Thursday, January 21, 2010

Really Hearing the Music

I am not sure how you feel about music.....

To be truthful, I am not entirely sure how I feel about music. I used to live, breathe and eat music. It easily matched and flowed with my moods. Music told me a lot about things around me and I couldn't go anywhere without a carefully planned soundtrack. I heard Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill, Dr. Dre and Digital Underground and could get my head wrapped around a school day. I listened to the Eagles religiously, especially in my friend Kevin's Car. Tom Petty's Wildflowers album still floods me with memories of a tumultuous and very exciting year. The Doors and Jimi Hendrix remind me of my bedroom in my first house and the huge sound system I had set up; I remember kissing a girl as the music drowned out the party upstairs. Music was essential to get through my day and the fact that I couldn't listen to them at school or work kind of offended me. My cohort in crime and I have a lot of memories related to concerts, blaring car music and my home sound system. When we get started talking about music you get a lot of random life stories tangled amidst the songs, albums and musicians we love.

And yet....

I find that music is not the same for me anymore. I like an ever widening variety of music but it does not connect as well as it used to. I don't come home and have to put on an album. I don't feel the need to dance and sing along. I hardly ever catch myself playing the air guitar....

People always talk about phases in life. I remember being told that a lot of my extreme interest in music would fade as I got older. I remember laughing at all the old people who listened to talk radio. Now I find myself having one play list of podcasts on my iPod (some from talk radio stations I used to fake snore to). Actually I have 2 small shuffle iPods, one is usually talk and the other music. Long gone are the hours and hours of simply listening to music and writing.

Giving up music was not a conscious decision. Some of my apathy came from having so many albums to choose from. I do not hear an entire album from start to finish like I used to. I stopped listening to 20 minute long songs from the 60's because they were so darn long.

The other side of having such a large collection is that I seem to always be looking for something new that will fit my mood. Of course part of it might be because my emotions are not as intense and wild as they were when I was a teenager or in my early 20's. I still think rock from the late 60's and early 70's fits well into those crazy youthful years but rocking out to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida seems a little silly these days.

I am not saying I have given up on music all together. I still listen to music everyday; just not usually as my sole activity and not nearly as carefully selected. I no longer spend hours crafting a play list or creating a new mix tape (or mix cd as I have made both). I just pick a few artists, load them up and listen to whatever plays.

My interest in music is still high; I am more than willing to give a listen to anything anyone might recommend to me. Whether they are aged 98 or just turned 2 (deinitely not any younger or older then that). I am an open book and seem to have been on a search for new music and new artists to try out. In the last couple years a few new (to me) favorites have included Ben Harper, A Fine Frenzy, Raconteurs, Holly Brook, Flight of the Conchords (always makes me chuckle), Common, and many others. I still listen to and purchase music but I do not connect as much as I used to.

Of course that was until I watched It Might Get Loud.

It Might Get Loud changed everything for me....

It Might Get Loud is a documentary about 3 musicians getting together telling their stories and playing some music. The musicians included Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame, The Edge of U2 fame and Jack White from the White Stripes (and the Raconteurs). I am a fan of all 3 men and their various music endeavors. They make great music that I consider very essential to my collection. In fact, as I type away I am listening to War by U2 and plan to switch over to one of the other bands afterward.

This documentary is fabulous and is a must see for music fans of any stripe. It helped remind me of the passion behind the songs and to pay attention to the feeling of the music and the words; to vibe with the music and to stop treating it like a background highlight. My connection to music had become tenuous because I forgot to really listen to the music and allow it to transport me.

I plan to pay more attention when I listen to music from here on out. I will make sure to listen to more whole albums again; especially when it is a new artist or a new album by an old favorite artist. Another step I will take is to look more into these bands histories. I used to know a lot about the musicians I called my favorites and it enriched the auditory experience for me. Finally I plan to get more live music DVD's, see more concerts and spend more time listening.

Ps.... I also plan to get my own copy of It Might Get Loud.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Some thoughts for the New Year......

I don't know if you, the 3 people who still occasionally glance at this site, have noticed but I have not written a lot lately. It isn't like I wasn't trying. I have sat down several times with the intent to write and have felt my mind literally go blank. My mind has been a dry husk and I have to tell you my lack of writing has had me pretty worried. I have felt like a bottle with a stopper that was stuck. A lot has been on my mind and a lot has been needed to be said but when I sat down to write no words were there to say them with. Read this statement clearly because some writers equate bad writing to nothing but I literally mean nothing came out; not bad, good or mediocre simply nothing. I was literally a blank slate, I couldn't even force anything. Sure I have managed to post like 6 times in the last few months but most of them are dismissible and only one was creative. I thought when school ended I would have the time to get the juices flowing again. I was expecting a plethora of new ideas and blog entries to clog the system but it didn't happen. I think I would describe my mind as being fogged. I knew there is a lot going on but I wasn't really sure where and when; and if I sat down to write my mind froze up. Today was different though. Today I felt the first break in the creative dam. The story I am about to rely is not a fictional story but luckily is is also not a boring update. It is just a replay of my thoughts or at least the best rendition I can offer.

I slept in and was very casual about greeting the day. I actually took a bath and relaxed a bit in the tub. I had no real plans for the day and didn't even have a clue of how to spend it. I knew that I did not have a lot of money and everything that sounded fun would require some money. So I hopped online for a while. Then I bustled around my house packing clothes and taking apart the computer desk for my impending move. It was about then that I had to get out of the house. I decided to go to the book store at the mall and read some books in their cafe. I picked up a book and read half of it when I felt a flash of intense hunger. In all my lolly gagging at home I had failed to eat. I headed upstairs to the food court and decided to try the new fish and chips place. I eyed it several times on previous mall excursions but I decided that today was the day. I ordered my food and was pleased to be handed a lobster shaped beeper that would alert me when the food was ready. I knew that this beeper meant that I would at least be assured of hot food. I headed to the nearby arcade to play a little Gauntlet Legends. I was trying to get the token machine to take my dollar but it kept refusing and I was a little distracted by the crazy Russian guys punching the tar out of some weird punching bag game. Anyway, on the 4th try with my seemingly perfect looking dollar, I noticed the machine these muscle headed dudes were busy abusing was for sale. Which made me immediately wonder if Gauntlet Legends was still around, as I am convinced I am one of the very few who play the thing. It occurred to me that checking would be prudent before getting my tokens at about the same time the machine decided it would take my money. The clink of the tokens ended the internal struggle and I went further in the arcade to discover Gauntlet's fate. I found it sitting there unplugged with a for sale sticker on it and I felt a little defeated. I looked at the price and remembered my Silver Spoons inspired dreams of owning a few arcade games. For a brief moment I envisioned bargaining with the guy who was selling it and could see myself arranging a spot for it. In my imaginings I had a much bigger house and money to burn. I spent the tokens on games of chance that gave prize tickets I did not really want and left to await my food. My mind was on autopilot and I was thinking about a lot of things about this new year and the last couple of years. I was feeling exhausted and a little defeated. As much as I hate to admit it the debacle that happened two weeks ago at the university really had shaken me to my core. It undermined my confidence and kind of made me wonder what I really had to offer. I have not bounced back like I hoped I would even after things went my way. I would honestly say that I laid down and had stopped fighting. I have been putting off some steps I need to take to get licensed and that makes no sense because I had a blast being a teacher this last year. I enjoyed every minute I was up in front of the students and working with them as their teacher. I liked answering questions and trying to help them understand a concept. I admit that I liked one of my experiences better than the other but it had nothing to do with the students. The more I think about it the more I realize how true that is. I hated the stupid work sample and the constant nagging the university kept giving me about that horrible, rancid, time wasting and irrelevant piece of crap. It's a hoop, people kept telling me... just jump through it people kept saying. I did jump through the hoop but I shouldn't have to. I never learned to play the pointless game very well. I have always believed there should be a reason to do something. For a while there I believed there should be a likable reason to do things and you can see how that affected my job record. I kept hopping around so much that my employment history is a joke. Of course when I finally decided to dig my feet into the ground and hang in there the company laid us all off. Beautiful.

Getting back to today's tale. It was about the time that my lobster started buzzing and flashing that my mind started to whirr. There was a little smoke and a few annoying sounds like when the bathroom vent fan gets stuck but the important thing was my mind was working again. I sat there mowing down the fish and chips, the surprisingly super tasting fish and chips, when my brain kicked me out of mopey mode. I am not sure what the exact though was but it was somewhere during the linking of the last few months to the last couple years of unpleasantness. I then started thinking about other people I knew and the year they have had. A lot of people have been knocked down and pummeled by the first decade of this new millennium. It sucked big time for a lot of people and yet we are all hanging on, some of us by our toenails. Something about that thought gets me jazzed. I know that sounds weird so maybe I should try again.

I look around and I see a lot of strong people hanging on. They aren't hanging on to their possessions but they are hanging on to the people that matter in their lives. People, that I know, are reevaluating what it means to be successful and happy. That is a good thing. Our priorities were out of wack. The dreams of a beautiful home, the latest gadgets, and the fastest and biggest car were getting in the way of people caring about other people. I felt like I made a few connections today that I had missed before. It really is about the people in your life even those in the periphery. Obviously friends and family are part of this rebirth of humanity but so should the person you buy your coffee from. Why are the people we interact with, on a daily basis sometimes, not more of our circle. Why don't I know the kid at my favorite coffee shops name. The very guy who always makes me smile and feel welcome. What the hell am I doing complaining about the lack of warmth of other people when I am so closed off to humanity. Why do I think people are fake when they ask a servers name? Why don't I talk to the person I am doing business with a little longer? After all they did just ask about my day... why not give them a brief snippet?

Then I thought about a friend I have been hanging out with a lot recently. A friend that seems to know hundreds of people all throughout the downtown Portland area. She knows all the people at her favorite shops and she is always chatting with people she doesn't know at all. People always talk with her and enjoy her company even if at first they have no idea what to do. We were killing time before seeing Sherlock Holmes and we were at Banana Republic where she was talking to a cute girl who works there that she knows from prior visits. This is like the 10th conversation like this I have seen and I ask, as we leave the store, how she knows so many people. She turns to me and tells me (I am going to get this wrong), "I know the people who matter." I was confused for a minute but this gal is a talker and she kept on going. She told me about how the people in these stores matter and that her pet peeve are those who come in and view these human beings as their servants. People that disregard the store employee's humanity and give off such a negative vibe that it brings everyone down. I agreed with her because I always try to be polite and courteous to people I encounter but that wasn't all of the message and the rest of the idea about really seeing the person behind the role was bouncing around my head unresolved for a while.

That conversation was revisited as I watched a young man strike up a conversation with a girl about their choice in authors. I realize that these weren't exactly the same thing but they are similar. Both experiences show people with a willingness to put themselves out there and connect with another person. Of curse the gentleman at the bookstore might have been more interested in the cute girl then he was in the book but he definitely was able to talk about that particular writer in detail. All these things clicked for me and I realized that I need to change some things that I am doing. I can't say I revolutionized the way I handled the rest of my interactions today. I was feeling the urge to write and my only other interaction was to purchase a 5 dollar journal because what I had in my head would not wait until I walked home to be released. I was so consumed by the urge to get my thoughts written down that I didn't really practice what I am currently in the process of preaching. I should explain something about my writing habits: occasionally, I get this insane urge to write and have no writing pad near me and that is why I have like 15 partially used books in my home. Once that urge hits I write and for a while I find a spot to stow a journal on my person to prevent such crazy expenditures of money caused by not being prepared to pursue this insane writer's life I have carved out for myself. I am thinking I will probably by another book later on this year in another such emergency because eventually I won't feel like carrying a hardly ever used journal with me anymore.

After I bought the book I sat there furiously writing everything I could down in it. I wrote about how people will survive the last decade and become stronger because of it and that the only thing we can do is renew our pursuit of our dreams. Whether you are a 32 year old unemployed but nearly graduated teaching hopeful, or a younger person still sorting out the dream and trying to make it match up with the reality of the world around you, or someone who might be on the wrong side of a dream and being forced to start all over. This rough patch will be transversed and something will fall into place even if it takes a little wiggling to make it fit. While that is happening and things are getting sorted out, remember to say hi to that neighbor you have never acknowledged before, engage the grocery clerk in a little dialogue, talk to your server about various thins that gets them to stop and enjoy the little chat. The world continues to get more electronic everyday and our interactions seem to be getting fewer and it is going to take a conscious effort to remember the human part of life. Start remembering that people all around you have their own story and that i isn't bad to pay attention occasionally. Talk to people, smile and laugh with people and keep your head up. Things will get better.