Detonate is a pretty sensitive word these days. I associate it with being on the edge. Like, shit’s about to blow. I also think about how sad and scary the world has become. When I was in my early 20’s I backpacked through Europe, as all 20 somethings should do. But when I fast forward 15 years, is my nephew going to be able to do that without constantly being on alert? Being young and brave, I’m sure he will go no problem. It will just be Aunty and his Mommy left home to worry. Carrying back over to happy thoughts, my trip through Europe was spectacular. I remember feeling so at home there. Like, it was where I belonged, over on the Continent and certainly not in America when even then the shallow capitalism really got to me. While I was in Italy, I went to my Papa’s village and saw the house that he was born in. As I stood there in wonder, I thought, Wow my entire being, my life experience is based on the fact that one day my Papa walked out of this house, got on a boat and came to America. What if he hadn’t? What if he stayed? Everything, everything would be different and I wouldn’t be here standing on this doorway. My soul would have flown in a different direction to live a different life. But he did and I am. Sitting in America 111 years later, living an American life, saving up money to send the kid to Europe.
It’s like these Daily Prompt people follow me around to see what’s happening in my life then assign a most apropos word for the prompt. I was literally just sitting here thinking about what I do to survive. When I get overwhelmed I get all caught up in well, catching up. I don’t like things hanging over my head and the only thing that seems to assuage the fear is to just get shit done. It instantly makes me feel better, to be back in control. I think that’s what it all comes down to for me. Control. Having control. Being in control. Although I’m not controlling. I really don’t care what you’re doing (I mean that in the nicest way possible.) I’m just concerned with what I’m doing. And as I was sitting here, convincing myself not to worry, that once I get rolling things will get done, things will happen, I will re-gain control and all will be right with the world again, this word pops up as something to write about. And alas, this is how I survive. Just put my head down and get to work. It’s how I’ve always been and I’m assuming how I’ll always be. So why do I worry? I’m not really sure, although I worry less and less these days. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s the uncertainty in the world. Maybe I shouldn’t speculate and just go with it. Maybe I should stop typing and get on with it. I have a ton of stuff to accomplish today after all!
What a farce, the whole thing is. I was driving on the highway last night, riding up to see some friends from high school and I thought to myself, “How real is any of this?” I have had several conversations about death recently. Not dire, not depressing, just intellectual. Sharing experiences, feelings, and thoughts on the whole thing. And as I was driving up 95, the sun was shining, the music was blaring and I couldn’t help but wonder how real it all really is? As we don’t know what comes next, how do we know what’s going on now? I’ve adopted a new rule for myself to lower my stress levels. The rule is simply do not stress. I can’t control any of this. I can’t control the weather, I can’t control the uncertainty and I can’t control the chaos. So instead, I’m just focusing on what I can control, myself. My own happiness lies within me, like it lies within all of us. Why waste time doing anything else? Especially when it’s all a farce.
So, I love music. I always have. My mother used to tell me that when I was little and we were driving in the car I would exclaim, “I love this song!” about every tune that came on the radio. I still catch myself doing that. Live shows used to be my thing. For a time it was even in my job description. But somewhere along the way I just stopped going. I could chalk it up to many things, however in an effort to truly NOT accept the fact that I’m getting older and maybe can’t keep up like I used to, I had this thought; my ticket collection.
My collection was kept in a big yellow tape reinforced shoebox. On the back of each ticket I would write a few lines—something to jog my memory about that particular show. I have always been a mad documentarian. My strategy being that when I was old and gray and just couldn’t remember anymore I could re-visit this time in my life and share a smile with my younger self. I had grand visions for the collection. Maybe framing them up or placing them in a glass cover for a coffee table or something. Proof of my former rock and roll prowess. Notice I am using the past tense…
I had just moved back to Atlanta in 2004. My stuff was still in boxes, never unpacked from when I moved away in 2001. But I knew where my ticket stubs were. I placed all of my boxes, full of life stuffs—memories, letters from old friends, and my tickets in the little storage house in our backyard. We had no history with our new abode, having just moved in, so who could have anticipated The Great Flood of ’04. The rains came pounding down, overtaking our little stream, then the lower level of the yard, then the middle level after that and eventually the little house. Water raged knee deep while we stood on our deck wondering how high it would go. That was it. Knee deep. That was enough.
When things dried out and we went through our destroyed belongings I thought, “Oh well, who needs papers from college anyway?” I felt kind of new age about it, almost relieved that I no longer had to carry around all this stuff. It felt cleansing to just let go. It took some time before I realized with a gasp, “MY TICKETS!” Just like that—gone. My custom mail order Grateful Dead ticket from New Year’s Eve 1990—gone. My 1988 Jane’s Addiction at T.T. the Bear’s in Cambridge—gone. My first Red Sox game with my Dad. You get the picture. As it slowly sunk in, I tried fighting the dread. I tried freeing myself of the urge for possessions. I couldn’t do it. It hurt too much. My whole musical landscape, my music history was no longer there for me to recall. I figure I had been to at least a couple hundred shows at that point. I saw the Dead 32 times alone. So, as I set out mourning my loss, I stopped going to shows. I just stopped without even realizing it. For a while, I tried to get back on the train, but it just never happened. Many moons and many missed shows later, the loss still stings. And in the meantime, there were too many other hurdles to jump, too many other losses to process, too many other concepts to wrap my brain around. On the rare occasion that I do go to a show now, I still absolutely love it. A reason to hope I always think as my heart starts to pound when the lights go down.
As I sit here on the morning of my 49th birthday, I couldn’t be happier that I decided to pursue my dream! Of course, losing my desk job was a decision that was made for me but ultimately it was the very best thing to happen for it gave me my freedom. At this age with all the trappings of adulthood, you don’t just walk away from a paycheck. Or at least, I don’t. So, getting back to my freedom. It is a wonderful, wonderful thing and I am grateful and blessed that I was given this opportunity. Yes it’s scary and yes it is uncertain but the funny thing is, in my mind, all I see is success. I can’t even picture myself at another desk, working for somebody else. I’ve always been able to picture that and now I can’t. I’m not going back. I’m just not. I am full steam ahead in making this work for me. Because let’s face it, 29 turned into 39, which turned into 49, with 59 next up. And on and on it goes, God willing. And at the end of the day, life is just too short. A classic cliche but not really, because it’s true. Blink and it’s over. Might not feel that way when you’re 29 but…hello the big four nine!
Bitter, party of one! That’s always been a pretty big joke among my circle of friends. And in fact, when I saw the Daily Prompt today I immediately broke out in a hardy laugh. It felt good actually b/c these last few days have been rough. Just general roughness, the ebbs and flows of life. I guess it comes with being passionate, the wanting more, to do more, to do better. Now don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for all that I have. Blessed to be sure. It’s just that some days it gets so overwhelming that I go straight to grouch mode. When I was younger, my family called me Oscar, as in Oscar the Grouch, so I guess old habits die hard. Or maybe more accurately, biological makeup dies hard. In any event, here we are, chugging along on a Monday morning trying to shake it off and get going on a new week. Some days I feel more than alone in this world. I’m sure we all do. Someone once said to me “You come into this world alone and you leave this world alone” and it has always stuck with me because it is so very true. In the in-between however, it would be nice to have someone to tag along with. THAT someone. The someone who is always there for you. The someone who isn’t going to disappear on you to suit their fancy. The someone who will think of you first occasionally. The someones who don’t do that are just friends and as I’m finding out, its not their obligation to do those things. Those things are perks of having really great friendships, but, certainly not mandatory, although it would be nice. Anyway, as I was saying, it’s been a rough few days. I wouldn’t say I’m bitter, but I’m definitely a party of one.
None of it matters in the end. In the end, you are one breath away from moving on into the next realm and all the worry and the stress just doesn’t matter any more. I thought that as I held my Aunt’s hand as she was dying. She was 90. Ninety years! And everything she had done and experienced and seen was over in just one breath. I had never experienced that before and I’m not sure I want to again. Some days it plays in my head over and over and over again. Some days I handle wave after wave of grief. It sneaks up on me, catches me by surprise and I marvel at the fact that she is gone. As we move through life, we should focus on the good. The positive. And by we I mean me. Everyone is on their own trip here on Planet Earth. I’d like mine to be filled with calm sunny days, literally of course but also metaphorically. And when the days grind together and I can’t seem to sustain that, I think about my Aunty. Ninety years then over in just one breath.
I feel like an apprentice in my new life. Even though it’s kinda sorta my old life. I freelanced in my 20’s into my late 30’s and I found it the most exhilarating way to go through life. Especially in the film business. Every day was different. You were always meeting new people. You had exciting experiences. After a while though the Hollywood bullshit got to be too much for me so I switched gears to the music industry. Talk about bullshit! I was lucky enough to find a niche at a cool little independent record label where a well-oiled team of four made stuff happen on a regular basis. No egos, no drama, just a common desire to put out great music. Everything we did had aesthetic and it was magical. Atlanta in the 90’s itself was completely magical. I arrived on the cusp of the most amazing revitalization. The city was full of artists, musicians and totally creative people. It was lush with talent and charisma and I had never experienced anything like it. I’m assuming I never will again. Cynicism has caught up with me and try as I might, I just can’t seem to get around it. I do hold out hope, on certain days, that I will feel that magic again. In the meantime, freelancing 2.0 beckons with its seriousness and its bills and its weight. I’m glad I enjoyed 1.0 hardily because I absolutely did not think it would come down to this. Maybe I did, I don’t know. Apprentice to my own life…