Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Beautiful Drowning

I have a gift.  I can completely immerse myself into a book for hours on end and never leave the world the story teller has created for me.  I can forget any trouble, see through any mess, become oblivious to my surroundings.  At certain times I have been informed that this is not a blessing but a curse.  I acknowledge that it was, at the time, a curse to them, but to me, always a gift.

I just finished Zero To 60 (The Motorcycle Journey Of A Lifetime) by Gary Paulson.  The journey in question was about 10,000 miles from New Mexico to Alaska, long and scenic, but hardly "the journey of a lifetime" by geographical standards.  What the author must have meant was the way each point of the trip reminded him of a place or event in his long and adventurous lifetime which he shares with us in the 179 pages brilliantly.  

His use of language describing his tough and sometimes cruel path through childhood in Minnesota, through his years in the Army, and beyond was a near perfect balance of the literal and the poetic.  While not always understanding his decisions, the reader does understand the depth of his pain and torment.  Alternating from the current trip to Alaska to the lessons of life learned long ago at the hands of an unmerciful, unforgiving world, we are kept interested by his observations and even paced writing.  The book cruises along much like the Harley Davidson in the story.

The book does suffer, badly at times, from poor editing and proofing.  The kind that make you re-read a passage 3 or 4 times to understand it.  Sometimes leaving you with just an impression of what was meant rather than a literal understanding.  This book is not for everyone.  But if you like to hear stories told from sailors, farmers or other salt of the earth people not encumbered by clean language and political correctness, you might enjoy this quick read.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Vanity, Vanity...

I just realized, two days ago would have been my fifteenth wedding anniversary.  
I wonder if she remembered.

I wouldn't have except someone asked me how long ago I was divorced and in thinking about that I made my discovery.  I still can't remember the exact date of the divorce, I tend to forget the more painful memories.   I'm sure its written down somewhere.

The embarrassing part is that I was talking to someone I had met a few days ago and was going to ask out.  I'm not sure how it sounded to her when I blurted out, after a long thoughtful pause, that it was my fifteenth anniversary, but I think I can peg the awkward silences and sudden lack of connection to that point in the conversation.  Or maybe it was when I said I didn't like Nashville-Country-Pop and If I was in the mood for country I preferred Hank Williams III, the Dexateens, and Drive-by Truckers.  Perhaps it was when I commented that I didn't believe God had any specific plan for our lives, or, while he wasn't any Jesus, I respected the Buddha, or that I never told my kids about Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny (Who brings you presents?  DADY does!!) or when I tried to explain my family, or.....   Damn.

My question is, why do we keep trying?  Why this need, this compulsion for community?  For love?  I have a good group of friends whom I love, and most of the time I am quite content being single but then, here I am, talking to some female and I have to ask her out.  Due to nature, nurture and a life of experiences I am an odd person.  I'll admit, I have a world-view that is somewhat different from the average hoosier.  I am not a catch for a local Indiana girl who loves horses, corn fields, Melloncamp, and has no other aspirations than someday retiring to Florida.  Neither the evangelicals nor the party hamsters.  Never finished school so I'm not really an intellectual, but as a former girlfriend once told me "you think too much, why can't you just accept things"  But I keep trying to connect even when I know it's not gonna work. Vanity, vanity...

So here is to love gained and love lost, to all the love past and to all that is to come.  And to my friend, the mother of my children, we had some good times and I wouldn't trade those for anything.  Happy anniversary.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Books and Verse

My two favorite poets are Billy Collins and Leonard Cohen.  Billy Collins was the poet laureate from 2001-2003.  His work is non-traditional, not following poetic conventions.  Some people say that his work is "accessible", a term he dislikes, saying it suggests metaphorical ramps for "poetically handicapped people".  Whatever the reason, his words move and amaze me.  No one else I have ever read can put a complex experience, all five senses in play, with all the accompanying emotions into a few short words that, taken individually, you would never associate with the subject matter of the poem.   I just gave "Nine Horses" to my Daughter's class for their in-class library.  I would highly recommend his books even if you have never gotten anything out of poetry before.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mix Tapes and Playlists - Art or Science?

I can remember the first mix tape I made.  Cassette in the boom box that I had spent a summer saving for, sitting, hunched over, waiting for a specific song to play over the radio so I could push "record".  Untold hours waiting for the songs I wanted, to be spun over the air waves by a heathen disk jockey.  I grew up in a house where Rock-n-Roll was the devils music.  Even if it had a christian label on it.  Until I had a car, and could get my own tapes, I had to use the headphones at night to hear what satan had to say.  Our town had only classic rock and pop stations. Not quality art for the most part, but there was ZZ top on that first tape.  Led Zeppelin, George Thorogood, Boston, Tears for Fears, and of course Jimi Hendrix.  Not much but it was a start.

Of course, once I got the '73 Challenger it all changed.  The world opened up and it looked and sounded good.  And now it turned around girls.  I  didn't make mix tapes for myself so much anymore, I made them for girlfriends, girls who were just friends and girls I wanted to be friends with.  Then the time was spent putting together just the right mix in just the right order.  I guess I have always been a little obsessed with communication and I wanted those songs to communicate just what I wanted to say.  This was probably the driest time artistically.  The music sucked and I couldn't find the good stuff I knew had to be out there. This being exemplified by one humiliating moment in time. This was the moment of my greatest musical shame. I turn red when I think of it now even after all these years.  Once I .. oh god,... I had a friend turn off this new song that had just come out called 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' so I could put in the new White Snake album.  I have gone to the grotto at Notre Dame to beg God's forgiveness, now all I have to do is forgive myself.

As a young single guy traveling around this country and others, the world turned on discovery and adventure.  Then I finally found it.  "For him who has ears to hear..." was my Scripture to live by.  One blog wouldn't hold the list of bands I discovered from new friends and in wonderfully crummy music shops all over our great land.  Suffice it to say, it was indie and underground.  
My mix tapes were carelessly thrown together at this point.  There was so much good music, even christian music was creative, dirty and punk.  Going to K.C. to catch Hot Pink Turtles, Dig Hey Zuess, Scattered Few and the Seventy Sevens.  If you were in St. louis at the time, you could go see Uncle Tupelo play at the Landing, Austin had Edie Brickell, Chicago had Smashing Pumpkins, D.C. had Henry Rollins and the real punk scene California could never touch, but California had the Minutemen and Mazzy Star and that was something special too.   Seattle had, well, early Seattle was the holy land. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, etc...  Too much, too much. 
Oddly enough, the day I bought Pearl Jam's "Ten", I went to see Blue Oyster Cult.  My buddy from college and I went as a joke but I was blown away.  My next mix tape had "Jeremy" and "Godzilla" next to each other. I think that sums up those years well as anything.

When I got engaged and married the world turned around her.  My mix tapes changed again to reflect the romance and excitement of my first real love.   The mix tapes weren't for just me or just to say something to her, they were for us.  For ten hour road trips to see the family or three day road trips cause we wanted to see the mountains.  They were the sum total of our merged musical taste.  The two became one.  I went from the Police to Sting's "Soul Cages".  She grew to like The Choir.  We mixed some classical (she was a pianist) with some Peter Gabriel.  They Might Be Giants on a mix tape with the Presidents (edited of course) for our new daughter.  Mix tapes were a family affair.  

The divorce changed my mix tapes again.  They were mix CDs at this point, before the advent of the mp3. Everything was darker.  My faith had reached it's lowest point in a life of historic highs and lows.  The mix tape was the soundtrack as my marriage was sliding off the cliff in slow motion, with me pushing on the brakes frantically but not stopping it.  It never stopped until it crashed into the bottom of the canyon with the mix tape providing the soundtrack.  The soundtrack included the end of the band Soundgarden with "Down On The Upside", U2's "Pop", Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Clutch, and The Cure among others.  I rediscovered Dylan and Marley at this time. No coincidence there.  Two of the greatest artist in the history of music in any genre.  They expressed my despair when I couldn't find the words.

So I find myself  making a mix tape/playlists today.  Nothing much, A friend had commented at band practice that she didn't have any good new music.  Ever the music evangelist (if only Jesus and the disciples had put together a groovin band...) I volunteered to get her some new stuff I have been listening to.  Putting it together I realized again how much I love music and how good we have it today.  Pretty soon I had fifty or so songs from almost as many artist.  The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Pinback, Midlake, Imogene Heap, Aqualung, Death Cab, T.V. On The Radio, Snow Patrol, Tegan and Sarah, I even put Mazzy Star's "Into Dust" on it just for old times sake.  It's still out there, you just have to have ears to hear...

Francis Shaeffer said we don't have to fear art.  Art does not corrupt a society, art is merely the reflection of whatever that society is.  I was never corrupted by the "devils music" it wasn't his in the first place.  It was just art and it reflected who I was and am.  Over the years and in every situation what I am listening to or writing and playing is merely a reflection of what I am at that moment.  My final verdict is that, while there is a science to a good playlist in content, key and tempo, in the end it's art...   Art imitating life.