AN AUTUMNAL SUMMATION FROM THE ERA OF MY PROBABLE PEAK
When Time squeezes thin and the things to juggle require Kali-armed concentration, this blog’s front yard goes a bit earthtone, or even sere then dune-rippled and decorated, like a Tex Avery cartoon, with skulls. It happened five or six years ago and it’s happening again. But, well, this isn’t a newspaper… the posts aren’t time-sensitive; there are well over 300 oddities on this curiosity shop’s shelves, maybe thirty per cent of which haven’t been touched in the aforementioned five or six years. That’s the problem with the format: it privileges the current and recent. But most of the opinions I express hereabouts have been with me the entirety of my adult life; only the Fiction is New. To the 22% of you who read Fiction: salut! To the rest of ye: salut! If you’re reading this, we are pals.
I’m busy because the album I’ve been working on for three years (the first year I budgeted, wisely, for the Co-Producer/Engineer and I to develop a good working relationship) is almost done and I’m preparing to perform live. I’ve talked a German semi-celebrity into doing a guest vocal on one of the singles (she may only be a semi-celebrity but she can really, really sing, which gets the balance just right) and I’m slimming to matinee idol proportions to fit into a few nice suits for the gigs. ART!
I’m also writing a few sets of songs for the live show, independent of the album, because some of the best songs of the album are just too elaborately produced to pull off Live, without half-playback. I hate any form of playback. My solution is to write new songs that are just as good as the album tracks but easier to perform in a stripped-down setting. The Live show will not exist to promote the album but will exist adjacent to it. So, that’s one Time-drain the blog must defer to, and the other is, of course, Family, real Family, the Family I had a hand in creating. My Fortress/ Joy/ learning curve/ Koan/ Existential Context and Challenge.
Two days ago, Beloved Wife and I fucked after not being able to for three weeks (summer vacation’s only drawback: no locks on our doors and one never knows when Daughter will burst into the room with a Query or Declaration or a Heartfelt Plea to Kill a Spider) and it was a revelation. Beloved Wife is very fit and goddess-faced, my Sexual Obsession, and sinking into her is like no other sensation (how many other guys out there masturbate to the eyelid cinema images of their own Wives?). And, not to be indelicate (me?), but her flavor…!
I put quite a few years into the search for Her… it’s a numbers game: the trick is to date in droves but only actually fuck very few of the candidates as one narrows the search criteria and the field. Yes, I considered K-the-Buddhist, N-the NGO whizkid, K-the-Lawyer, A-the-Chinese-medicine-savant… but those long years all paid off the day I met Beloved Wife (Dec. 16th, c. 5pm). Whom you marry (and marry you should) is the most important decision you will ever make; your first marriage will probably be a mistake that improves your chances of getting the second attempt just right, as long as you make sure there’s a reasonable gap between the two efforts. Beloved Wife’s first husband was an aristocratic dilettante who snapped her up when she was young (a coltish 19) and kept her on ice for me, miserable but largely safe, for ten years until I waltzed in with my missing puzzle piece: perfect. All of her baggage was keyed to just one silly, Bukowski/Bernhard-reading dick and therefore easy to exorcise.
Beloved Wife and I never (never) argued until we became parents. Parenting is already stressful enough without having carefully-calculated contrarian views to fold in to the situation but there I was, contrarian to my core. Having been tricked into fatherhood at the age of 21 (26 years prior!), I had some experience. Wife, in her inexperience, was more of a traditionalist and the path I suggested was not easy: no baby sitters (ever); no daycare; no crib*. Trust our child with (or foist her upon) anyone but us? Not until the State forced us to, when it came time to send Daughter off to first grade with tearful hugs and her fifth grade education to sustain her. The days of furious rows are over, Beloved Wife agrees that my parenting theories worked, we got through the other side closer than ever and Daughter has her first gallery showing (in a real gallery) early next year, while she’s still just 13. I dabbled in drawing/painting until I was in my twenties and Daughter’s current efforts are beyond any abilities I’ve ever had and I tell her so. I’m unstinting in Praise and Critique, as a Dad. Many times I’ve cautioned Daughter not to be a “Narcissistic asshole, the streets are full of them”. (You’re welcome).
I suggested (nay, fought for) the unusual path, and I was willing to “pay the price” and not only did I change 80% of the diapers, and do 70% of the housework, but Wife and I haven’t been to one movie, or play, or restaurant, or traveled, together, since she was pregnant. We crawled the crawl and walked the talk and never ruined any strangers’ dinners, or plane trip, with squawlling. What movie could possibly be as interesting, and meaningful, to me, as 90 minutes of Daughter’s early childhood? That was something I never once needed a break from: I was shoveling fuel into the furnace of my own private ocean liner and loving it, a song on my lips, my beaming face coal-smudged.
I wouldn’t have traded a moment of those first five years of Family Life for a single board meeting.
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This morning I was helping Wife get her equipment to the curb for the taxi’s arrival: two gigs for her today, one near and one far-ish. Her hair and make-up were done for the gigs but she was in shorts and t-shirt for the (temperate) heat and I watched her standing at the curb, phone to her head, a knockout looking up the cobblestoned road for the taxi, half in a beam of morning sun and I thought: this is probably the peak! This little period. Everything better than it’s ever been, Wife (42) so sweet and delicious, all the sundry yins and yangs in balance. How can things be any better five years from now, when I’m 65? I can and will (knock on woody) be easygoing, engaged and serene at 65 but, reasonably, things can only be, on the whole, not quite good then as they are today, if only by a subtle increment.
By 80 the increment of decline will, surely, be anything but subtle and the spiritual emollients of ART will need to count. Philosophy will become a load-bearing wall. Will there still be Sex? I still wake up with inconvenient, life-affirming, pill-free hard-ons at 60 but 80 will be stretching it (no pun intended)… I may take up drawing/painting at that point and stalk galleries and museums with Wife, our hands clasped behind our backs like Nazi Generals.
The point is to make sure that these looming years are always, at least, good. But “peak Existence” is a very specific locus on the curve and hindsight grants me the ability to calculate that things have never been better, while common sense informs me that I’d better wallow in it while I can. These are the Jobs of Life; this is the Career: not frittering your hours away making some rich psychopath (aka: The Boss) richer while kissing five metric tonnes of unwashed arse along the way. If you can acquire substantial material status-symbols while not sacrificing your non-refundable allotment of Time, and that’s what turns you on: by all means, acquire Shit. But the Shit, in my experience, comes at a heavier price than most Shit-coveters admit to themselves or to their Facebook friends. All smiles in those vacation snaps from Quebec or Cairo, what was your facial expression when you woke up the morning after the return from the trip? Selfie that, Sucker.
How much time, every day, do you spend with your Mate and/or Kid(s)?
Do you get to poop on your own schedule?
Can you ignore the phone/email for hours or days whenever you feel like it?
If you spend more hours per week with the provisional pseudo-family of your colleagues (assembled under the psycho-daddy of The Boss and the psycho-mommies of his Kapos) than with the person who licks your bits, or the Kid(s) you cuddle and feed, I think you should, perhaps, re-think things. Realistically speaking, this message is for people still young enough to choose certain circumstances; I know it’s harder than igneous rock to re-boot one’s settings after college, after mortgage, after marriage, kids, kids’ colleges and their mortgages, et al. If you’ve fused your Life’s rock with the mountain of the Late Capitalist con, it is fucking beyond hard, without resorting to the destructive panic button of the dynamite option, to pull out.
Which is why I never pushed in. Always refused to fuse with it. Never melded.
While college friends were dutifully embarking on sensibly-chosen career paths of stunning grayness, I opted to house-paint, and leave the country, and develop along the iffy and risk-bejeweled path of my obsessions. I was sure of myself in the beginning… sure I would be proven “right”…. and lots less sure in the middle. I wrote a story called “Salter’s Luck” in the early Aughties, about the late-’90s, and the story’s conceit was built around a period I was having, c. 1997/ ’98, during which, like a tight-rope walker who has looked down, I had near-catastrophic doubts and very nearly lost my balance. Every day, that year, as I worked painting houses under my super-Gay, lower-middlebrow, materialistic, techno-loving painting partner and boss, I would walk to his house at the crack of dawn in my free painting cap thinking: “Have I seriously fucked the fuck up?”
Being a high-IQ (high-SAT-scoring), college-age Black (but not “too”) citizen of the ’70s, I was offered every scholarship, and every affirmative action bribe, imaginable. The Affirmative Actions I turned down automatically, on principle, and my Black friends at the college-prep I was attending thought I was insane. Born poor as a beggar’s dog, I appeared to be as naive as some of the upper-middle class kids I eventually went to college with, only they weren’t really naive… they were as materialist, and status-obsessed, as the kids I knew from “The Hood”. They dressed according to the trends, drank according to tradition, snorted because it was the Disco Era and hurled themselves, headlong, into the numbing maelstrom of Late Capitalist, TV-mediated Loathing & Boredom with co-alcoholic partners, alienated trustfund children, dialysis, divorce, death. I am not gloating. I hope I’m not smirking. I am typing in my pajamas.
I’ve always been a quick study. I’ve always known that the only way to live The American Dream is to be born into Wealth and work very, very hard, and cleverly, on one’s own mind in order to avoid the thousand bear traps even (or esp.) congenital wealth includes; but Wealth is the starting point when it comes to the American Dream. Otherwise: forget it. The Life-price is too high. The Years of my Young Man-i-tude were spent living like a Dylan song from the 1960s, not caged in some corporate workhouse or flesheating lawschool. I know more than my fair share of Rich, and Rich-ish, guys, born so or self-made, and I would not trade even a second of my Life for their boats, cars, ATVs, moats, trophies, fat or thin-and-unfaithful wives, Viagra, stressful affairs, yacht-envy, the screaming roller coasters of their investments or their dawning knowledge of the utter futility of their tremendous lawn-care expenses. I envy no one. I owe nothing. I own my little treasures. I squeeze my Wife’s hand to feel centered.
Yesterday, early evening, I was stretched out on the couch in “the music room” (with its piano, guitars, PA equipment, giant wall map and cables), reading a new purchase, gliding through a moderate fast in our very quiet neighborhood. New book acquisitions are rare: my Literary standards are Torquemada-cruel in my 60th. Daughter traipsed in looking like a scriptwriter’s idea of a very cool kid. She is model-pretty (but we don’t discuss that around here) and wears both stylishly bookish glasses and the sartorial merchandise of her favorite band. She sat herself on the edge of the couch, I put the book down, and we spent the next hour, or couple of hours, listening through some of her favorite albums as played through her phone-speakers. A few times she couldn’t help herself and she hopped up off the couch and did a headbanging dance of sheer Snoopy-like exuberance.
Needless to say, it was great couple of hours.
*We put two big futons together, made sure there were no breezes on the bedroom floor and camped out for the first three years of her life. She got her own bed when she asked for one.