Sunday, November 13, 2016

Start small

Where do we go from here?
Put aside the anger, sadness and shock, and when I am on social media, that's the great unknown most of my friends seem to be struggling with.
We should do something.
But what?
Short answer, maybe, is something. Anything. The journey of a thousand steps, a small pebble makes big ripples, etc etc etc.
We can't all do all the things all at once. So start small. I'm mostly convinced that we got into the mess in this first place not because we did the wrong things, but because we didn't do anything. Other than voting, I know I didn't do a hell of a lot.
Start small. Know that no matter what you do, there will be someone who tells you that whatever you are doing won't matter, that you should be doing this instead of that. This will come from people who you believe are on your side, don't even contemplate what those who are against you will say.
But don't let that stop you, if you believe in that one small thing and take action, it will matter more than all the lofty, unkept goals you can ever imagine.
Leslie is working on petitions to overturn the electoral college process. We are figuring out companies that do not deserve our support. Frankly, I've heard Papa John's makes some pretty crappy pizza as it is. But we will never know for sure, now.
I'm planning on attending the Salem Democratic City Committee meeting at the end of the month, when I am no longer a working member of the press. Is this a huge commitment? No. Is it a bigger commitment than I've made in my 28 years as a registered Democratic voter? Yes. My voice will be heard, even if it is at the smallest level possible.
And I will write. I'll keep writing. I am back in this now.
Talk minus action equals zero.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Whatever gets us through the dark night

I don't remember when the first time I realized art could get help get me through shitty times.
I do know I can work my way backward. I do know that living on the edge of anxious times, you need your loved ones by your side. Sometimes that's not possible. Or sometimes you need a little more.
I don't remember the first time I needed music, or literature, or hell, even a podcast, movie or TV show to get me through the shit.
I do remember the beginning of 2011. My marriage was finally falling apart for the last time. I had lost a job. Another job. On the plus side, I was diagnosed with depression. A plus because it helped me face something that had already been facing me for decades. Depression wipes out the desire to enjoy, enjoy anything you have found enjoyable. My marriage was falling apart yet I'd still go to sleep every night in our bedroom, knowing the clock was ticking down, and the only thing that kept me sane, helped me fall asleep and think tomorrow might be okay was Marc Maron's WTF podcast. Christ, here was this guy articulating the hurt and anger I was going through, having real conversations, and providing one of the few friendly voices I could count on on a regular basis. It's a gross overstatement to say Marc Maron saved my life, but for a stretch, when I was withdrawn and sick and scared, he was the voice I heard more than anyone else. Here was a guy whose life was an almost total disaster who was able to turn it around, find his place in life.
It was the theme for me in those days, and when the rubber hit the road and I was on my own (after a brief stay with the parents, who were always there for me, too) I dug further back, pulling out my copy of Black Flag's Damaged, blasting Rise Above as moderately loud as you're able to play anything in a Honda CRV. Goddamn it, I was going to Rise Above, I did Rise Above dammit, maybe not to Everest like heights, but convincing myself that I could rise to any height that would be even modestly higher than falling deeper into a pit of despair and failure was a major achievement.At the age of 41, I finally got my first tattoo, the Black Flag bars, and if that's a tattoo most get at half the age, fuck it, it still means everything to me.
Further back, 9-11. I made a mix tape. Maybe my last mix tape. Jesus, I was 31. Have I ever not been a teenager? Heavy on Coltrane, Marvin Gaye, Jimmy Cliff. A nation in need of uplift, me in need of uplift. Coltrane is in the top tier of my secular gods, measuring any other artist up to him isn't fair. In all times of national tragedy, it would be hard to do any better than to shut up and press play on A Love Supreme.
Before that? I'm thinking it was the normal growing up stuff that sent me to art, mostly music, to make sense of it all. Hell, I loved the Replacements, but I couldn't listen to Unsatisfied for almost two decades because it hurt too much. That has to be some signifier of great art that it's too painful to even deal with.
Which brings us to now, when many of us are hurting. Thank the great sky gods in the heavens that my personal situation has never been better. But that doesn't mean all the fears and anxieties of this particular time in history go away. And that's where the music and art that means the most to me comes in. My blood pressure was through the roof until I picked up Moby Dick on Wednesday night, an old friend, a revelation, words that slow me down yet that I almost know by heart. And it is almost Thanksgiving, which means it is time to put on The Band's The Last Waltz. It's a yearly tradition that almost makes me feel hopeful again.
There are things I can change, you can change, we can all change to make things better. How much better? It's a lie for anyone to say they know right now. But there is a reason great art endures, or personal favorites remain old friends in times of sorrow.
We will rise above.