And the wheel goes round and round

27 04 2013

Long ago my friend M. loved a man well and a little too hard, and he loved her testily and made her think it was her own fault he loved her so meanly.

They dated, they broke up, they dated, they broke up, they dated, they broke up, until, finally, the break-up took. Each time around she thought it might be better and each time around she learned it would not; each time around she knew a little bit more and each time around it wasn’t enough; each time around the chances grew longer and the payoffs got smaller until, finally, she turned out her empty pockets and him along with them and walked away for good.

At the time, her friends and I despaired of this relationship, thinking M. was throwing herself at a man who would only catch her when it suited him, at a man who called this occasional attention “love”. She was caught in his inattention, tripping from hurt to hurt until he would remember and hold out his hand and that would be enough.

We thought she couldn’t see this, but, with each round, she saw more and more, and with each round, she moved the lack a little bit away from her and a little bit toward him until, finally, she could see he would never be enough.

We wanted each ending to be the last, but M. needed those beginnings until, finally, she needed the ending more.

I think now she had to go around and around, that instead of spiraling down and down she was gathering momentum with each widening turn, stretching out her need and her love until, finally, instead of snapping her back it snapped and she was free.

~~~

This post was originally headed in another direction, but I got caught up and decided to follow M. Oh, and while her ex was a jerk, he was never anything worse than that.

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Listen to the music

20 10 2012

I have a lot of cds.

Eight hundred? Nine hundred? Somewhere thereabouts. Not as many as true obsessive, but, y’know, plenty.

I almost never listen to them.

Oh, I used to, oh yeah, all the time. In grad school I had a cheapo mini-system on to which I could load 7 cds and let ‘er ride. Music accompanied my descent into and out of depression (multiple times), and one of my preps for dissertation-writing was picking out the cds which would take me from, say, 8pm-2am.

I was never much for 45s, but when I hit junior high I started hitting Helen Gallagher’s (the requisite black-light/poster/music shop which dotted small-town malls way back when) for albums. I asked for Foreigner for Christmas and my best friend J. and I listened to her brother’s REO Speedwagon live album (DOOT doot doodlo-doot) over and over again. D. and I would sit in her brother’s bedroom and listen to Pink Floyd and AC/DC (Bon Scott era), and in a junior high art class I carved a KISS sculpture out of a bar of soap.

It was pretty much hard and classic rock all through high school (93 QXM? QFM? out of Milwaukee)—a lot Who, AC/DC (Brian Johnson, this time), Led Zep, Yes,Rush,Loverboy—as well as my aforementioned beloved Supertramp, and then, when MTV hit, what was then called alternative music (mainly British post-punk bands).

I bought albums at Helen Gallagher, I bought albums up and down State Street in Madison. I bought albums at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis. And then when I decided to run away from grad school, I decided to sell all of my albums.

I bought cds instead.

I had just a few (20? 30?) when I hied on out to Albuquerque, maybe double or triple that when I slunk back to Minneapolis, where I was a regular at the Electric Fetus as well as a few other dusty shops in the Whittier neighborhood. I bought punk and post-punk and new wave and jazz and soundtracks and classical and electronica, then expanded into funky new-wave Nordic music and dub and neo-soul and soul and 1960s-era American and European singers and a few blues cds. I hauled boxes and boxes and boxes with me to Montreal, then set out to buy even more.

I ended up buying hundreds and hundreds of cds in the shops along Mont Royal and St Denis and Peel—but this was due in no small part to my apartment having been burglarized my first Thanksgiving in the city. Hundreds of those cds were replacements, but hundreds more were music which was recommended to me by music clerks and friends and stuff I’d heard on the McGill and U of Montreal radio stations and read about in the alt weeklies. I picked up Daniel Boulanger and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sam Roberts and Athena knows how many chill cds.

I listened to it all.

My cd-buying fell off when I moved to Somerville, in part due to my reduced financial circumstances, but I still hit up shops in Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston, adding both replacement and new stuff. I had so damned many cds that they overflowed my (generous) storage; I followed my downstairs-neighbors’ lead and took them all out of their jewel cases and just kept them in their sleeves in boxes.

Which is how I transported them to New York. I bought a few cds here, but the urge to survey the scene fell off and never returned: my desire for music had always been abstain-or-binge, but for the past few years I simply haven’t been interested.

It’s not even that cd shops are scarce: there are still plenty o’ joints in the East and West Villages where I could score tunes if I wanted, and, of course, I could always download stuff.  Nor is it that I hate all new music: I think Lady Gaga has fine set of pipes and I’m charmed by Adele and and Janelle Monae is somethin’ else and I’ll hear bits on WNYC or in stores and think Oh, that’s nice.

But the urgency, the need, to own music is gone. I don’t even bother buying music by acts I already know I like—Emmylou and Beth Orton and GY!BE—much less feel that I have to make any effort to find something new.

C. has said that there really is nothing new out there, and I think she may have a point. Some of the newer stuff I like sounds a lot like the music I listened to in the 1980s, so why not just listen to the old stuff? The one genre in which I have bought stuff is classical and (a very few cds of) opera, and that because it is all new to me.

It’s not bad that my enthusiasm has waned—more money for books!—but it is a loss. I loved music, loved listening to it and thinking about it and searching it out and sharing it and dancing to it and everything everything everything. I’ve lost something I loved.

So, I have a plan. I’m going to listen to every cd I own, in (rough genre-and-alphabetical) order, to re-acquaint myself with the sounds that once so moved me.

I’m not trying to recapture my youth (hah!) or somehow go back in time, but given how much this all once mattered, it’s worth it to see if I can recover or rediscover what was once there.

If not, if it’s gone, then I’ll let it go, I’ll let it all go.

But I don’t think it’s gone. I think I just need to crouch down and put my face close and gently blow those fading chords back to life.





Watching the tide roll away

6 09 2009

I am the most undisciplined person in the world. The world! The universe! The MULTIVERSE!

Okay, maybe not the multiverse. Maybe just in my apartment.

Where I live alone.

(The cats? They’re cats! They do want they want.)

Lack of discipline differs from laziness—tho’ I am, of course, also prone to laziness—in that the problem is located in the lack, not in the effort. Properly harnessed, I can work like the dickens.

Left to roam free, however, and I simply wander, nose about the field, and am apt to lie down for good, long, nap.

As an occasional phenomenon, this is not only not a problem, but even a delight. As a regular occurrence, however, it doesn’t refresh, but enervates.

Low-key folk may welcome enervation, but I am not a member of that particular tribe. It’s not—exactly—that I’m high-strung, but I am restless, ambitious, and voracious. I need to do.

I’ll avoid the whole doing-vs-being discussion (for now), noting simply the fulcrum for  balance may be set differently for me than it is for others: I need a fair amount of doing to make sense of my being.

Unfortunately, I’m shit about doing unless forced. The mere need, in other words, is insufficient motive.

Fortunately, I can respond to the flimsiest of force, especially if that force makes a kind of sense. A self-made list is indeed flimsy, but it also makes sense: Here are the things I want to accomplish. It sets out in physical form tasks I set for myself, makes it separate from me, and gives me a means of satisfaction when tasks are completed, i.e., I get to cross them off the list.

I don’t know why it’s satisfying, and I don’t care. It makes sense because it works for me, even if the underlying reasons for why it works remain murky. I don’t need endless epistemological iteration of the appeal of list-making and crossing-off, I need something to get my ass in gear.

‘Working model’ or ‘beta-version’ or ‘jury-rigged’ or ‘throwing spaghetti at the wall’—whatever. It’s a means, not an end.

Now, not everything is on the list. I don’t need to put things like ‘brush teeth’ or ‘clean litter box’ or ‘eat’—these are sufficiently habitual and/or vital that they carry their own force. (And besides, I’m not that pathetic.) Nor do I need to remind myself to read for my courses, print out notes, or grade: the requirements of teaching keep me in line. Ditto with wage-work generally.

And I don’t need any (well, not usually) prompts to keep in touch with friends. Pleasure has its own rewards.

The only kind of work for which I need no external constraints is writing. When I want to write, I do, and once I start writing, I almost always want to continue writing. I think this is partly due to knowing that I’m pretty good at writing, partly that it’s not hard for me, and largely because I write to find out what happens, i.e., I’m curious, and that’s enough to drive me on.

This is also why I don’t sketch out what I’m going to do in advance. As I paused in writing this post, I was thinking about writing my dissertation, and how different writing that was from writing my novels. Yeah, duh, but there’s something central to both types of writing: not knowing how it ends. In fact, I had a hell of a time writing my dissertation as long as I thought I knew all that I would think about the argument. I had to tell myself that I did not, in fact, know how the dissertation would ‘end’, that I had to let it play itself out. It was only then that I was actually able to sit my ass down and write the thing.

So writing I can do because writing is something I can do.

Pitching and selling what I write? That’s on the list.