Beneath The So-Called Glamour: A Few Unhinged Glimpses of The Sober Reality Of Day To Day Life (or just call it VENTING, if you must).
People are fascinated; people are curious. Some well-known musicians and writers congratulate me on my break out success (ha, if only they knew!). Many have told me say it’s a “brilliant concept” and a “marketable story,” but they can’t help me find a literary agent, editor or publisher What’s it like? I’ve been trying to hang in suspension and avoid making public any direct, fleshed-out answer, to this question.
In the latest interview, I said three little words, “It’s getting worse,” but then purposely tried to steer the conversation to what I call being proactive! Thus always worked in the past---writing my way out of it, or singing my way out of it, conversing my way out of it—to focus on the Big Picture, the intersections between activism, teaching, and music —areas in which I can have use. I could write MUCH BETTER about it LATER, if I can get at least a little of my life back—but the longer it goes on, I need to consider the possibility that I may never get it back. I’ve tried so many things this last year, and am working my butt off—but I am stuck, and on a downward spiral. I tried gracefully begging, but maybe people do want to hear the negative, the ridiculousness of my helplessness...
I do need to address the situation soberly (without the “drug of hope”), or at least try to “grab the bull by the horns,” as they say, and thus address all this negative stuff in this “semi-public forum” in hopes SOMEONE will understand how bad my life has become (I.e.---so what follows is only the tip of the iceberg, of the “world I need to get out of”). Where to begin?
Maybe I should start with clothes
I put on dumpy clothes, and feel terribly ashamed. Most of my clothes are dumpy.
I do have a few pairs of at least semi-good looking jeans and shirts that in California could work as a professional uniform while teaching classes, but I notice holes developing in yet another pair, and I need to conserve, with money running out.
I need to conserve just in case I do get a job interview. I used to love dressing snazzy, especially in NYC, and miss it terribly. After I went homeless, I lost my one good suit. I don’t even have a place to store clothes, and comfortable, good-looking clothes are hard to find. In the last decade especially, even living in a city, I had to shop on line, to find tight black jeans and black sneakers. I often would get shirts, suit jackets (and even vests) at thrift stores, and underwear and socks at Sears. These days, I hardly even wear socks. I still cling to the one pair of Italian dress shoes that became especially uncomfortable after my accident. I’d wear them for special occasions. In addition, my prized electric self-cleaning electric shaving razor finally irrevocably broke earlier this year, and the $50 razor I replaced it worth doesn’t actually work to the same extent that did. It doesn’t get every spot, and I need to feel clean-shaven. Even if you gave me money to buy some of this stuff, I wouldn’t use it for that---because I need to survive first (and let’s not even get into how hard it is for me to shop smartly these days, etc.
Ah, but now, I’m sitting here in dumpy shorts, and a nice white shirt, which I put on as a concession to not looking entirely dumpy, at least to make it to the YMCA, where I go almost daily to shower and try to at relieve the constant physical pain I feel. In Oakland, water walking physical therapy at the YMCA helped me tremendously in the absence of real affordable healthcare, and I cling to it. It’s become my only regular routine—and of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to look dumpy at the YMCA. There’s an illusion of democracy in the pool with your suit hidden. People even say I look fit, but socially the pool (with most 70-90 year old women or sometimes kids) is bleak and lonely. It’s physically dark and drab (though a respite from the sun that’s too hot); the men’s locker room is not something I want to think about too much. It’s not a place to find a job (as my ex-girlfriend wisely pointed out when she caught me talking about my life in the past tense too much, when I started going back in Oakland; I’m not retired. Sure, I learned many things from many wise things from the retirees (especially the older African-American men) in Oakland, but it was only useful because I could apply it to my classes at Laney College, with the younger students who needed, and even wanted, to know the history I learned from these men.
In Oakland, they also played good music regularly, which has been lacking here. They don’t even play bad music at the Hollywood YMCA. It’s either silence, or kids screaming—so I am often left alone with my thoughts, the internal monologue, racing, the desperate thoughts, trying to shut them off—but if you put on some Motown, for instance, that I can move to, that I can feel a I’m working out, my brain immediately finds a form, and the thoughts stop. Sure, not everyone needs this on an essential level as I do, and sure there are times I dig silence too---but I don’t feel safe
Anyway, I try to simulate it in the spirit of self-reliance, singing as I work out, or simulating trumpet sounds, or even mouth pops, which I can’t do because my broken partial denture falls out--a tooth even fell out at the YMCA recently (and don’t even get me started on the lack of dental care). But even if I’m not ssshheed, it’s hard to sustain that making music in this environment; it takes more energy than thinking too much (alas). So I try to focus the consciousness more silently on the muscles, and the body…. In any event, I get through it, but it’s become harder and harder and more tedious, and sometimes I’ve even gotten thinking that I should stop this YMCA routine---which may be the healthiest thing I do in many ways (the only healthy thing?)---because sometimes I leave much more riled up, and agitated, than I was before I came. Am I more energized? Or more exhausted? Do I just work out so I can eat more? Or do I eat more because I work out too much?
The Office (and van)
THIS IS TERRIBLY EMBARRASSING to write about. The shame continues. I trip and fall. I’m afraid to walk far. I do a couple stupid errands. I get in the van. I’m so sick of the van. It’s a “beautiful summer day” (the weather I would normally crave), but it’s too hot to work in the van, make music, and making music solo on the piano sitting in a position that makes my disability worse, and just like at the YMCA it’s dark in here, and there’s no good music coming from someone else (or something else) to harmonize with, the work with---and then some say this is the closest thing to a JOB I’ve been able to find (but it pays mostly in photographs; the tips don’t cover overhead). $40 on gas, and I hardly drive. The van has all kinds of problems, and I’m a terrible driver, especially of something this big. I have to get gas. $40 half a tank. I always play trumpet while I’m filling the gas (a nice little trick I learned, ha ha)—but that’s enough of the social, practical, world for now. THE REAL WORLD---or whatever is left of my sense of HOME---has become the INTERNET? And Why? Because I have to look for jobs ON LINE, and must focus the thoughts, and see if my resume can be resurrected or resuscitated! That burns at me, as if it’s the only hope
What to do? Conserve the clothes? Run back to the grungy rat-infested office that I call “home”---which is basically a dying Laptop computer. And it’s now 3:23 PM and I’ve been back in the office for the last hour writing this. And this may be SQUANDERING MY ENERGY as much as trying to sing is or was. And yes, it’s unhealthy sitting position, and yes I’m smoking cigarettes---but I can’t even just “lay out” in the park without thinking too much (again, in the absence of any music but that which I try to make, which increasingly doesn’t even feel like music anymore).
So I might as well at least try to get something done----
But maybe now I’ve at least exhausted my mind on all this self-worry, and more importantly KILLED TIME to get through the hot part of the day, and see if my body will have energy left to actually play music later. I want to lie down, and fall back asleep again---with the radio on….
This piece of writing has been another failed experiment, another DEAD END, but in a way it did what it set out to; to hopefully GET IT OUT OF THE WAY, or laugh at it, and move on to something I CAN DO. I could write new songs, or make music with others again, but I do not have access to the materials and the collaborators or context that would make that possible---and there’s no palpable sense that anyone really wants it (there’s already this album that’s waiting to be unlocked, and I’m supposed to put my eggs in that basket I suppose)…This all has only been SCRATCHING THE SURFACE of the negative, which will have to be part of the documentation of this time----but I will GLADLY DE-EMPHASIZIZE it if SOMEONE CAN GIVE ME A CHANCE AGAIN, and publish my allegedly “marketable story” about my “brilliant concept.”
SHOULD I WRITE ABOUT SHAKESPERE NOW? I gave myself that assignment!---because no one else really did (though I thought there were some possibilities I’m waiting to hear from), or something else of cultural relevance….IN THE GLUT of culture in 21st century America, etc….