrity and a whole lot of reward.  These big performances aren’t required.  What’s good inside is apparent in your actions and in the peaceful rests between notes.  Why the grand display?  And that hipster irony of the past decade, the great scoff at sincerity that foams from the mouth of post-modernism - these are acts of violence.  It’s the hyping and promoting and selling of an empty space where compassion should dwell, it is a torch to the ingredients of love. 

I cross the street too slow and the light changes on me.  I jog out of the headlights.  A lone car revs past me and the street is quiet again.

I’ll probably always have to live with a little voice telling me I need more, telling me I’ve failed, telling me to go back, to buy into it all again...  But a long time ago I started feeling gross selling my music, selling myself, in any way that felt disingenuous.  I stopped being able to fully participate in a machine that I no longer believed in, that had left me in harms way again and again until finally I couldn’t get back up and do it again.  What do you do as a musician who refuses to go as a musician is supposed to go?  I think your actions either innovate and shift the culture, or they cause you to slip through the cracks.  I’m doing the latter, but it’s worth it to do what seems right, to brave the path I believe in, even if I keep finding myself further from the crowd, further into the dark and unknown. 

A woman speeds up as she walks by me, holding her gaze on the sidewalk.  An alley opens to a courtyard of vacant tables and chairs, to a lone waitress sweeping up.  She gives me a glance that holds on too long, makes me wonder it's something interesting, or something aversive...

Really, I just want to tell you about how I feel and share some of my stories and convictions.  When I do it in the form of a song, it has this extra power to resonate.  I’m not going to stop doing that, maybe ever, but I’m going to have to start sending up my flares from a different island.  I’ve had my adventures and now I need to figure out how to take care of my life in a way that I deserve, so I can be there emotionally and physically for those I love - including myself.  A lot of the dissatisfaction I’ve felt in this line of work has come from my own bullets ricocheting back at me.  And I understand why my brothers and sisters die at this age. I’m so tired, but I’m climbing out from beneath the pressure, beneath this boulder field, and it’s hard to imagine someone doing so with the added chains of fame and hardcore addiction slinking around their neck.  We live in a society that doesn’t accept that emotional trauma is just as damaging as physical pain, a society that claims insult a separate act to injury.  We raise up our tortured youth to watch them writhe on the pedestal.  We nurture a mainstream culture that circles around and around the suffering until death arrives, then swoops down to monetize the sorrow. 

A pen falls from my pocket as I get my keys out.  Its click against the sidewalk offers a salute to the silence, to the rhythm of streetlights looping red and green forever into a lonesome vanishing point.  I’ve probably wandered closing-time streets more than anyone I know. It’s hard to twist words around what calls me to these nights, what pulls me through sidewalk crowds or snowy darkness, drives me up the winding mansion-lined lanes or down to the rags of skid row.  I can tell you that its shape is in exact opposition to a massive crater I see blasted across the heart of humanity. I can tell you that it reels me in from the realm of the unconditional, from somewhere so safe and accepting, so encouraging of trust, so overflowing with honesty and compassion and vulnerability that it couldn’t possibly exist in this world - in this era.  I keep searching though.  I keep searching because some part of me demands that it be unearthed, because something tells me it’s the only answer, the only way out.