Thinking Allowed

thinking_aloud

I’ve always needed to think aloud in order to know what the hell’s going on inside of me. I don’t mean that I talk to myself as such (although I sometimes do), I mean I bang my ideas on someone else, which sounds like I’m asking for advice, which I’m not. Of course, no one really has the answers I’m looking for. This is my failing, not theirs, because it’s easy for them to believe we’re having an actual conversation. Not that their input isn’t vital, because it is and sometimes I’m not even aware of what I’m doing; even I think we’re having a conversation. I’ve seldom needed—or even wanted—advice. I’ve always been able to come to my own conclusions and find my own solutions, but sometimes I sound like I’m making excuses. The truth is, if no matter what you say is met with a, “Yeah, but…”, it’s a good indication that I’m thinking aloud. But the argument I wage isn’t with you, it’s me weighing your ideas with my own to find a solution. I’m not really arguing with you. I’m arguing with myself. So here I am thinking aloud, which is allowed. Clever pun intended, har har.

I’ve been in a bit of a stalemate recently where my LP is concerned. I admit I’m not happy with the way the tracks sound as they are. The instruments are fine. I like them. It’s my voice that’s bugging me and I haven’t been able to figure out what it is I don’t like. This morning when I gave them a listen again over my morning coffee and it dawned on me that the vocals lack energy. Well, the first issue is that my range has lowered into a monotone kind of place that, frankly, bores me. No highs, no lows, just a smooth, unruffled… medium. Then it hit me. My life, my age, my very existence has settled into that place so no wonder my voice reflects that.

Thyroidzilla
Thyroidzilla

It’s not my fault, you know. I lay that squarely on the shoulders of my invisible friend, Thyroidzilla. Hashimoto’s has stolen my passion by castrating me emotionally and energetically. And when I do give in and allow myself to get excited about something, I pay for it later with chronic fatigue and depression. Damn it! I’m living my life in a constant state of self-enforced mediocrity. Not my style! No, no, no! No wonder my vocals sound boring. I’M boring! And I’m bored! My voice lacks energy because I lack energy!

But, there I go. That tiny blast of passion will come back on me, I’m sure. How to fight this… Can I fight it? And if I do, can I win? Or will recording 11 songs with concentrated, faked passion wipe me out for weeks, or even months? Hell, can I even access that passion anymore, or is it gone forever? Maybe I’m just too old to sing the songs I’ve written. Maybe I need to start singing songs like “Yesterday When I Was Young”, “When I Was Seventeen”, or “I Did It My Way”.

Kill me now.

When I get to this desperate, silly nadir of my despair I begin to pull the reins in and look for real solutions. I quit blaming and start brainstorming. One thing is obvious to me: I can’t change my vocal range back to what it was when I was in my 20s and 30s, so how do I transform this banal range now that I’m older? Do I even need to? Maybe I just need to write songs that utilize that quality and quit fighting it. And here we are, back to my previous post about not pushing the river.

This isn’t the end of my argument with myself. It’ll be going on for a while, until I not only find the final, lasting solution, but start putting it into action.

It’s allowed.

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At River’s Edge

riverhouse

Well, I made it through another birthday. This year I was running a secret race with myself, thinking (somewhat subconsciously), “Can I still party like used to do?” Turns out I can. Sort of. Certainly not every weekend and probably not even every month, but once or twice a year? Sure. Cookies and milk. It has taken me all weekend to get over it, but you have to allow yourself a little Bachanal every now and then, you know? The ironic thing is, I just don’t enjoy the altered state of consciousness anymore. A lot of people stop partying because they dread the aftermath, but that’s not what’s slowed me down. I just don’t like the feeling anymore. Sure, a giddy little wine buzz is really nice when with friends, but not a full-on party head.

What you have to understand is that I’ve always been a rock and roller. There must be a gene we share that makes us want to push the envelope just as far as we can, because I’ve partied with some of the best and kept up with ease. But those days are over and I just don’t do it anymore. Except for a birthday once a year, and even that’s tame by comparison. I hardly consider a bottle of champagne and a few vapes of medicinal grade weed to be high-caliber partying. Once upon a time I could double or even treble that. And imbibe lots of other stuff, too.

Enough of that, though. I got this turning 64 thing out of my system and that’s what I set out to do. Numbers are just that and how many times one has traveled around the sun doesn’t really mean much, it’s what one learns on the journey. During my most recent orbit I learned that getting older can be exciting and full of self-discovery, and that complaining about it—fighting it—only makes the experience harder. I learned that middle age, menopause and all that is merely a transition, not a permanent state, like puberty, only in reverse. Personally, I feel on the precipice of something wonderful. With my album under way, I’m feeling the itch to get back to my writing, which means Book Three of my rock and roll series will soon be under the pen. I’d started writing it some time ago, but everything got lost somehow and, after writing the first two books, I was tired and just couldn’t start over again. But it’s returning and today I begin reading Books One and Two to get my bearings a little and get reacquainted with my characters.

This isn’t a typical autumn. It hasn’t been a typical year, come to that, and I’m really enjoying it. My morning glories bloomed about three weeks later than usual this year and, due to all the rain we’ve gotten, there is no sign of autumn anywhere in the neighborhood. And it’s still in the high-80s—perfect weather. This means I’m finally able to spend significant time in my garage/studio. Hopefully, this album will be finished and ready to sell by year’s end. We’ll see. If I’ve learned anything really important this year, it’s that all things happen in their own time and that I’ve no need to rush anything. And that’s quite a departure for me, a Type-A personality in my younger days.

Yeah. That’s what I’ve learned this year: Don’t push the river. Even when you host the occasional party.

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Wrecking Ball

Since moving from California to colder parts of the country, I’ve learned to enjoy decorating for the seasons. Not all four seasons, just the cold and warm ones, bi-annually. Now, I’m not going to leave you a blog entry about decorating and all that. but I just wanted to say that, although it’s not really autumn yet, I can feel it coming and I’m ready to cozy things up in preparation for winter. I’d planned to spend my last check on the fabric I really want to make drapes for the living and music rooms, but it got absorbed into daily living expenses. Damn. These lace panels aren’t going to keep out the cold or help with our heating bill. I don’t know what plan B is just yet. Things have been so up in the air lately—for the entire month of August and most of September—that I really don’t know what end is up, anyway.

I like to believe I’m a person who faces down my walls and scales them, but when my energies are depleted, when my illness has me feeling flatlined, and when I’m forced to work under a crushing handicap, I wonder if I’m that resilient anymore. It’s more than disheartening, it’s devastating. There’s so much I still want to do, but I feel time ticking away from me and I’m unable to keep up with it. I can’t tell you how tempted I am to say screw it and just submit to getting old. To plant myself in front of the telly and give in to it and end all this struggle. I keep plugging along, though. I keep fighting, I keep looking for toe holds in this wall that looms above me even when I doubt I’ll ever find any, or that when I find them I’ll be too exhausted to employ them.

I know this sounds depressing and that no one likes to read such things. I’ve seen all the platitudinous memes about complaining less, feeling gratitude more, and living each day to its fullest, but those things are written mostly by people in their twenties and thirties who haven’t grappled with chronic illness, poverty, or a lifetime of PTSD. So shut up. Sometimes we have to complain. Sometimes we have to wonder just when the struggle to survive without fear will end. Sometimes we have to vent, if just to voice it so that we can move on. Sorry if people don’t like being reminded that life isn’t perfect. This current pop psychology thought that we’re supposed to always be grateful, happy, and fulfilled leaves me cold, because the underlying message is, “If you’re not, something’s wrong with you.” There’s nothing wrong with me, I’m a human being. Life is hard sometimes, and sometimes I’m afraid, sad, tired, disappointed, and feeling hopeless. Most of the time I am happy, positive and grateful, but I’m human and sometimes life just plain hurts. I’ve always believed that when we’re tired of something enough, we’ll change it, but what about those of us who are too old or ill? I can’t go out and get a job. All I can do is record and release this album, work hard to sell it, and then book gigs. Right now, I’m just hoping I can finish the album at all, much less try to keep up with the demands of traveling and performing on the weekends.

The months of August and September brought on an onslaught of problems and minor emergencies, from loss of work to a broken toilet, and everything in between. Nothing catastrophic, but things add up. I feel like someone’s been poking me with a stick, relentlessly, and now I’m sore. Things felt different when I woke up today, though. The hot water heater that sprung a leak last Friday is being replaced this afternoon, I’ll be able to get groceries tomorrow, and I’m hoping my energy will return so that I can get back to recording. I only hope Nigel will stop his barking tirades so that I can record. The only thing I regret is that I won’t be able to make my drapes. I was really looking forward to that.

Is this the highest wall I’ve had to face in my life? No, but it’s the highest wall I’ve had to face without the proper climbing tools. I can’t seem to find my grappling hooks or my ropes. Maybe what I need to get is a wrecking ball. Yell “FIRE IN THE HOLE!” and let ‘er swing!

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Bucksnort Retrograde

retrograde

I actually went to Is Mercury Retrograde this morning only to be told that it isn’t and that something else must be bumming me out. I’m not really bummed, although that state of mind has touched me in a way. But I don’t need a planet appearing to retrace its steps to add frustration to my life. Oh, no. That’s something that can hit at anytime. But still, I wondered so I checked it out.

I’d planned to use yesterday to make up for the last couple of weeks that I couldn’t record due to excessive heat (the garage can be like an kiln when the temps climb above 90) and a moderately severe thyroid siege. I even went to bed early so that I could get an early start. Budgeting one’s energy takes a lot of discipline, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

I went out to the garage and set everything up, then I sat down and began tuning my 12-string. Although I keep my guitar in the house, Tuesday night’s monsoon threw it out of whack and it took me the better part of an hour to get it tuned. This normally would take minutes, but it really needs to be set up; the action’s too high and I suspect the truss rod needs adjusting so, although I may have it tuned to one key, say, A, it’s out of tune when I play in any other key. To get a balance between all these keys is no small feat. I’d like to take it into the pros at Daddy-O’s, but I can’t afford that just now. Meantime, I fuss and fight over tuning, there’s a quite a lot of fret buzz, and my fingers are only good for about two hours. And because I have to exert more pressure, the arthritis in my left hand is killing me. Anyway, I got it tuned.

I turned on my Tascam DAW and saw that my batteries had lost their charge. Not surprised, I took them out, plugged them into the charger (it takes two hours to charge them because the DAW takes six batteries and the charger only holds four), and put in the other set of batteries. They too were dead. Wtf? I tried plugging into the AC, but there was that gawdawful AC hum again. Sighing, I brought the batteries and charger into the house. By now, it was after 12. So much for my early start. I dinked around in Netflex for the two-hour charging time, growing more frustrated, and finally got back out to the garage a little after two. I plugged in the battery pack and looked at the meter. Dead. WTF? In the meantime, I’d been having to get after Nigel numerous times to stop barking. This means taking off the headphones, getting up, laying down the guitar, and coming into the house to corral him. I was no longer just frustrated, I was seething. Then it dawned on me. I always forget the little power switch on the battery pack. I switched it on and everything was fine. I’d just wasted two and-a-half hours for absolutely nothing! W.T.A.F?!

I got some work done on “You Leave Me Speechless”. Two guitars and bass. That went pretty smoothly, but when I went to lay down a scratch vocal track, my throat kept getting a tickle and I was forced into take after take. Meanwhile, Nigel kept flying into barking tirades; he was in the house, but my microphone still read him. I tried to lay down the 12-string track of another song,  but by now my fingers were like raw hamburger. I then heard Nigel barking yet again and I realized I was 15 minutes late in feeding him. Headachy and grumpy, I fixed a cup of tea, but accidentally hit the spoon that sits in the sugar bowl and threw sugar all over the counter. When I opened the teabag packet (which is supposed to tear neatly across the top), it peeled off in little pieces. Small shit, but it adds up, you know?

So much for my productive day. I spent the evening wondering if I should even be trying to make an album. What if I just don’t have it anymore? What if I never did? What if I only thought I was all that, musically, and was actually just a mediocre wannabee? Maybe I should just forget it and take up cultivating roses or something. I spent the evening feeling pretty defeated. I went to bed early again and awoke to more piddly setbacks: Facebook isn’t working right, I’ve had to reboot a couple of times, the power went off for a minute and threw me offline. More little shit. Retrograde shit. Because it’s going to be over 90 today, I thought I might stay in the house and lower the action on my guitar myself, but I wonder if that’s a good idea, given the way things are going.

Mercury turns retrograde on the 17th. I can hardly wait.

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