Well, here I am again. Yee fuckin' ha.
I promised myself I'd send a Letter From Texas to the non-Texan contingent while I was down there, but my visit to Republicanland was surprisingly short of free time. Strange, since it was first gear I was craving, after all, and sixth might be a better description of last week.
Not that I didn't have fun, mind you. Enjoyed the hell outta myself throughout, starting with a piss-up upon our arrival. My pal Hippie made with the special heated wine, and I got a little toasty. Plus Mom makes these big, saucy meat patties that no one seems to know the name of, and we ate 'em like slobbering Mongol raiders.
Then family stuff, then family stuff, then EVEN MORE FAMILY STUFF. Stands to reason, I guess, being that it was Pilgrim Celebration Time & all. Though my recent visit to Plymouth Rock has dulled my appreciation for Puritan leavings. Having history move from legend into the realm of actual existence sometimes makes me envision the events, and I think if I'd been Squanto, I'd have killed the bastards in their sleep and saved myself a lot of trouble.
The trip home has done an odd thing to me, though. To explain, you'll need a bit of history:
In the Spring of 2001, the Wifely and I were sitting around in the living room of our nice little old house in Arlington, Texas. Our 3rd wedding anniversary was coming up, and we began idly discussing where we might be by our 5th. I was one year into my album project, and was about as sick of the Dallas/Fort Worth music world as a dork-rocker could be. Wifely was less than enthused about her dayjob, which was a far cry from the writing & editing work she had hoped to secure with her rather expensive degree.
So we talked about alternate locations for a while. Canada, maybe. I had good memories of my visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Boston, perhaps. As we cast about, we kept saying things like, "...and it would be close to New York." After a few more nights of this sort of thing, Wifely seized upon the short-n-curlies of the problem: "You know, why are we fucking around? Why don't we just move to New York?"
It hit me like a pile of brick shithouses. Move to New York? It can't be done. Can it?
And voila, the next year was all about turning our lives upside down so that we could accomplish this impossible thing. And then we got here. And then it was cool, because we had accomplished this impossible thing. And strangely, over the past year and a half, the accomplishment of this impossible thing had become as important as the thing it was created to facilitate: Our artistic growth.
Not that it hasn't done that as well. Both Wifely and I have experienced a surge of creativity that bubbles inside of us constantly now, aching for an escape route like...well, like a bigass fart. But there has been a strange sense of accomplishment for merely being in the city, regardless of what we did here. And somehow revisiting Texas has undone that for me.
Before I lived here, Weatherford was harshly real and New York mythic. Oh, sure, you could do big things in New York, but you'd have to get there first. Impossible. But now I've lived in New York. I've worked in New York. I've pissed in New York. And you know, it's just a place. It's a very nice place, a place rather different from the rest of the country, but a real place nonetheless.
And I suppose that when I stepped out of D/FW Airport to see Texas with the New York goggles, I was surprised to find it...well, the same. Not the same architecturally, or naturally, or scenically, but it was a place. I had run screaming from something I had considered an un-place, an actively oppressive force against my creativity, and now I found that it was not. It was a place, just like the place I now happily call home.
I suppose the gist of all this is that it's no longer a major accomplishment to me simply to have made it to New York. That is merely a detail. My resolve has now hardened around the thing that I have truly desired for over 10 years: an album of my own. The upside of this is that you will have something to hear on my website very soon. The downside is that I may not put quite as much energy into my writing as I have for the last few months.
Don't worry, this isn't the end of the Letter From NYC. They'll just be a bit shorter. Which really couldn't hurt, anyway.
On Saturday I drove alone down I-20 towards Eastland. It was the sort of drive I spent my college years making instead of doing homework. The Palo Pinto hills were gorgeous, their stout, scrubby trees taking in the sunlight greedily and shining back pure green. Over every hill a butte-lined vista filled the pickup windows, drawing me down into the valley like an endless novel, promising more with each mile, alive with a history like the nooks and crannies of Manhattan stonework.
I had plugged in my copy of Peter Gabriel's So upon leaving Weatherford, and as I entered the thick of those hills, I began singing along with Don't Give Up, a song that has often served as both salve and inspiration as I've scaled and fallen off the walls of musical success. The song, the sun, the memories, it was all too much. I just lost it, crying openly as I drove down the highway, still singing despite the tears.
As the moment passed, I began to get scared. Was I homesick for Texas? I thought for a moment, and realized that wasn't it. What had done it was the night before. I had spent the whole evening developing and recording guitar parts for my good friend Gustavson, an activity from an era when music was not one of many irons in the fire, but THE fire. And I suppose I was surprised to find that fire still burning, not merely smoldering among the other coals.
I do believe that writing is something that both complements and influences what I do musically, but I think that flame isn't quite ready to cook the chicken yet. And while I carry around one that is, it seems a shame not to use it. In short, it's time to cook the goddamn chicken.
And yet I'm hit with this thought: The reason that writing took on any momentum for me was that I had to kill time while I raised the next bit of money for recording needs. Which I still have to do a bit more of. Sigh. It's always something. Still...
"Now the years are rolling by me/They are rocking evenly/And I am older than I once was/And younger than I'll be/That's not unusual/No, it isn't strange/After changes upon changes/We are more or less the same/
After changes, we are more or less the same..."
- Paul Simon, The Boxer (live version from Simon & Garfunkel's The Concert In Central Park)
And I'll be 30 bucks closer after this stupid temp assignment tonight. I'm handing out flyers in Grand Central Station. The things I'll do to eat...
EPILOGUE, 6:47 PM -
Here I am on the N train. It's like the R train, only it has crappy straight bench seats instead of the butt-hugging ones. And it only gets within one stop of my home station, so I always have to get off & wait for the R train anyway. Oh, how it taunts me.
Stood in front of Grand Central in the cold and handed out mini-catalogs for some kinda crappy crapply crap. I was only out there for 15 minutes before I was tempted to bail on the whole thing. I've never been terribly good at sales & promotion, even when I'm just trying to get people to take a damned flyer. As person upon person walked past my proffered goods and pretended not to see me, my disgust began to grow:
I didn't sign up for this shit. I'm a goddamned data entry clerk, for the love of Pete. What the fuck is this shit, anyway? Fuck this assignment. Fuck Jelly Temps. Fuck them to hell...ad infinitessum...
But then a nice old lady took a catalog and smiled at me. It was such a surprise that I smiled back big & wide, thanking her. Immediately, two more older women sauntered up wanting one. Cool. I was gettin' the old chicks with my big smile. It still wasn't working on the men, though. So I tried a smaller, more businesslike smile on them. It began to work. I carried on like that for an hour, adjusting my smile for the different folks, and soon I found that my big bag was empty of catalogs.
Well, holy shit.
I headed back to the nearby Jelly Temps office to restock, something that an hour earlier would've seemed unnecessary. In the elevator, an idea clobbered me in my stupid head: What a damned good way to promote the CD & the website. I had pondered such things before, but had always balked on the basis of my miserable promotional skills. But now that I'd done this thing, it didn't seem nearly as frightening. You can hand out any old goddamn thing at the train station, and people will at least look at it once. I do, anyway.
Storing this in my mental To Do list, I arrived at the Jelly Temps office. It was dark & locked. Umm, okay. My fellow temps & I had been told to keep distributing and restocking until 8:00, when we could go home. It was 6:00. I figured I'd give 'em 20 minutes, in case they were on the shitter.
Eventually Billy, one of my partners, wandered up. I gave him the news:
"They don't seem to be home."
I'm getting the impression that all of us temps are foulmouthed little shits.
"So, you waiting?" he asks.
"I'm giving 'em 20 minutes."
"Why for?" Billy's from Atlanta. They say 'why for?' down there.
"They could be on the shitter."
"For 20 minutes?"
"Oh, yeah. Easy. I've taken longer."
Now Billy's just staring at me. Oh, great. He's probably one of those 5-minute, hairless ass, in-n-outers. Now I have to explain myself.
"I mean, they could've had some bad Chinese..."
"Yeah, but 20 minutes?"
This is not what this conversation should be about, dammit.
"Well, I'm giving 'em 20 minutes anyway, then I'm taking off."
My other fellow temp, Cedric, shows up before long. Billy explains the situation to him:
"They went home, so we're giving 'em 20 minutes."
"20 minutes? Why for?" I don't know where Cedric's from.
"This guy thinks they might be on the shitter."
"For 20 minutes?"
"Okay, look, I'm gonna leave a note telling 'em we waited 20 minutes. They've probably gone home already and forgotten about us anyway."
"Yeah. Fuckers." Billy adds.
"Fuckers." confirms Cedric.
They take off, and I write a little note, taking my time so that I finish in 20 minutes. Maybe I'm the only freakish bastard who's ever spent 20 minutes on the can, and maybe I'm not, but if one of my supervisors is having a rough passage, I'll give them enough time to see it through, by Pete. Though as it turned out, the bastards had gone home & forgotten us, so I headed back to Brooklyn.
Which brings me to the N train. Which is pulling up to the 36th Street station, soon to be taking off for parts unknown, but definitely not at my stop. So I'll wait for the R. What always happens is that the stupid M train pulls up and blocks the tracks while not a single soul gets on or off of it because it's a USELESS FUCKING M TRAIN.
I see some headlights down the tracks. Is it? It is. Fucking M train. Sigh. I know, I'll get an R soon enough. Seems like a metaphor, but damned if I feel like pondering it. I gotta go read a book for 20 minutes.