February 1st: Dissatisfactionland

Whence came my dissatisfaction?
Didn’t sleep. Pain waking.
I look in the mirror and imagine I look a little doughy.
Not doughty.
I know an antidote to do:
I’m supposed to strengthen my core
I make a plank on the floor.

I find a chair, get online,
Read a tweet. Someone famous dropped the name of someone i envy.
The person I envy is blowing up, getting quoted, responded to,
Clicked. Liked.

Suddenly I’m removed from my body
and I don’t see the sun on the grass.
The pine trees.

The house where my parents are awake,
Or not awake yet.

I ignore
The plant boxes my dad made where he will plant different sorts of vegetables
And harvest and. If he asks me and maybe even if he doesn’t I will help him weed and harvest.

Maybe I’ll mow the lawn. Something I like doing because it has a definite end and beginning and it’s hard work but you know when you are done, because the grass is short and there’s no more to mow.

Eventually there will be tomatoes.
Tomatoes and I’ll see my mother harvesting the tomatoes and weeding and maybe I’ll help her, if she asks or if she doesn’t.

And she’ll harvest all the tomatoes and they’ll be red, green, purple, yellow, and have a kind of dusty feel on the skin.
Mom will make tomato sandwiches with white bread, mayo and salt and that’s all you need.

And because of envy don’t hear the neighbor’s dog who barks every morning. Actually he barks throughout the day whenever he feels like it, which is often,
and it’s a little annoying but not that annoying because you like the neighbors.

And you approach the dog and you think he might bark louder and more ferociously
but instead he stops abruptly and just stares.

And there’s you and a silent dog engaged in a staring contest and he always wins, because You have places to go. You can’t stare at a dog until he looks away. Well, you can, but then I’d say you have some issues.

Anyway, I don’t notice all that.

Because

Dissatisfaction is clamoring in my ear to come away with it.
Whence came my dissatisfaction.

Hey dissatisfaction why do you want to remove me? Why do I let you carry me away on waves of envy.

I’ll make a little boat. A little ship and sit in it and wait for the envy-waves to carry me away.

A sick sailor on my way to:

Dissatisfactionland.

It’s grey, cold, crowded.
You can get a hot dog for $8.00.

All the lines are long and never move
And you must be this tall to ride the ride but you’re too short.

And There’s a giant mouse in a costume signing autographs — wait that’s no costume.

I can get dissatisfaction.
I can get dissatisfaction.

Once a purported fan told me talking to me was like talking to Mick Jagger.

Why do I say purported? He’s a fan. But there was also a smile in his voice.

It’s ok I can let myself believe it for a second. I’m Jagger-like in my…

Well, I’m not Jagger-like in any way.

I never liked the rolling stones.

I do like the idea of the Stones. These British guys steeped in the blues.

Soaked in the blues, dripping with the blues they’ve been soaked in, reeking of the blues they love — country too.
The Rolling Stones were the original alt-country band, 30 years before their time and a fraction as self–important as all those who followed.

The anti-beatles. Raw, shaggy, impudent, not giving a f___ not dressed in matching uniforms or playing for the queen, not perched unimpeachably at the top of the pops, not posh.

Oh man do I love the idea of the Rolling Stones.

But I don’t love, nor even really like the Rolling Stones.

I’m a Beatles guy.

Anyway oh envy.

I will stuff you down or better yet I will breathe and breathe

And in so doing will air myself out.

And my envy will (mostly) dissipate.

The funk will (mostly) evaporate.

Maybe I will be happy for the person I envy,

Maybe I’ll even read the tweet and find something like wisdom there

Ok maybe not

but maybe I’ll see

At least

The sun on the lawn.

And the plant boxes

Fallow now but soon to contain vegetables,

And the dog on the porch staring in my direction,

Knowing that he is the staring contest champion,

And well of course the birds.

The ones clamoring in the tall — impossibly tall — pine trees

and the singular one on the lawn

leaping up.

Not only leaping but flying

past the trees

out of the yard,

out of the neighborhood

and away down the road

past where I can see.

January 26

Today I helped my father with an extension of the front walk in front of my parents’ house. The front walk ends abruptly, and from the front walk to the mailbox is a morass of squishy mud. Or was. My father and I dug a little indention and put some sand and gravel down, and he’s putting some flag stones down to make a path to the mailbox.

I worked on some music. Some for church tomorrow, and some of my own. Also, Sade’s “Smooth Operator” on piano. Trying to improvise in Dm. It’s fun.

I fielded a phone call about a possible house concert in Alpharetta, GA. The host said talking to me was like talking to Bono or Mick Jagger. There was a smile in his voice but I’ll allow myself to believe he partly meant it. He said he had only gone to one house concert before: One hosted by his neighbor featuring former Smithereens front man Pat Dinizio. I thought that was interesting, and will hope to ask the neighbor how DiNizio went about setting up and conducting his house concert. I’m sure I can learn something.

I saw the Smithereens years ago — I guess it was 1990 — in Chicago, along with Crowded House and Richard Thompson. It was a free show hosted by radio station WXRT, and there was a massive crowd there. 40,000 people or something. I loved Crowded House’s set. They were very energetic, jumping around. They had just released “Woodface,” a terrific album. I liked the Smithereens, too, but was most impressed with Richard Thompson, playing solo acoustic guitar. One man and a guitar in front of 40,000 people, and you could hear a pin drop.

Sadly, Pat Dinizio passed away not too long ago. “Blood and Roses” is my favorite song by the Smithereens. I love that bassline, the up-front vocal, the bad-ass guitar solo. It’s tight jangly pop-rock, simple and direct. Music so good it makes you want to cuss.

R.I.P Pat. Thanks for the great music.

January 25

Today I had on my list to send 10 booking emails and I sent 13. There’s something in me that resists sending them; I’m not sure why. Fear, I suppose, that the recipient won’t write back. Which is silly. Usually they do.

I am my own booking agent. It’s not an easy job. There are people that write to me. I have a little form on my website and people write to ask me to come play house shows. It gives me a little thrill to get them.

Today I sent emails to people in Grand Island NY, (which is waaaaay up near Niagra Falls), Rapid City, SD, Somewhere in Wisconsin, Somewhere in VA, Alpharetta, GA, Chattanooga, TN, and Rock Hill, SC. All but one of those is from someone filling in the form.

I love playing, I miss playing, I think I’m pretty good at it. Better than I used to be.

I used to dread gigs, now I am excited for gigs. Really look forward to them. So that’s progress. The fear isn’t completely gone. There’s still a little catch of fear. But the joy and excitement is exponentially more.

The lawn is painted with golden light and long shadows.

My reward for sending at least 10 booking emails is a long walk, during which I listen to podcasts.

I like the BBC4 podcasts. They have great podcasts on history, culture, and science. Here I go.

January 24

I took my car in to be looked at. I walked home, feet squidging in the mud.

Raining, a misting rain. My dad offered to pick me up so I didn’t have to walk through the rain,

but I wanted to walk through the rain, had planned it and planned on it, and now here I was just as I had planned.

I cut through a park which was a muddy patch in between 2 houses with a bench painted green and a barrel for trash.

There was a split rail fence surrounding the park and I leaned my back into the fence post. Tilting my pelvis.

There’s a guy on the internet who will diagnose your body pain and tell you what’s wrong, for free. My problem was — is

Anterior pelvic tilt. And I hold my back like Donald Duck. Sway back I guess you call it. And then I stand like that, sometimes for long periods of time.

Sometimes I strap a guitar on and sing songs and tell stories in between, all swayback.

Anyway the guy on the internet told me the antidote, which is to tilt your pelvis the other day while tightening your abs, and I was doing it in the rain.

Then I walked home and came to sit at my table/desk.

Really All I am about today is catching fire and catching spirit and not letting the pilot light of my creativity go out.

There’s a little lie I’ve been telling myself lately which is that I don’t want to write, and can’t write and can’t create, and that there is no sheen or shine to anything,

no sharp edge to my being.

And I start to believe in the dull edge — he dull patina. I start to believe that I don’t want to write but then I realize that is the lie.

The truth is, I have an edge, a fire, a shine, and that I do want to write.

I mean I don’t, but I can get myself to a place where I do. It’s kind of like tilting your pelvis the other way. Something that you might not think of or know how to do on your own.

I’m trying to give the bones of my creativity the right twist and tilt so that the flesh of my creativity comes to life and stops hurting… or something.

It’ll come.

Playing gigs helps. I played a gig last week and, besides my back hurting the next day, was completely energized the next day.

I love singing, I love playing.

I have my french press all cleaned out. The stove top is clean.

I have coffee ready to go for the morning.

Tomorrow will be a day full of possibility, ripe with prospect, chance, hope.

Oh yeah the stars are always out here. The moon. the railroad. Different than the subway. The subway in Brooklyn came with a slight rumble and rush.

This train comes with a muffled harmonica glissando. It’s too far away for me to hear the rush or rumble. It’s a distant keen. It’s more romantic in some ways.

In a “It takes a lot to laugh it takes a train to cry” kind of way. But the train sound is less romantic in other ways, because, well, it’s not the subway.

I still have to sort out the ways I love and miss New York, and the ways that I won’t miss it, and also the ways I knew — know — it was time to leave. I couldn’t stay.

And so my challenge now is to stay alert, poised, ready, listening, burning, or at least

ready to catch fire.

January 23

This is a gratitude list I wrote a while back, after playing for a wedding in Chattanooga. Making a Gratitude list is a good way to keep self-pity and depression at bay. “Doc and Mary Jane” were the bride’s parents and my hosts in Chattanooga. After the wedding was over and most of guests had gone home, I stayed an extra day and enjoyed their hospitality, which included dinner out with a bunch of the bride’s family at a restaurant overlooking the Tennessee River. “Caroline” is Caroline Herring, a terrific singer-songwriter who also played in the wedding. If you haven’t heard her, you should check her out. “Extra $100” refers to an extra $100 Doc and Mary Jane paid me at the end of the trip. A satisfying trip all around.

Gratitude List:

Good time with Doc and Mary Jane
extra $100
meeting Caroline
mom
dad
jen
I have all my fingers, toes limbs
place to sleep
walk
sun
beauty
beautiful sun on my skin and others
people smiling at me randomly.
blueberries
broccoli

January 22

Do you wait for inspiration like a schoolboy waiting for a date to arrive, looking repeatedly at your watch, the night slowly turning purple with dusk, secretly hoping your date doesn’t show up so you can put on your sweats and watch “The Fall Guy?”

Oh yes I got oddly specific with that metaphor.

Speaking of the Fall Guy I saw Lee Majors once at a nostalgia convention.

Oh yeah once I went to a nostalgia convention.

I got on a bus at 10th Avenue and went to Baltimore.

THere were a lot of guys — it was almost all guys — excited about cowboys, batman, star trek.

There was lone ranger cosplay. I went to a lecture on Al Jolson.

Another lecture on Bugs Bunny.

Anyway I saw Lee Majors sitting in a chair, accompanied by his wife.

I remembered having a Six Million Dollar man action figure, in a red sweatsuit. Maybe you had one too.

And running in slow motion with Steve Austin sound effects.

And there was Lee Majors in a chair, having a rest and I was having a rest myself, and I didn’t bother him.

Anyway. Do you wait for inspiration and then go watch “The Fall Guy” when it doesnt show up?

Or do you chase it like a greased pig at the county fair? No that’s a bad metaphor. Or simile. It’s fine, but it hits a dead end because I’ve never chased a pig.

Do you chase it like your dog who’s gotten loose from the back yard? Who looks at you mischieviously and willfully, as if to say “I’m not supposed to do this, but I’m going to do it anyway,” and then runs as fast as he can, which is pretty fast, straight to the ill-tempered neighbor’s house. And you put on your Tennis shoes slowly, and half walk, half jog up the hill, and over the split rail fence, to retrieve your dog? Do you chase inspiration like that?

And then what do you do when you catch it?

Or does it catch you? That’s better. That’s always better.

Me, the greased pig, darting in and out of the legs of all the farmers at the county fair, squealing in fear and procrastination, or else.

I’m a sword in a stone or…

a shard of glass in a heel and inspiration has some tweezers.

That’s it, I’m — not a shard — but a sliver of glass in the heel of inspiration, and inspiration is bent over, with a light shining on inspiration’s foot, with a straight pin, trying to get me out, and I want to say, don’t worry about it, I’ll come out eventually. One day inspiration will find I’ve come loose.

Hm that metaphor doesn’t work so well.

Here we go:

My creativity is Lee Majors at a nostalgia convention. Sitting on a pastel hotel lobby chair, Blonde wife (Faith Cross, actress and model) by his side, looking at his watch, dreading the upcoming autograph-signing session in which he will sign headshots for a never ending line of middle-aged nerds at a Hampton Inn in Baltimore. Held in place by some contract or obligation, there is no escape.

Thinking, Lee Majors is, “I got into acting for the hot chicks and fame, not for old dudes in a stale lobby. What am I doing here? Honey, what are *we* doing here? How do we get out?” This last addressed to the wife.

“Lee, get a hold of yourself. You’re here because you agreed to be and you’re getting paid. Just smile and say thank you, pose for the camera and it’ll be over before you know it and we’ll be back in Hollywood before Sundown tomorrow.”

Lee takes a deep breath and pictures those brown dry hills, drenched in sun. If he closes his eyes he can smell the eucalyptus drifting on the breeze through the canyon. Mm.. A nice hike will be good when he gets back. Maybe tonight he will walk for about a half hour on the treadmill in anticipation. “Thanks Honey, you’re the best.”

So that’s it. My creativity is Lee Majors about to sign autographs. Deep Breath. Smell the eucalyptus.

January 17th (Mary Oliver)

The poet Mary Oliver died today. She was one of my favorites. Her stuff is so effortless (or seems so) and simple (well, not really, but again, seemed so). I guess good art seems effortless and simple. Her stuff is full of observations of the natural world. I love the way she sees. Sometimes I don’t know how to write about what I see, and I look at the way she writes about what she sees, and I’m thankful and content to let her see for me. It’s ok to rest and let others see for us.

Here’s an excerpt:

At night
under the trees
the black snake
jellies forward
rubbing
roughly
the stems of the bloodroot,
the yellow leaves,
little boulders of bark,
to take off
the old life.
I don`t know
if he knows
what is happening.
I don`t know
if he knows
it will work.
In the distance
the moon and the stars
give a little light.
In the distance
the owl cries out.

In the distance
the owl cries out.
The snake knows
these are the owl`s woods,
these are the woods of death,
these are the woods of hardship
where you crawl and crawl,
where you live in the husks of trees,
where you lie on the wild twigs
and they cannot bear your weight,
where life has no purpose
and is neither civil nor intelligent.

Where life has no purpose,
and is neither civil nor intelligent,
it begins
to rain,
it begins
to smell like the bodies
of flowers.
At the back of the neck
the old skin splits.
The snake shivers
but does not hesitate.
He inches forward.
He begins to bleed through
like satin.

Mary Oliver, excerpt from Rain (7 The Forest)

January 16th

I went running today. I just felt it. I’m tempted to put “running” in quotes because I don’t go for very far or for very long. But I’m thankful to have run because there was a time when I wasn’t sure if I’d run again, and now I can’t even remember why. I think it was an ankle problem. My ankle hurt, and so I didn’t run but walked instead. Then one day suddenly my ankle didn’t hurt anymore and I found myself running again. Thank God. I’m truly thankful to be able to run. Not far, but enough to get my heart rate up. I ran on a trail that goes through the woods. I avoid the pavement and like running on the soft pine needles. There were people out. A person — maybe a couple — in a hammock. People walking dogs. People watching children. Another couple sitting, and the man kept trying to put his head on the woman’s shoulder, and she kept moving her body so that his head couldn’t rest there. She liked him, I could tell, but didn’t want his head on her shoulder. A homeless man was lying a bench with his coat over his face.

I was listening to Aerosmith. Hm. If you’re judging me for listening to Aerosmith, it’s ok. I’m judging myself also. I downloaded a playlist of “80s” (in quotes because not every song on the list is from the 80s) music and there was Aerosmith on there, so I listened to it. It had been awhile since I listened to any Aerosmith. I was surprised to find what sounded like a piccolo trumpet at the end of “Love in an Elevator.” Surely a Beatles influence. A piccolo trumpet is what you hear in the middle and at the end of “Penny Lane.” The Beatles had been searching for an instrument to play an instrumental part on Penny Lane but hadn’t found what they wanted. Paul McCartney saw trumpeter David Mason playing Bach (I think it was the Brandendburg Concerto) on TV and got producer George Martin to call the man. They invited him to come to Abbey Road the very next day, which he did. Paul sang the part he wanted to Producer George Martin, who notated the part and gave it to the trumpet player to play. Reading that story is how I know what a piccolo trumpet is. I know a lot of Beatles trivia. Anyway, it’s not hard to imagine that Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler is a Beatles fan.

It would have been a good day to listen to Penny Lane. The sun was out. Spring isn’t far away.

Gallery

January 15th

This is a tree on the golf course by my parents’ house. I come here to meditate and pray. It’s good, meditation and prayer is, for what ails you. A woman walking her dog came by and said hello; It was getting dark so I could barely see her. I said hello back. I prayed and meditated for 10 minutes, which is how long the session on the app (yes I use an app) is, then a different woman came by, and it was dark by this point, so I could see even less. I said “hello, again” before realizing it was a different woman. She didn’t say anything back. I suppose this might be “my spot.” My spot to come to pray and meditate. A friend told me she had read a book on Christian meditation in which the mantra you say is “Maranatha” or “Lord Come.” Sometimes that’s what I say when I meditate; other times I have a prayer I’ve adapted from AA, in which I ask God to remove various defects and replace them with virtues. It helps. It really helps. I went to an AA meeting today. It was good. Packed room. I sat next to a guy who tried to rob a liquor store and did 5 years in prison. I felt. Well, compassion, and also, only 5 years? It seemed light. And also that, as many bad choices as I might have made, that’s one I never did, and I wonder how desperate you’d have to be to make that choice. But I’m glad he is making better choices now, and I’m glad there is redemption for him, and I hope peace. it feels a little wrong to share his story, but since I haven’t given any identifying information about him, I think it’s ok. Thanks for reading, everything’s going to be ok I think. Love, JH

January 14

Remember the woods of our youth.

You ran you had a friend.

Secret places.

Rocks. A rusty swingset. You swang on the swing.

Past become present. Back and forth

Your sister sang something. “Casey jr’s back casey jrs back.”

Exhiliration. She showed you the way to so many things.

The woods contained. Seclusion mystery, possibility. Safety, possibility.

My friend and I were space cowboys like Han solo and luke skywalker. We went to a cantina. My friend had a Shirley Temple. I had never had one, [in fact I had my first Shirley Temple only a few weeks ago and it was darn good]. We didn’t care who was whom. Now I know Han was cooler. Less whiney, in the movies.

Though I think I’d like Mark Hamill better in real life. More [ironically] down to earth. Feet on the ground. Very approachable, for a star.

It’s still there. The mystery, in the woods. Though it’s elusive and you can’t force it and it’s not like it was when you were a child. The mystery, the wonder will come to you if you seek it out.

Some days it’s barely attainable. Some days it’s not attainable at all. The mystery in the woods is like the mystery in writing. Like good writing. Some days the good writing doesn’t come, or comes very very slowly.

I told you about my cold locomotive sitting in the desolate railyard.

That’s my image [if I may ruin the mystery] for my own immobilized creativity.

The locomotive wants to be chuffing and pumping and hissing with steam and noise and thunder and velocity: roaring down the track to where it’s supposed to go. But.

It’s sitting in the desolate railyard. Heavy. Weighty, man. Locomotives are so heavy. Iron Horse. Maybe it’s rusting, vines through the cowcatcher.

I have to get it moving. It’s my project. To get it fired up and hoisted to the track and cleaned up and loved on and doted on and manned and oiled up and full of coal and whatever else you need.

I’lll get there, it will get there.

Anyway, creatvity. The mystery and wonder in the woods. You can’t chase it. It won’t come to you faster if you run after it, except it will. I’m wrong about that. It *will* come faster if you chase it. You *must* chase it. You have to wait for it too though. Like God, also.