Friday, September 4, 2009

Letting Go of Barnyard Flotsam

What the hell happened? It’s not supposed to be September already. Is it? Didn’t I just put up that last blog unit last week? Wow. If time keeps accelerating for me like it has been and global warming keeps pace, we’ll be under water by the end of the year. Maybe it has something to do with Relativity. Perspective is everything. Am I on the train, or am I watching it go by?

On Sunday I decided to let go of a lifelong fantasy. I declared that I will no longer strive to become a famous musician, that I will no longer spend time working on a “career” in music. I declared it to be a “stupid” fantasy and went to bed curled up in the fetal position.

I always knew I would be a famous musician. I always had a deep faith that it would come to pass. If I just stayed true to the craft and the art of it, things would magically conspire to call an audience and a following to my door. I’d known this since I was four years old. There were times it would seem assured. Intellectually, I recognized the folly of such a fantasy, but I stayed true to it nonetheless. It felt exactly right. It was who I wanted to be. It was who I was going to be. It was who I was.

But you know what? It was complete horseshit. Reality bites. I am not nearly as competent as I pretended to be and needed to be. I’m not even half the player I want to be. I’ve been playing the guitar for forty-seven years, but did I ever really work at it? I’d like to think I did, but if I’d worked harder, I’d be a more accomplished player. This whole aspect of my life needed a good bath and a solid dose of humility. I’d been seduced by the fantasy of it for so long that I was, literally, living in a fantasy world, which, no matter how you slice it, is not a good thing. As Sharon Olds so elegantly said in one of her poems: “I wanted to be some one.” It skewed my entire self image and put me in a house of mirrors where each reflection became farther from the truth of What Is.

Sunday evening Laura and I went to see the Freak Mountain Ramblers and had a blast. They had fun and, therefore, the room did too. Even today it makes me happy just to think about sitting there awash in Happy Feet Music. They are, when I’m in their “room,” my favorite musical ensemble, maybe ever. I love the fact that they can pull it all off, from Jug-band music to Western Swing, to Rock’n Roll, to well, let’s just call it “Modern Jazz.” It is Americana at its absolute best. We are so lucky to live in Portland. It is an undeniably stellar musical town.

So, we’re on the way home and I’m bubbling on about wishing I could just get up in the morning and plug myself into my studio (which doesn’t exist) and work on songs and stuff. Laura asked a very simple question about where the songs would sell and I immediately became defensive and then IT hit me like a ton of copyright forms. It was all crap. My whole notion of what I was going to do someday was a load of malarkey. It was based on a complete fallacy. I had this moment of brilliant clarity, an epiphany of stunning proportion. Poor Laura thought I was mad at her. It had nothing at all to do with her, it was me finally realizing, seeing it without my little rosy haze, that the fantasy I’d held about myself and my place in the musical pantheon I’d created in my mind, was just egregiously wrong. I was absolutely devastated. I had no idea who I was and I was angry with myself for allowing such a twisted vision to become something I’d accepted as a reality.

I have no idea how this will all shake out as things settle. I have let the fantasy go and accepted What Is. Now, What Is, is pretty darn okay, if you ask me. I am a relentlessly adequate guitarist and I will continue my lifelong aspiration to learn as much about playing it as I possibly can. I will embrace the ukulele and, by golly, learn to play “Little Wing” on it (probably on a baritone). I will continue to play out and sing and make people happy with my versions of music, my own and other songwriters. I will do this with an undying love of it, but I will NOT be concerned with anything at all about the “career” side of it. That is dead and gone. I do not require that carrot-on-a-stick to keep me going (donut on a stick?). Good riddance, I say. I had my fifteen minutes of fame a long long time ago and I sure don’t need the ego feed. Mine’s big enough already. I will just sustain myself with the best music I can make. If you happen to hear it someday, I hope you like it.