The trouble with maintaining a blog is that you think of all sorts of things to write about when you’re doing something else, like working, or driving, but when you finally sit down in front of the computer, all those great ideas go right out the window. So you end up, or at least I end up, spewing a bunch of “blah, blah, blah, I’m not feeling so good right now” twaddle that comes nowhere near the brilliant, elusive, dreamy posts that fly in through one ear and out the other before they make it into typed words. Oh, if you could have seen the posts I composed in my head.
I’m sitting here in a cafe typing into my laptop right now. The impermanence of life is weighing heavily on my mind, and has been for a while. The holidays are over. One person I knew, a man who helped me out a lot, simply by living an example and by exuding serenity when I got to a crisis point over 19 years ago and had to abandon one way of life for another, died over the holidays. Another person I’ve known just about as long, who was around when I was wrestled by life into surrender, is reportedly on her deathbed as I write this. My daughter, 23 and beautifully independent, left for Thailand right after Christmas on a one-way ticket. I sincerely hope there’s a god, or maybe some benevolent spirits, who will watch over her and keep her safe.
Me? I’m not a loser. I make a lot of mistakes. Lately, the task of making amends has been coming up, partially because of where I am in a certain spiritual-growth process, and partially because, well, I’m sick and tired of making the same mistakes over and over, and I’m tired of doing stupid things that hurt people I care about, and I want to stop and I want to set things right. I’ve got one in particular that’s at the top of the stack, an old friend I badmouthed on Facebook, and maybe somewhere else I can’t remember because I was in a fugue state of being a butthole. I’ve tried to make amends several times, with no response any time. Please don’t laugh.
Many of my resentments seem to grow out of my frustration to be heard as a songwriter and musician. I get frustrated, then bitterly resentful, and then that negative state I’m in, along with the damage I’ve caused, turns people against me. What I really need to do is let go of any desire to play music — not give up, but just let go. I did that for my nonexistent love life, which is still nonexistent, but at least I’m not torturing myself anymore whenever a beautiful woman crosses my path, or worse, a beautiful woman who at one time professed love for me. It doesn’t mean I have to stop playing music or singing or writing songs; it just means I have no expectations that anyone other than me will give much of a hoot.
This morning I woke up to a pretty cool dream. It was long and byzantine, probably fueled by the anodyne Tom Ka Gai soup I ate the night before to ward off this horrible fluey-coldy thing that hit me on New Year’s Eve, and all I remember was the end. I descended with a small group of people, familiar to me but I can’t recall their names, into a cave that led to another world inside the Earth, kind of like Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, which I’d enjoyed in comic-book form (Classics Illustrated) until I stupidly took it with me on a Boy Scout 50-mile hike and the Scoutmaster caught me reading it behind a tree and he made me burn it and a couple of other childhood comic favorites, me weeping like a pussyboy at losing some things I loved dearly, in front of all the other Boy Scouts.
Anyway, this group and I descended into this other world, which was verdant and primitive, like the plants were at an earlier stage of evolution. There were these younger boys, like my sons, and at one point one of them told me how cool it might be if we could fly. “What’s holding you back?” I answered him. “It’s easy. Watch.” Then I got a running start, but my arms out like plane wings and took off. I was zooming around this inner dome world, rising and diving and doing barrel rolls, and I saw that they followed. The sky was pink and orange with clouds, and the landscape was lush and green, like hilly jungles that went on for miles. At one point, I flew over what looked like some kind of modern defense installation, or maybe a nuclear power plant or a UFO, all gleaming chrome in the bright light. My mind couldn’t make sense of what it was doing in the corner of this domed jungle world of my dreams.
And then, we all landed, and it was time to leave. There was a woman sitting in a lounge chair on a deck, and she was a composite of my first girlfriend Jo and my daughter’s mom Lynne and a couple other women I’ve loved. She looked up from the newspaper she was reading, and as I walked by she rose up and planted a big kiss on my lips. “It’s so good to have you back, Bri,” she said, calling me by a shortened version of the middle name I’d gone by in my younger years. “It’s so nice to see you acting like your old self again.” I’m not sure what she meant. I mean, I kinda have an inkling, but I’m really not so sure.
Then again, there is a lot I do not know, and probably never will. —Jackson Griffith
Well, I believe I’ve finally found something that approximates the sound inside my head most of the time. Especially lately, a weird slow grind of tension that I’ve been unaccustomed to in recent years, since I started practicing meditation daily, and since I stopped doing a lot of things that used to up the noise level in my head. I think this incipient anxiety may have something to do with some ongoing procrastination issues I’ve got going on.
The good news is, I’m feeling a bit better today than I did over the past few days The weather was darn near perfect, and then I hit a backyard get-together and talked to a bunch of people I’d never met, along with a couple of old friends, which is a real accomplishment for me. From there, I walked over to Luna’s Cafe and caught a knockout evening of jazz featuring Alex Jenkins’ Sound Immersion (Jenkins on drums, the unrelated Adam Jenkins and Tony Passarell on saxes, Alex Rieff on standup bass) and V Neck (Ross Hammond on guitar, Tom Monson on drums), which struck the right note between squiggly improvised experimentalism and more formalized accessibility. I went alone, because most of the women I know express the opinion that the only jazz worth listening to is NPR-approved and played by guys in undertaker-black suits who are trying their darnedest to sound like Blue Note recording artists circa 1957, and because, well, right now I don’t know any women who’d be interested in tagging along.
But there were a few beautiful ladies there, including a troupe who came in toward the end of the first set and included one particularly stunning Mediterranean-looking goddess who seemed to be into the music, which is a good sign, I guess. Must’ve been related to the guys on the bandstand, my inner cynic tells me.
And I am one cynical bastard, really, especially when it comes to women, their perceived over-riding need for security, financial and otherwise, and what that means for a middle-aged guy like me who’s only recently crawled back above and away from the precipice that marks the end of land and the beginning of the abyss. But I don’t want to launch into anything along those lines in this space, because I’ve hashed over this shit too much already and I will shut up about it now.
(A whoa-dude moment. I am sitting in a midtown coffeehouse as I type this. Just out the window in front of me is the douchiest-looking white guy with shades this side of the Kardashians’ Scott Disick, sitting with two very hot-looking, thin but shapely girls wearing tight, wood-triggering clothes. He’s about 30, and they look to be 16, and he’s rubbing the legs of one of them, and I have no Jerry Lee Lewis on my iTunes to provide a soundtrack. But I digress.)
The thing is, I’ve got homework to do. I’m finishing up some deeply personal writing that should have some theraputic effect once I share it with another person, and I’ve really been dragging my feet on getting it done. I need to do it, but it makes me feel pretty awful about the person I’ve been in the past, and so whenever I start feeling really funky, I find something else to go do: Play guitar. Go for a walk. Come down here and whine into my blog.
I think I’ll go home and shave off my beard. More later. —Jackson Griffith
One of these days, I just know I’m gonna remember that riff that I use to be able to play pretty well. I even have what you might call faith. Until then? Fake it ’til I make it, I guess: Grab the instrument, fingers on the board, and keep toiling away until the holograms of happy dancing couples begin appearing again with some regularity.
That said, I really don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. I feel OK, but slightly discombobulated. I was in a roomful of people a little earlier, one where everyone who talked went on about how they really felt connected and in the middle of the herd and things, and I stared out the window and wondered why I sometimes feel utterly alone, even in the middle of a crowd. Not that I want to feel that way, mind you, and this isn’t coming from a place of self-pity or anything, but I’ve always gotten the sense my brain was wired a little bit differently than everyone else’s, which can make for the occasional uncomfortable silence. Actually, a lot of uncomfortable silences, coupled with a lot of “WTF?” looks when I start babbling about, oh, the behavior of ants in colonies and birds flocking in the sky, and how that relates to humans. (Fortunately, I have a few friends who understand my ramblings, and will start talking about morphogenetic fields and increasing novelty, but I don’t get to see those folks all that much these days.)
Most of the time, I can function in my own little world all right. I still spend the lion’s share of my time alone, when I would prefer to be more gregarious; hell, even cockroaches are gregarious, but I’m not. I eat alone. I go to shows alone. And I’ve come to realize that I just must be one of those people who relates much better to other people through a keyboard than I do in person. Maybe it’s just that, in person, people think I’m kind of uncouth and weird or something, and they’d prefer to read my stuff online a lot more than they want to hang out with me. I’m OK with that. (And I’m not even going to go into the meeting-women part, because I’ve finally reached the point where I’ve just let that one go, at least for the time being.) Shite, this sounds like I’m whining, so I probably am.
Anyhoo, as I’ve mentioned before, I do this recovery thing, and I’ve steered clear of the bottle and the bong for, well, it’ll be 19 years this coming September. Part of that particular spiritual practice involves praying to a Higher Power, as they say in the rooms, and so I do that every day — just turning my thoughts, feelings and actions over to the care of some Great Benevolent Whatever outside of myself, and forgiving those who I think have trespassed me, and all that. It’s a practice, just like the meditation sit that I do every day. Lately, and for a little while now, I’ve taken to pray something along these lines: God, I ask that you take whatever that miserly thing in me is that keeps me blocked off from connecting with other people on a heart-to-heart level, and that you smash it, dissolve it, break it down, take it away — whatever it takes to where I can connect with others with my heart. Please make me loving, generous, compassionate, caring and kind, so that I no longer feel so alone and disconnected from the rest of humanity.
I’d like to tell you how well it works. Sometimes, maybe. But right now, I’m back to feeling pretty alienated. I know it’s just a feeling, and that feelings are not facts — but that feeling has persisted, and I’m really starting to lose whatever faith I’ve gained over time. Even so, I’ll keep on trucking along, doing what I do, because it is a practice, and to maintain a practice, you have to do it day in and day out, every day, even when you feel like you’re wandering through what feels like weeks of twilight. Like my sainted mum, I am a stoic motherfucker when I need to be.
And that, chilluns, is today’s cheery little dispatch. So, hey! Let’s party! —Jackson Griffith