Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Beach

I was born within the scent of the sea. It must have been one of my first sensory experiences: after the pain of the forceps and the blinding light, the smell of salt. My mother, a country girl from backwoods Arkansas braving the wilds of Long Beach with an infant in her arms. Home alone in their one room apartment as Smitty worked or looked for work.  How old was I when she bundled me in a blanket and took the Red Car down to the beach? A few days? A week?

I know so little of that time in their lives. 

By the time I can remember, we had already moved inland. Some of my earliest memories are of riding in the back seat of a car over rolling hills and catching the first whiff of the ocean.  I would get downright giddy, bouncing with anticipation, surely driving my parents mad. Then we would crest a rise and there it was stretched out before me, vast and shining with brilliant light. 

Our last summer in Southern California I was 12 years old, almost full grown, strong. I still rode my bike to the public pool, but I was also spending more and more time laid out on my bed obsessively reading every book I could lay hands on. I was addicted to the printed word, to the point of losing friendships. But, I was still ready and willing to go to the beach anytime my parents offered. It was a long drive, over an hour, but we went often. Sometimes the whole family would go, but if dad was working, which was most of the time, we went without him. 

My mother could not swim. She never learned; neither did her sisters. She brought my older cousins along whenever she could talk them into coming, but sometimes it was just the four of us, my brothers, my mother and me, drawn by the great salt sea.  I learned to look for a change in the sky before smelling the salt, a silvery light low on the western horizon. I would throw open the doors as soon as the car stopped and tear out for the water, Mom holding my baby brother by the hand hollering for me to hold on. After awhile, we got it down to a system: us kids carried the gear and scouted ahead, spread the blanket and waited hopping with anticipation until she released us to the sea.  She must have brought a book or a magazine along with our bag of sandwiches and bottles of pop, but whatever she did to pass the time, she did it on land. Sometimes she would walk down to the water's edge, wade in up to her ankles and splash water on her arms. Mostly she sat on the beach and watched us venture farther and farther out with each passing year.  

Those last few summers at the beach, I was old enough and strong enough to swim out beyond the breakers, lay on my back and drift up and down on the swells. I would wade out until I had to leap my highest to keep my head above the breakers, catch a wave, ride it to shore and then do it over again for hours. When I got tired, I played at the water's edge, tumbling in the surf, sitting in the wet sand as the retreating waves sucked me down. Sometimes I walked miles down the beach to a breakwater, hiked out to the end as the open ocean broke around me, and walked back again.  

Shit happens at the beach. I’ve been slammed to the ocean floor and tumbled uncontrollably more than once. Ah, to emerge out of terror and chaos into sweet oxygen, eyes running, saltwater streaming from my nose, knowing I've cheated death; that's a feeling I'll never forget.  I was even stung pretty badly by a jellyfish once.  Still, she took us to the ocean and let us run wild.

She was a brave woman, my mother. No doubt about it. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Open Tuning

The last two days were out of tune, vibrating at a dissonant frequency. My usual facile command of multi-layered, multifarious detail is failing me. I'm not as organized or capable as I represent to the outside world, relying instead on a better than average memory. That crutch is crumbling.  I can no longer fake my way past my lack of discipline. I've fucked up a couple of things and it reminds me that I have to do the work: create the calendar reminders, keep meticulous, dated  notes, make my lists and check them twice.

I was scratchy with irritation all last night, struggling to fall asleep, awaking at 3:00 and tossing till dawn. I laid in bed ruminating about the actions of others, regretting my own. Regrets; I have a few, and they keep piling up. What the fuck is that about? I pile obligation on obligation, assume responsibility for things I can't control and, when my best laid plans invariably go awry, flog myself like a rented mule. Yup, there's some dysfunction there, some masochism.

Does the control junkie subconsciously set herself up to fail? "The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry, and leave us naught but grief and pain for promised joy," said Robbie Burns.  

If the control junkie were to lose control, what then?  A dotty old woman wandering down a descending spiral, lost in perpetual present.That sounds about right. Perpetual present; huh. Be here now, sister. 

Last week, I said performing is still worth the work, but this week, I'm questioning whether it's worth the mental wear and tear. Not in Hamfist; those boys are family. Other projects and other collaborators are wearing me out. I'm not quick-witted enough any more to keep up with all the details and I can't manage the personalities like I used to.  That, plus the wedding, plus extra responsibilities at work, all piled onto my chronic, low-grade anxiety takes a toll. Some days I feel like I'm about to shatter into a million tiny pieces.

Who needs that? Not me. I'm not strong enough for the drama.  Maybe I just to want sit alone at the piano and play some songs.  Lost in thought, lost in memory, just sit at the piano and sing.

Enough. I banish misfortune, evil, strife. I invoke an open chord, roundness, levity, air. Time to learn another song, they're the only things that still stick.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

William Blake

Those who control their passions do so because their passions are weak enough to be controlled.

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rock Star Parking

Don't you know the one time I get a parking space right in front of the venue, I stroll inside and find out that I'm an hour early. I can either go back to Oak Street and chill or keep my parking space and kill an hour. It's Saturday night in Ashland, the first sunny weekend of the year, plus it's high school prom night. Downtown is packed.  I decide to keep the space and start walking towards my office to hang out. Then I realize that I changed purses and left my work key in the other bag. Damn. So, I gave up the space and drove back to Oak Street.

That's what you call a high class problem. I'm sitting in my comfy chair in my stretchy house dress and no bra, my bare feet up on an ottoman.  I'm not killing an hour sitting in my car.  I'm not getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick. Wah wah, poor baby. I'm playing GIGS for cryin' out loud.  So what if I have to sit in my car or kill some time or schlep some gear or whatever. It's worth it.  I can see how it might not be some day but, for right now, it is. 

Plus, I'm sitting in my comfy chair in my quiet room in my own in my little house in town; what's not to love? Virginia Woolf would approve.  I recently re-read her "a room of one's own" essay, the one in which she asks, what if Shakespeare had a sister? Could she be a genius too? Are women inferior? Or is a woman's life (breeding, homemaking) antithetical to the life of the mind?  Actually, I'd never read the entire essay, just the best known section.  I learned that the only reason Virginia had a room of her own to write in was because her aunt died and left her a legacy. It was a rare luxury in that era; hell in any era. 

I have a room of my own. It's pretty damn sweet. I'm grateful. Fuck rock star parking.