Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Balls In The Air

Buddy Guy--"The Things That I Used To Do" (mp3)

Why'd you let go of your guitar?
Why'd you ever let it go that far?

--Lucinda Williams

There is some mysterious point in life when you realize that you can no longer pursue all of your pursuits. There simply isn't time.

That day, that moment, may not be a happy one, because it probably comes with some concurrent reminder of mortality. It may well not be something that you cannot even control. But if you can, you're going to have to make some serious choices.

Or you may just be cleaning stuff out of your house, which, as this blog has demonstrated for the past several weeks, can put you in a contemplative mood.

I think most of us have so many things that we like to do that we don't want to have to make those choices. Every time I put together a resume, I have to make a list of what I like to do, and every time, that list is false. It isn't because I'm trying to make a list to impress--I mean, do you really think it matters whether you garden or take TaeKwonDo? No, my list is false because there are always some items that I used to do or would like to do but when it comes down to it, I don't do them, at least not with any regularity. Like running.

These days, there tend to be too many balls in the air, too many givens or expecteds or desires to allow me to do everything that I used to want to do. Or that I still want to do, but............

My Cases In Point:

1. I had always thought that I would record an album's worth of original songs--not as part of my rock career or anything, but just to say that I had done and to confirm that I had that ability and those songs in me. To that end, back in the late 80's, I purchased a Tascam PortaStudio and used it to make all kinds of demos, rhythm tracks; I wrote a number of songs, mostly focused on a friend's suicide in 1980. I even, on several summer trips to the condo in Florida, took all of the necessary gear to record those tracks in a separate, creative setting. I thought I would record a rock album, lo fi--of course, while my children watched TV in the next room. It didn't quite happen then, and year after year after year afterward, I kept telling myself I would get to it, but something else would get in the way and I would get farther and farther away from the songs and the initiative. This past week, clearing out the sun porch, I came across that Tascam covered in dust, and, though I didn't throw it away, I know its days are over.

2. There are only two purposes for having a library of books: a) you have amassed titles that you plan to read, or have read and are planning to read again (or refer to) or b) you want people to see what you have read or are planning to read or want people to know that you own. That's it. It has dawned on me in this, my 51st year, that I am no longer interested in collecting books, with rare exceptions. I am particularly proud of my collection of Hemingway books and my collection of JFK assassination conspiracy books and my cookbooks. Beyond that, I don't anticipate rereading books that I once read and liked, and if I do, I can get them. What makes sense to me now is that if I read a book and like it, it is most important that I get that book into the hands of someone else who might like it as soon as possible. Visions of me sitting in my library, smoking a pipe and stretching my arms out futiley toward the edges of my walls of knowledge are long gone.

3. I cleared a variety of suits and sportcoats out of my closet. Now, it isn't that I was waiting for them to come back into style so that I could wear them again. I was waiting for me to return to that size so that I could wear them again. Old clothes can offer all kinds of reminders of ways that we used to be, and while I continue to both believe and to dream that I will be that size again, the idea of holding onto those suits is not in any way providing the incentive. They are only collecting moths and dust.

But, hey, all of this is still about choice, not about giving up. There is some good news here. I've picked up the guitar again after almost a year of not playing (but with a ukelele interlude--NOTE: the ukelele, fun as it is to play, does nothing for one's guitar calluses). I've even got my electric guitar set-up back in business and I'm enjoying the concepts of distortion, overdrive, chorus, etc. down in the basement. My fingers remember where they're supposed to be, but they need more repetition in order to get there cleanly. And when the basement is free of clutter, just down the room from that guitar will go the exercise bike and the weights and the Urban Rebounder and the exercise ball and....

But for right now, I just have too many balls in the air.

Buddy Guy is available at Itunes. Stevie Ray Vaughn also has a stellar version of this song.


troutking said...

Simultaneously inspiring and depressing. That's an impressive combination to have your writing engender.

PS I'm proud of my JFK non-conspiracy books.

Anonymous said...

you need to get your acoustic demos down on the tascam. Make plans to come up to virginia and record at the "Batting Cage" (Where every songs a hit!) and the Dinwiddie Freon Cartel can be your backing band. Done. Next Album.

Jason said...

No, you're a complete F_____ idiot comment with the JFK conspiracy arguments? This is no fun...