Losing 25 novel-pounds this summer, and keeping them off, was as easy as not eating much and walking the daily distances of a madman. Doing anything like a madman is so worryingly easy, isn’t it?
I was initially afraid of losing the weight, especially after hearing from a college friend (professor of a hard science at a hard uni) who, judging from Fecebook, had been slightly hefty and nicely youthful-looking before meeting a younger woman, leaving his wife of 35 years and losing quite a bit of weight. In the picture “Max” proudly attached, to his catching-up email, he looked roughly 80 years old. A nice strong jolt of unspiration at the beginning of the year, eh?
Having some actual North American Slaves in my background, though (not too many and not too few), I’m the recipient of a eugenically-robust gene package… one of the few pluses of descending from such carefully-bred human chattel/cattle. The skin is holding up well: no laugh lines unless I laugh (the frown wrinkles, I’ve had since the age of two, notwithstanding). The skin, the muscle-tone, the eyesight, the hearing, the morning stiffies: thanks, Jesus. Having no top-hair, in exchange, is a small price to pay, although wouldn’t it be convenient if I didn’t have to shave my fucking skull every morning? It’s the partial loss that’s mildly vexing…
(I love the feel of my smooth-shaved skull, especially at skull’s base, where there is none of that unsightly skull fat, nor a buttocky occipital bun such as I see on some men, but when my right temple is pressed against the palm of my right hand, as right elbow is braced on the desk, working out a line, and a fingertip accidentally grazes the former site of my fontanelle, the sensation is deeply jarring, as though a stranger is stroking me; the Angel of Death’s-Antechamber, jumping the gun).
It has come to my attention that many of us are still living stunted, self-conscious and confusing lives…
Last night I had quite a vivid sense of the novelty of Existence. I stretched, cracked my back, took a deep breath, stood in the dark of our music room, while Wife and Daughter slept, thinking how improbable it all is. The improbability of the Universe; the improbability of Life on Earth; the improbability of my particular birth; the improbability of my journey from poverty-stricken birth to poverty-stricken childhood in what has been called one of the most toxic ghettos in North America, to a totally happy and comfortable Bohemian existence, writing and singing and being creative for money (when needed), in a very comfortable married Life, to a semi-famous, much younger, sweet-natured Beauty, in a bourgeois neighborhood of Berlin. Given more capricious and gulping bjs than hot meals, am I.
Of course I’m bragging Harold-Brodkeyishly, obviously, but I’m also marveling. And, just as obviously, I’m not bragging about money (I’m only rich to the extent that I don’t need terribly much money to live extremely well); I’m not bragging about fame (I’m a ghost-hair’s breadth from Anonymity; maybe a little more than 120,000 or 150,000 people have read the material, on my various sites, in the past twelve years: that’s what a cat porn blog gets in a morning)… I’m bragging about a combination of dick size and the fact that I have not been crushed. I have not been erased. I have not obeyed, I have not conformed, I have not spiraled humbly down the greasy funnel into that fermenting vat under the Normative Delusion Device of this Empire. I could croon a version of the Sid V. cover of “I Did It My Way,” now, but that song makes its argument in the Past Tense. Which won’t do.
I’m telling you: assert yourself.
Assert Existence. Assert it NOW. Do not be Obedient, do not be Appropriate, do not spiral humbly down the funnel. Be kind as you can, sure, but ASSERT your Relish in the sensations of the astounding Improbability that you Actually Exist At All. Don’t be a sheepish Pre-Ghost. Don’t be one of those sheepish pre-ghosting Parrots in the Sad Dad Zoo.
I’m not saying you should join the day-glo queue of Yankee-Style Delusionals; I’m not saying you should leave your Wife of 35 years for a Grad Student and start “working out” until your skin hangs in Hiroshima-sheets from your wizened frame with the belief that a “cocky smile” will fool anyone. I’m not saying to become The World’s Oldest Stripper. I’m saying: you can arrive at the Good Place of Self-Assertion by careful thought and crafty action; you can do it with Zen fluidity, if patient. You can find the core YOU in that humid cloud of social media pseudo-YOUs and maximize it as a hot-to-the-touch, and very heavy, presence to be reckoned with… and after having done that: BEGIN.
What are you good at? What have you been sort of, or pretty, good at for most of your Life? Something you Loved half-assedly. I’m saying Love it Seriously instead and Get better at it. BEGIN. (To paraphrase another Steve: Silence, Exile, Cunning and Longevity.) Age is an opportunity. The young may sneer; they may mock: they may jeer from their spots on the old conveyor belt rolling them right toward the very same furnace of Age but how does that saying go…?
The dogs bark and the caravan moves on! Begin!
I have this coat, a three-quarters length leather coat, a narrow-waisted leather coat from the 1950s, a gift from my former father-in-law (and oy that first marriage: a still-smoldering source of debauched and unhinged writing-material); I had to have its seams strengthened by a Turkish seamstress a few years ago: it is a N*zi coat, it’s that kind of design, vintage, with wide lapels forming the lower sweep of a high leather collar when I bundle up in it. I can wear it buttoned shut, now, and it’s the magic charm or Familiar (in metaphysical terms) at the core of the Music I’m now doing. The music which is the Glorious Fuck You to anyone who thinks I can’t do it. Picture me in the perfect irony of my N*zi talisman, exogamy’s heir, genes a glorious mish mash, big N*gger cock in my pants, cinnamon hand on the mic, belting out my weirdass songs. What a tableaux! Jarry’s Ubu, New: sleeker, better, saner, Black! Intentionally funny! I escaped from the Plantation to sing you an Art Song!
I couldn’t do it when I was young, in the 1980s, because: yeah: Racism.
Not the “mean” kind. Not the Mississippi kind. I mean the friendly shit; the huggy hopey psycho-toxin they douse the daycare walls with: Liberals loudly insinuating what boxes I really must tick to be (gag) “authentic”. If I’d have worn my stripey prison pajamas and banged the blues on a busted ukulele with a fraying noose around my neck, feigning blindness: maybe I could have had a music career in the 1980s.
I sounded like a cross between Oingo Boingo, David Bowie, Talking Heads and Lene Lovich in 1985 (not nearly as good or slick, of course, but, fuckit: I was very young and very pretty, which are supposed to be the coins of the realm, in Pop). I wanted to be The Psychedelic Furs and I dreamed of female sax players but what I was supposed to sound like was Alexander O’Neil… then, Keith Sweat… then (much later) Snoop Dawgg. Not even remotely. In 1987 I had professional, coke-addicted management, a (coke-) bungled industry showcase or two. My management knew I was something, but what? They suspected they must be able to make money off me, in some way, but how? Even I didn’t know. A powerful, doe-eyed Art World executive, with a cushy sinecure at a national bank and a stupendous bust, was my sugar-mama… that was all I knew about “money for nothing” at the time. Then I fled the country. I fled so I could, one day, begin to think about the moment I might BEGIN.
I wanted to do music as ART and I did not know how.
I was in London for the long hot summer of the break-beat Revolution of 1990 but I wasn’t nearly cool enough, or hip enough, to partake; I was still reactively corny from having struggled against the Midwest’s New Wave Corn (embodied by The Artist Formerly Known as Breathing: do you not get how State Fair that act was, essentially?). Then I was in Europe for the deadly Techno-Pop plague of the ’90s. Awful. I was a session singer on musical productions I still can’t hear, or think of, without rippling with jagged waves of Nausea.
Well, I lived, I fucked Great Beauties an awful lot, I saw Weird Things, escaped various traps by gnawing off a laundry list of limbs. When some of the smoke cleared, in the early 2000s, two miraculous things had happened: A) I began to earn good money doing shitty commercial music and B) I began to prepare to learn how to actually Write.
I went from being able to craft glib, facile doo-dads of Lit, at will, to being able to do something a little better than that (bearing in mind that glib, facile Litty Doo-Dads are what the Big Imprints are in the business of selling). Twenty years of relentless tree-wasting… remember when you used to print everything out, on machines that took all night and sounded like logging equipment?… and I can now Write. I suppose I’ve been able to really (really) do it for about… seven?… years now.
Maybe five, to be honest.
Or, uh… 18 months.. ?
If you’re raised American, you are raised to think that you do such a thing for money. You can, certainly, but Writing for money means (especially now) being Obedient and Appropriate with those glib, facile lit doo-dads and if you are Intelligent enough to Write Well, you are too Intelligent to not have Inappropriate Thoughts; too intelligent to not want and need to express Taboo Concepts that you can only express at the risk of being Banished, which sounds like Hell. Instead of doing what I do, with utter Freedom, which is unadulterated Heaven. The hum of a low-intensity (but never entirely ebbing) orgasm attends every trembling séance at these keys. Even now: I am purring. I’m supposed to be moaning and whining but I am purring.
And now I’m doing The Music, and getting The Recordings (and not with i-phone apps; in a proper studio with a proper engineer and genius musicians and it is not a cheap process) that I wanted 35 years ago, when I was so young and stupid that I let the Gatekeepers confuse and discourage me.
The World is still Racist/ Sexist/ Age-ist but in a much more postmod and entropic way. And I am therefore rushing the gate (running like I do, with Daughter, most every morning as we hustle to make the bus to her school), at 60, feeling strong as ever, my three-quarters-length vintage N*zi coat flapping, my hard head shining, faithful dick still hard in the old black jeans and a look on my face like…
Love? War? Dasein? Smugness? Epiphany? A Sneeze?
PS To X: I know you’re reading this and, yes, you know that I wrote it for you: BEGIN.