The Journey Out

creative freedom

I wasn’t a particularly social kid. I had one or two good friends, but even they didn’t get a lot of my time. I spent “off” time in my room playing records, reading and drawing and, when in my teens, I added writing music, stories and letters to that list. I was social only on occasion and I had no trouble declining invitations to leave my private world. I never was what people call popular, either, and that was fine. When I got into my late 20s and early 30s, though, I suddenly became popular and acquired a large circle of casual friends, but I still maintained only two or three close friendships with people I’d known since childhood.

Myers-Briggs tells me I’m an Extroverted Introvert, which explains everything. I love people, but in small doses, and even at the peak of my long period of extroversion (which lasted nearly three decades) I was happiest when the party was over and I could spend the week in seclusion recharging my battery. I almost forgot that I’m actually a loner and that I need a lot of alone time. Recently, this has all come back to me and my Facebook hiatus is reuniting me with a part of myself that has been neglected for far too long. Even the thought of hosting an occasional party doesn’t excite me like it used to do. Anymore, it just means a week of preparation, a week of cleanup, and a month of Hashimoto’s-induced fatigue.

When we’re young we crave social interaction with a lot of variety, which is only natural given our biological imperative to procreate the species. We need lots of candidates to choose from and a lot of support, but now that that’s all over for me, the thought of having fewer casual friends is more a relief than anything else. Unfortunately, every single one of my lifelong friends are gone now, which leaves me no one to call when the rare moment of loneliness hits. But this is what my marriage fulfills, and is supposed to fulfill. I have a best friend in Nettl and the fact that we’ve been together for 16 years is no small consideration. I’m blessed and grateful that she fills the void in me that my old friends left. Maybe not 100%—there are just some things JP Deni supplied that no one else ever will, but then again, Deni didn’t fulfill every emotional need that Nettl does. With childhood friends it really comes down to shared memories of more innocent, carefree times, and life has a way of moving you along, especially when you’re the last living survivor.

Photo by Joana Kruse

Twice now I’ve watched a circle of casual friends make a mass exodus from my life. Different people, of course, but the same phenomenon. The first group were hangers on who anticipated my impending “fame and fortune” and wanted to be along for the ride. When an important contract fell through they left en masse within a matter of days. This time it’s harder to name and harder to stomach. It’s ugly and based in lies and betrayal, a refusal to communicate, and probably a lot of misunderstanding. Good riddance to both groups. When the first group left I was elevated to the highest creative period my life has known. I’m anticipating even better things this time around because the pain is much greater. (I’m a big believer in relativity.) In both cases, the pain is a blessing in disguise and the “pony under the pile” is that I have more emotional space to do the things that are really important to me.

I’m calling it creative freedom.

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Stools, Straps & Jeans

Performing two one-hour assemblies at Adolfo Camarillo High School in early 1972.

I’ve always used a four-legged stool onstage. Well, there was that time I was one of the opening acts for the early Doobie Brothers. I swore I’d never perform standing up ever again if I could help it. My knees shook so much, I wasn’t sure I was going to remain upright, which distracted me from really getting into the music like I wanted and needed to do. Lucky for me, in the 1960s and ’70s most folk singers sat down to perform. Hell, Donovan even sat on Persian carpets and floor cushions and looked so damned cool.

As I get myself ready to join the house concert circuit later this year, I’m using one of these stools just as I did before. Being able to have my left foot planted on the floor helps me to support my upper body, including my lungs and diaphragm. It also makes me feel more solid, more grounded, and will keep me from keeling over if the dreaded Stagefrightzilla shows up unannounced and uninvited.

The problem is, where once upon a time I could sit for hours on a wooden stool, these days my bum and lower back start hurting after only an hour. No big deal. I’ll just pad the seat. The fun of this will be shopping for just the right fabric. Since it will be part of my performance gear, I want it to look cool, but not too contrived. Cats? No. Dogs? No. Flowers? Definitely not. Guitars? Too obvious. Paisleys would be cool, or maybe some other Indian fabric.

JP Deni in 1969

I won’t be using a guitar strap because I no longer see the need for one. The one in the picture was handmade and embroidered for me by my old sidekick, the late, great JP Deni. I wish I still had it. Now that she’s gone, I really regret it being lost in The Big Dump of 2001. Actually, I’d go back to using a strap if my talented son, Micah, made one for me. He makes beautiful custom straps professionally.

Man, I wish I still had those flared two-tone jeans.

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