Friday, March 21, 2008

Sunset’s just my light bulb burning out

*before I return to my foray with rockstars... a bit about sleep.

It’s amazing that I continue to sleep the way I do. I’m not saying I’m a ‘heavy’ sleeper, because sounds and such wake me all the time; it is the act of getting to sleep that I can perform with superhuman abilities. When asked what my superpower would be if I were ever granted superhero status, I often reply “the ability to sleep soundly whenever I want”. I say this because I already have this ability – so it’s easy to imagine. And I’m attracted to the idea of dressing as a normal ‘metrosexual’ New York man during the day, but ducking into phone booths (as if they still existed) to change into flannel pajamas and a fleece throw-blanket cape.

I admit to the fear of becoming a victim of comfort – cerebrally concocting a reality in which I’m protected from loses, and thus can sleep soundly. Where each day starts anew; all worries and sins of yesterday (or yesteryear) are absolved. Where aspect of life that should prevent me from sleeping at night (thoughts of lost loved ones, people homeless, tired and poor, past mistakes and pains, worry about the state of the planet, the economy, the country) are dead-bolted out. For the most part I have to be REALLY personally unnerved to lose sleep. I have lost sleep over the last few months. Life changes and uncertain outcomes of life decisions have put pits in my stomach, and peas under my mattress. Luckily these are subsiding and sleep is once again returning.

Sleeping in the city even has become a relative piece of cake. It wasn’t easy. NYC has an amazing ability to fool people into believing that man creates time, temperature, and seasons. That man allows the sun to fuel us during the day and then gladly contracts ConEd to provide energy at night… for a price. Singer/songwriter Ryan Adams spent a lot of time in NYC and put it well when he penned, “sunsets just my light bulb burning out”. Regardless, please don’t fret too much about me not sleeping well these days. Despite the screaming children, banging trashcan lids, neurotic Dominicans with whistles, drunks with bottles, loud buses, taxis, rats, cats, dogs and tamale vendors, I still manage to sleep fairly well.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tin-man Hula dancer

Thursday, I conned some dear friends of mine into going with me to a concert. The concert was in historic Webster Hall in the Lower East Side of New York City. It is one of these ancient places in NYC that remains much the same as it was a hundred ears ago; only the crowds have changed. It is from a different era: the grand, over-mirrored, multi-floored structure clearly once housed gala balls, elaborate receptions and political banquets in its heyday. It now hosts concerts of all sorts, as well as hip-hop dance nights and a ghoulish annual Halloween party (although I’m sure ghosts from bygone days still roam the halls fortnightly in pressed black tuxedoes and silk ballroom gowns). Thursday was a night for a few ghosts of my own less-than-rowdy college days. We were there to see a band that I’d “grown-up” with in Stillwater: Cross Canadian Ragweed. A mediocre (or at least used to be mediocre) Red Dirt band that I can say with confidence composed the soundtrack of my life at OSU and the relations thereof. From ‘lake tunes’ to ‘break-up tunes’ to ‘make-up tunes’ to ‘hook-up tunes’ to ‘driving-too-fast-down-a-dirt-road tunes’ – this band provided them all.

My friends had never heard CCR as they are all from other parts of the country and the band isn’t well known outside of Southern Plains. They acquiesced, as they too often do, to join me based on my word that they would have a good time. We began the evening with some burgers and beers (a fitting beginning to an evening of Red Dirt), and then progressed to a rather empty hall. I was upset until I realized that less people would provide fewer impediments to the necessary lubricant for the evening: whisky. It wasn’t long before one Black Label led to another. Nervous anticipation of the flood of memories was telling me that I clearly needed to be loose enough to take it with grace. CCR began to play a new tune of theirs which eerily nags at my current placement as if they are trying to desperately hold onto their niche in the soundtrack writing business: ‘New York City Girl’.

As often happens when I’m exposed to Red Dirt Country (or any Country music for that matter), my feet began to stomp as I swayed on the 2 and 4 (surely this is a combination of conditioning from nine years in marching band and too many nights spent dancing two-step at the Tumble Weed Boot-Scoot’n Saloon during my Stillwater days). My hips began to rhythmical follow a rough figure-eight pattern, somewhat like a Tin-man Hula dancer. As the whole of my body was driven by the stimulus in my ears, and fueled by the memories of my past, my hind-quarters began to protrude and my shoulder shrugged slightly (at this time many unqualified observers describe me as something of the chicken-dance aficionado). I assure you chicken-dance this is not. Such was my posture for most of the evening – when I wasn’t running to the bar to re-lubricate with my ‘pals’ Johnny or Jim (No Jamey for me - too close to the Ides).

We had staked out a comfortable spot in the middle of the ballroom. But this wasn’t going to be good enough for me; I moved to the very front. My neck was wrenched and the sound quality was awful, but I needed the connection with the band. I wanted to look into the eyes of men with whom I shared a common adolescence. Men that had driven the same streets of Stillwater, who had felt love and broken hearts in that town, who had closed down the same bars as I when loneliness needed one more drink. I also wanted them to know that I supported them fully as a brother from the same distant place and culture. Our paths to Webster Hall could not have been more different if you’d tasked a child with a crayon to plan them. But we had started in the same place, and managed to rendezvous for that evening – and I wanted them to know that that wasn’t trivial to me. We had all worked hard, and I was enjoying what they were providing; they needed to know. I spent the remainder of the concert poised there at the front, singing and shaking my hind-quarters surrounded by strangers doing the same. I did momentarily run down to the coat-check to shed my striped blazer (no need for style at this point), don my trucker hat and grab a folded-up Oklahoma flag that I wanted to give as a thanks to the ‘Boys from Oklahoma’. I gave the flag to the guitar tech and reassumed my posted at the front of the now crowded ballroom. Grady Cross acknowledged my now-exposed Mike McClure Band T-shirt with a swipe across his chest, a nod and a smile. The remainder of the show was packed with classics from my years in Stillwater. I reveled. Finally the show was over. I excitedly found my friends who had managed to enjoy themselves despite my absence.

We stuck around for the following act, Cowboy Mouth. It was a riot, but I wanted to find CCR and hang out. I struck up a conversation with the merchandizing guy, Nathan, on the return leg of a restroom trip. He went to high school in Dewey, OK, so it was easy enough to make a connection and get some information from him, “The band is hanging out and having a few bears at the ‘Thursday Scholar’ around the corner”. Uncertain of the name I replied, “The Thursday Scholar?” He nodded. I was off. I grabbed my friends, asking in the hustle if they knew where the ‘Thursday Scholar’ was. The more knowledgeable of the friends howled, “The Thursday scholar?” “Yes, do you know it?” I replied. She erupted in laughter!! “I believe you mean the ‘Thirsty Scholar’” she chuckled. Certainly chagrinned, but firmly undeterred, we set-out for a “scholarly” place to imbibe with rock stars.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Total Recall - a preface

Trying to recall and document memories that are worth recalling and documenting is a valiant but nearly futile task. Unfortunately, the recall of these memories is too often inadequate to actually fuel a worthy documentation of the excitement felt when having an experience worth documentation. I suppose it can be likened to describe eating a perfect steak. Writing or speaking of a perfect steak becomes a barrage of half-cocked adjectives and superlatives (e.g., juicy, tender, crispy, sultry, etc.). Once items pass the bucal cavity they will never taste the same again, and the future recall of the taste, and enjoyment thereof, could never rival that of the moment. Such is the case with memories… especially good ones. The main character in Wallace Stegner’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel ‘The Angel of Repose’ describes this as a “Doppler effect”. He views it as a train or car driving by us, or through us, that can never be experienced the same way leaving as it is approach. We often expect objectivity when we know very well that experiences that are worth remembering, moreover documenting, will likely change us and therefore cannot be viewed from the point at which we experienced them. However, document we must. Express I must, and express I will.