I had gotten into a routine where I was writing for a while before bed, but tonight I fear I have waited too late and I am too tired. I’m pretty much out of juice. I’m trying my trick of reading poetry to try to get myself in the mood to write, but it’s not working. The poems aren’t grabbing me. I guest worship-led at a church in Raleigh this morning. I hung out with my family. My sister made a delicious mushroom bisque. I went for a walk/run. I watched “The Office” with Mom and Dad. All I want to do is go to bed and watch Star Trek TNG on Netflix, but I’m so tired I know this one of those nights I will watch only a few minutes before falling asleep. I’ll start my writing routine earlier tomorrow. Perhaps first thing.
I’m in NC. I took a plane here. Visiting my parents. Also I had an interview for a worship-leading job. It was interesting, fun, maybe a little stressful. North Carolina is relentlessly green and relentlessly hot. That’s the way I think of it. I can breathe here better. I notice myself relaxing. It’s nice to be with my parents. One of the perks of growing older is being with one’s parents as an adult.
I’m so tired. I woke up at 4:45 a.m. in Brooklyn. Took an Uber to JFK. The baggage line where you put your stuff in the bins was chaotic. One of the more chaotic experiences I’ve had going through security. No one knew quite what to do, and the ones in charge didn’t quite know how to tell us. There was a lot of standing around. Hapless people everywhere and I was one of them. I complained, to a guy in a badge and a blue TSA shirt. I wasn’t angry or upset, just trying to register an opinion as a traveler. He didn’t really know what to do with my complaint. He just kind of shrugged and I shrugged back. Ah, plane travel in America.
There’s more, more. I feel the writing bug in me. I have been reading a book my sister gave me called “From Where You Dream,” which is a collection of transcripts of talks given by Robert Olen Butler. The main thesis is that when you write you should be writing from the same place from which you dream — the pure subconscious, or as close to the sub conscious as you can get.
And I think this is right. I wrote a guest post for my friend Tamara’s blog recently about vocation, and talked about songwriting, and how occasionally I get to this pure place where images and ideas come bubbling up and tumbling forth. I believe it is the same place Robert Olen Butler speaks of, and I’m anxious to reach this place more and to write.
This is a short post, It’s time for bed. Good night.
I live on the top floor of a house in the Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. I’ve written about it before. They (they being my landlady and her sons, of which there are four) tell me I have the best room in the house. I think they are right. I can see the subway on winter days, through the trees, rushing down the track toward Manhattan. I can hear it now, as I type. It sounds a little like running water. A faucet not turned off. I hear it intermittently. It is not loud or clattering, it’s a calming rush. I have a skylight. I don’t thank the Lord for that skylight but I should. I will now. I did. I can see the tops of trees from it, chimneys, residual sunset glow, a couple of tenacious stars. If I open my window I hear crickets, yowling cats, children, the neighbors in their sukkah, my landlady’s son in the garage, smoking and working, tinkering, occasionally blasting Pink Floyd.
I should be happy. Can I be? Yes. I can. I thanked God for the skylight before. What else can I thank him for? I just had a carrot. It was frankly a little tasteless. I had a tuna sub before that, with lots of jalapenos on it. I am a latecomer to jalapenos, not having had them much as a child. I can thank God for my late Jalapeno discovery. Shelter. Gifts without, gifts within.
A piano waiting for me. I want to play it, to learn it, to even master it. I’m far away from these goals and currently my piano has a heap of clothes on it. I’m thankful for the piano. It was a gift and I’m thankful for the friend who bought it.
I made a list this evening and on it was to write, and to to some back exercises, and to play some piano. I didn’t feel like writing, in fact I told myself it was the last thing I wanted to do, and yet here I am, writing and it feels good.
I have coffee made for tomorrow. Sometimes I do that: make coffee for the next day ahead of time. It’s not fresh and it’s not hot, but it’s ready, the instant I roll out of bed. I buy the vacuum packed 10 oz packages, which are perpetually on sale at the grocery store I frequent, called “C-Town.” In New York the supermarkets are small and have strange names. There’s one I used to go to called “Western Beef.” It had a cactus logo. Very out of place in NY. Anyway, I used to buy these huge slabs of cheddar cheese that were on sale at western beef. At C town I buy the coffee. Cafe Bustelo, in the oh so bright blocks. $2.99. Is that cheap? Around here that’s cheap. I saw a woman buying Cafe Bustelo at Rite Aid for almost $5.00 a block and I told her she could buy it for $2.99 at C-town. “Really?” She asked. “Yep,” I said. “Thanks,” she said. She told her friend who was with her. They bustled out.
I think of all the things I will miss when and if I leave New York. It’s strange that I even live here. Aaron, a friend said. “Brooklyn isn’t your thing but you’ve made it your thing.” That’s very true. There goes the subway again. A faint rush. The Q/B. Used to be an excursion line to Coney Island. Goes through an open cut. (An open cut subway is one that is below ground, but exposed to air).
I’m winding down. The will, the rush I feel from writing, is dwindling. I wish it were inexorable. I wish I were inexorable. Maybe I am.
I told myself I was going to write something every day in October. I’ve fallen off writing as much as I want to, and have fallen off keeping up this blog. A while ago I posted a photo every day in a given month, and it was a good exercise. I pretty much kept to it, missing only a couple of days. So, I’m going to write every day in October, give or take a day. I won’t edit too much, or think too much. The idea will be to post something. Quality will be secondary. But hopefully what I post will be decent enough.
I heard a sermon once called “Life is Hard and You are Going to Die,” Wherein the preacher kept repeating that line. I liked it. He was offering it as an antidote to the so-called “Health and Wealth Gospel,” Where preachers tell you God will give you whatever you ask for, including material wealth and possessions, if you just have enough faith, and ask. Of course life doesn’t work that way, and God, if he or she exists, doesn’t work that way. As an illustration, the preacher offered the example of St Polycarp, who was burned at the stake, and then pierced with a spear for good measure, for refusing to worship Caesar. Life is hard, and you are going to die, but hopefully not by simultaneous incineration and spear wound.
So after hearing that sermon and liking the title, I challenged myself to write a song called “Life is Hard and You are Going to Die.” Also, I thought such a song might be a good contrast to all the “Everything’s going to be all right” songs in pop music. Here’s what I got. I like a few of these lines; others are too dark or too dull, or both. These lyrics don’t reflect my state of mind. I’m much more optimistic. But a challenge is a challenge. So here are the lyrics, and here is day #1 of 31 days (or so) of writing.
Life is Hard and You are Going to Die
It won’t be ok
It won’t be alright
darkness follows day
soon it will be night
Don’t you lift your head
one day you’re alive
Next day you’re not
Blood must be shed
There’s something you can’t beat;
Neither can I
Life is hard
and you are going to die.
Trust’s a dirty word
nourish all your fears
don’t you rest assured
don’t you dry your tears
The blooms will leave the roses
The dog will run away
The kids have a runny noses
What reason should he stay?
If you’re ever tempted to think
Things are fine
I will always be here to remind you.
Life is hard and you are going to die.
Same my name
Fingers swipe thumb flick
Body is in a supine slump against a
Subway car wall.
2 teenagers get on.
Take up position
Ones arm keeps jostling mine
He is younger than my nephew who is my yardstick for measuring
How I dole out my love, tolerance, avuncularity.
I’m world-weary and also just regular ol weary.
I want to get to my coffee stained mattress
And lie alone.
Young canoodling man,
I used to canoodle too
But guess what.
I get off one stop early.
Instead of getting off at my stop.
Because I want to walk and meditate-pray.
I pass so many cats out and about.
They know it will be Spring soon.
I make a scraping sound with my lips
That means: I love you.
Your furry body darting across the street.
Your glowing always
And never-satisfied eyes.
You don’t look at me,
and you don’t look at me,
and you don’t look at me,
And then you do.
And it’s like looking in the eyes of God,
because it is
Looking in the eyes of God
Before they dart away.
Outside a car is gunning an engine
which hits a peak intensity
of brazen cacophany
before fading mercifully away.
Though I’m not in
New York City it reminds me of
New York City
Where you are and
Nobody remembers silence.
Or reveres silence
Or cares about your furtive eyes.
Well, and your family,
The whole lot of them
And your friends,
A whole passel.
A crowd then.
Rambunctious, fevered, clamoring
And your co-workers
And maybe a stranger or two, too shy
or too proud to say:
Add me to the mix.
Stir me in.
I don’t like weed; it makes me paranoid.
Or I’m already paranoid and weed accentuates it.
Once I did smoke it. Ok more than once.
I sat on the couch afraid to move, staring at the TV.
Unable to unconvince myself Homer Simpson was thinking bad thoughts about me.
Better. Much better, to leave it be.
Alcohol on the other hand, well. I love.
The warm slow spread, like octopus ink,
or like the octopus’s suctiony arms themselves, in my chest, belly,
nether and hind parts.
The looseness in my face, it goes to my finger tips,
and the slight acrid stank above my nose below my eyes.
Amber liquid amber light amber feeling.
Hey, that’s better, right?
I saw a play — a musical — on a rainy Superbowl Sunday. The theater was half full.
It was about a girl who spoiler alert killed herself. Good grief. A kick in the stomach from this beautiful creature
who didn’t want to live anymore.
And the actors singing about it under the lights
with brave and ardent faces.
I didn’t want it to end.
After the play I walked past a bar.
“There are no TVs in here, just humans” proclaimed a sandwich board. I looked in.
Yeah there were humans in there,
hunkered down, dry, murmuring confidentially shoulder to shoulder.
I wanted to talk and be heard and to listen and to lose my only self in the selves around me.
And I almost went in.
But remembered the girl who chose death
and walked in the rain to the subway instead.
Here are some little known facts.
This is a moment you will only experience once. So is this. so is this. Each moment gone, never returning.
Each next moment that’s about to come, never experienced before, until it too is gone. And so on.
Et al, ad infinitum. Except not.
I wish I’d taken latin in high school so I’d know what the latin is for on and on until ____.
Until not on.
I remember seeing Paul McCartney interviewed in the 60s, asked what happens after one dies.
“Nothing, you just conk out.”
The answer was seen as somewhat scandalous as I recall.
The plainspoken lack of belief, so foreign to Americans at the time and foreign to me also.
Conked out, like an old Hoover or a rusty buick overtaken with weeds.
So flat, plain and blunt.
Rick Rubin says that the Beatles are proof of the existence of God.
I googled a bird. Such a high pitched descending 3 notes. TWEE twee twee.
I heard it every day, every morning, outisde my window.
Lo I did google it
I googled the ____ out of it.
But I didn’t turn up what it was. Every bird I discovered was a different bird. Jerking its head around on youtube, about to sing about to sing until there it goes, unleashing its own shrill chirrup.
but not the one I was after. Elusive silly twee-ing twitting thing.
I cant see what it looks like, it’s too small and hiding in one of these magnificent trees which by the way are the only thing that keep me sane here. these beautiful towering magnificent otherworldly alien twisting gnarling ancient ever-young beasts towering and shooting into the sky but also just staying there. Because, you know, there is a vast system of roots like blood vessels shooting also and twisting and gnarling underground. but wait they’re breathing life into the air. thanks trees. oh yeah but anyway the trees are
hiding and housing this thing that I am googling.
until one day. I notice that I haven’t heard the high-tweeing bird. in a few days.
As quickly as I noticed it I un-noticed it and as quickly as it was here it wasn’t.
And so haven’t googled it and
I wonder where did it go, is it coming back,
and what did it sound like.
Greetings and welcome back to the series of posts about my trip to Europe in the Fall of 2016. When I left off, I was talking about playing in Fealty’s pub in Bangor, Northern Ireland in late September 2016. I forgot to say that the fellow who gave me his windbreaker (necessitated by my having left my jacket and coat at home in Brooklyn) in Fealty’s was originally from Arizona, and that it was a dad-windbreaker. The kind of windbreaker that my dad would wear, or your dad, or, if you are a dad, you. And apparently me, because I wore it all through EU, until I found a suitable replacement. (oh yeah. The day I replaced the dad-windbreaker. *that* was a banner day. Stay tuned for that, you won’t wanna miss it.).
At Fealty’s, I met Rodney and Jennifer Cordner, a wonderful couple from Portadown who took me under their wings for a few days. I was introduced to them via Facebook through my friend Gary Moorehead of Massachusetts (It’s worth pointing out, that as much as I think social media contributes to the downfall of society, here’s a decidedly positive thing about it. I was able to easily make 2 lifelong friends because of a mutual friend on Facebook). Rod and Jenny are fun, warm, bubbly, funny, nurturing, creative, and plain old fun. Rod will talk your ear off, and did mine. He loves an audience and has the Irish gift of gab. His dad was from Texas (met Rod’s mum in Ireland, and then, I think left and went back to the US) and Rod never misses an opportunity to remind you that he is part Texan (and part Cherokee as he claims). Rodney is a singer-songwriter as well, and endlessly entertaining. Jennifer is sweet, kind, generous, and possessed of an deep, strong, unconditional love. She treats Rodney’s hurricane-like conversation style with a bemused forbearance. Jenny has heard his stories before, many times, and has got a few stories of their own, as it happens. Neither Rod nor Jenny ever met a stranger. They drove me around, fed me, housed me, and took me sightseeing. Rodney lent me his guitar (“a teckaminny”) for that first gig. Oh and they taught me some of the lingo, which I drank in in wonder, as I drank in everything in wonder.
Here’s some Irish lingo I learned:
They Irish say “wee” a whole lot. Every sentence, like (That’s another Irish-ism, putting “like” at the end of a sentence like that): A wee spot of tea. a wee bit of juice. a wee walk, a wee gig.
“How’s about ya?” means “How are you?”
“What’s the craic?” means what’s going on or where may a good time be found.
“a brave drop of soup” is a big, hearty, bowl of soup.
someone who is incredibly drunk is “bleuthered.”
Someone who has “popped his clogs” has died.
First on the sightseeing agenda was the Mountains of Mourne, or Mourne Mountains, in County Down. It’s a granite mountain range in the Southeast part of NI, full of misty Celtic myths, Game of Thrones filming locations, endless stone walls, and sheep.