Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Other Side of the Manifesto

Mad Mission - Patty Griffin (mp3)

One of my oldest friends in the world gets married today. He's 39 and getting married for the first time to a truly fascinating, and significantly younger, woman. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Just sayin'.

Anyway, his betrothed and I were talking about her time in Atlanta, where she worked for a couple of years, and she was bad-mouthing the single scene there. "Atlanta is so serious about being single," she said. "A coworker actually criticized me because she saw me walk into the grocery store on a Saturday morning wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt. She said I would never find someone if I didn't take the time to show pride in my appearance, even for something as banal as the grocery store." It was this encounter that symbolized why she will be moving to be with her new husband in the quaint small town of Rome rather than insisting he come to her.

Sometimes you find yourself
flying low at night

For most sane people, to work so hard to create a false persona, merely to appeal to someone else who is working hard to create a false persona so that your two false personas can hopefully go on a few dates before the illusion cracks and he discovers your secret stash of sweatpants and sees you without your makeup... well, it shouldn't be all that appealing to reasonable minds.

For those of us in that category, what's not to love about New Orleans' French Quarter?

The French Quarter is a laid-back, somewhat malodorous, splotchy and potentially sleazy affair. It's that sorority of girls you had a blast hanging out with because they cussed like sailors, drank like the Irish and could beat you in Beer Pong. Yet, because they weren't the supermodel richies of Tri-Delt, you were kinda ashamed of how much you liked them.

Flying blind and looking for
Any sign of light

For the tourists who venture regularly, the Quarter is sweatpants and no makeup. It's baseball caps and highballs with well liquor. It's Miller High Life in the middle of the day. It's more AC/DC and less Arcade Fire. It's about relaxing and enjoying life with only a fraction of the bullshit artifice that clogs up our pores in the real world.

You're cold and scared, and all alone
You'd do anything just to make it home

A little bullshit artifice in our daily lives isn't really a bad thing. In proper doses, it can be a societal superego, keeping a leash on our ids, but this blog isn't the place for it. My aim is to be the Garfunkel to Bob's Simon, the Amy Ray to his Emily Saliers, the Jethro to his Tull.

I'll hopefully make some observations into the human condition without having to worry about hurt feelings or keeping up a shoddy facade. And I'll write about music I like, even if it's the sonic equivalent of sweatpants and no makeup.

It's a mad mission

But I got the ambition
It's a mad, mad mission
Sign me up

"Mad Mission" is by Patty Griffin, off the album "Living With Ghosts"

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Manifesto of Sorts

Blurred vision. I've always been intrigued by it. Those times when you have to squint a bit to see what's really going on, when you have to stare extra hard at the outline of something to try to figure it out, when the shapes are so amorphous, you can only guess. Sometimes I like to drive without my glasses. Sometimes I like to lie awake in the morning in winter and stare at the mesh of tree branches outside the window and watch those branches define different kinds of faces, no matter where I look. A century ago, there were people who never saw a clear sight their entire lives; if my Amero-centric vision weren't so blurred, I'd probably realize that it's still true today in many parts of the world.

Blurred vision requires an imagination to fill in the rest. And so the title of this blog.

It's not about drinking; it's about optimism. Even stupid, silly, no-justification-for-it optimism. There is (or was) a great bluegrass band called The Seldom Scene and when I saw them once in Pittsburgh, they covered this song:

"Well the hard times we've had
Don't look so bad
Through the bottom of the glass."

Hey, the statement is still true if you're only drinking water. It's easy optimism, perhaps made easier and then harder with some alcohol. But so what? Shouldn't optimism be easy? Shouldn't hope? Shouldn't faith? I'm mean, you don't say, "Hey, I'm working really hard on my faith today. And after my workout, I'm going to devote a couple of hours to hoping." You either got it or you don't. Me, I got it.

So, I like to look at life and I like to look at it in an optimistic context. I find Cormac McCarthy's The Road hopeful. The Cure makes me smile and even laugh. A bad meal makes me think about how it could have been better. And sex? Do I even need to explain why sex is hope? Even the poor sap from the Seldom Scene song gets it, though his lover has left him:

Well I found a new someone you may say she's trash
Well she ain't much to see
But she looks good to me
Through the bottom of the glass.

I know it sounds like a sleazy, drunken bar pick-up, but it's funnier than it is sad because of the guy's self-awareness of his decision and because in the middle of his misery, he's found a way to win. Maybe not the best way, but hey.

Odd thing, though. If you've ever really looked through the bottom of one of those glasses, you can't see much of anything at all.

Still, a toast, not to what was, but to what can be or even to what could have been.