I am not afraid to admit that spaghetti is one of my favorite foods, and that in order to eat it I do not twirl the pasta on a spoon, but rather cut it with fork and knife.
I am not afraid to admit that I don’t get enough sleep.
I am not afraid to admit that I don’t mind not getting enough sleep, at least not yet.
I am not afraid to admit that even though I love books more than a lot of things and that I also seriously love most movie adaptations of books.
I am not afraid to admit that I’m a big fan of John Mayer even though many John Mayer fans preface their explanation of fandom by saying they prefer the John Mayer Trio (which is noticeably groovier and maybe more musically mature) than his solo work. Truth is, I am not afraid to admit that I like solo songs like “Why Georgia” and “In Repair” and “New Deep” and “Clarity” and “The Heart of Life” just as much as Trio songs like “Another Kind of Green” and “Gravity.”
I am not afraid to admit that I’m colorblind but still don’t know which kind, exactly, because either I don’t care that much or I have a bad memory.
I am not afraid to admit that I don’t have a bad memory.
I am not afraid to admit that out of all the stuff of the world, I am most afraid of bees.
I am not afraid to admit that I once spent over one hundred dollars on Phish CDs at Newbury Comics, and that the look on the cashier’s face will forever make me laugh.
I am not afraid to admit that I like the Rolling Stones more than I like The Beatles.
I am not afraid to admit when I’m afraid, which actually does make it easier to sleep at night even though I really do get very little.
Like a lot of people I would love for others to read my writing one day.
It’s one of those dreams that you have in kindergarten but never really let leave your head, even after you’ve woken up.
(No doubt, between kindergarten and now, there’s been a lot of waking up.)
Barnes and Nobles is in slow decline, and now it’s put a timeline on its official ending.
I’m sad because I like books a lot, and even though I’ve picked up most of mine from thrift stores, used bookstores, and library sales, I know that retail stores are extremely important.
Retail stores are important because they help major publishers survive.
Retailers keep major titles relevant, which keeps reading relevant, which allows writing to become something more than a hobby.
But even when the last brick-and-mortar store is cleared out, and after the empty bookcases are sold to the highest bidder, and after there’s this thing I still don’t understand called liquidation, there were still be a need for content. There will still be emotions and experiences and questions and technology and maybe an answer or two, so I’m not really discouraged. I’m more excited to see what writing turns into, and how writers continue to pump out their work. I’m excited to keep dreaming, even while awake, and I like to think that you are too. I like to think that we are all being extremely brave.
Right now I’m not writing because I’m procrastinating. I’m cleaning up my iTunes, and I’m watching videos of bands playing songs on YouTube, and I’m reading different books so that I can get lost in a certain bend of language that only helps, which is what I’m telling myself. And I’m telling myself that after the next book I’ll be able to somehow write better. It’s probably not true, but maybe. Today I’ve written a page and in two weeks time I want to write at least 50 more, because I’m not only a procrastinator, but a procrastinator with dreams. Sometimes when I can’t sleep I type out a line of dialogue on my phone and save it as a draft. Sometimes I wake up out of nowhere and do the same thing. Sometimes I’m too lazy to lift a finger, and then I forget. A friend asked me what I like most about Boston and I thought about how small it is. I like that it’s small even though it’s a city. A really big city. So big that there are 21 neighborhoods and 53 zip codes. But still, it’s small. Big enough to get lost, small enough to find your way. And I like that. I do. Maybe I wouldn’t if I actually lived there, and not just near it, but what do I like most? I couldn’t say. I’m not sure I could say what I like most about anything. Except chocolate. What I like most about chocolate is that it tastes like chocolate. Does that count? In what I wrote today, there’s an old man who’s falling apart, and he’s talking to an old woman who says he isn’t. Talking about his heart, he says, “It has broken into one million pieces.” The woman, whose hair is so long that it brushes the ground, tells him he’s wrong. She says he’s the one that’s broke into one million pieces, not his heart. Despite what he might think, or even feel, it’s whole. It’s true: it’s all right there.
When I was small I kept a binder full of all the concerts I went to. I would fill each page with set lists, pictures, articles, reviews from the next day’s paper, those kinds of things. I would be proud to go to a concert, because I would save money for tickets after working at a gas station/convenience store down the street and after fishing stray golf balls out of the marshes of a course built around cranberry bogs and after bussing tables at a restaurant overlooking a harbor. Years after I stopped working at the convenience store, and years before the restaurant, I had stopped maintaining the binder. I had stopped keeping track. Nevertheless, I’ve seen Eric Clapton and Jason Mraz and Sheryl Crow and Radiohead. I’ve seen the Counting Crows and Sigur Ros and Rufus Wainwright and Augustana. Mike Doughty and the John Butler Trio and Tegan and Sara. Bon Iver. G. Love and Special Sauce. Tom Petty. More. And of course, countless jammers like the Adam Ezra Group and so many people like Jason Anderson who aren’t headliners but who are amazing.
Conor Oberst will be in town soon.
And Stephen Kellogg.
And Band of Horses.
And Grace Potter.
And I hope I get to at least one of them. I really do. To see the lights behind their faces and to hear their pulse and to say to myself, Wow, what they’re doing is kind of magic. I’ll say, There’s no way they can be lip-syncing, right? And then, finally, when we’re singing along like we’re lost in that place between our stomachs and our hearts, and when our voices are rough and wrecked, and when we’re tired but not, I’ll think, These guys are good.
We made a list of things we want to do while we can. It’s not really a bucket list but more of just a list. Someone wanted to add “build a corn maze” and we had to explain that the list had to be realistic, even though that might be a lot to ask. So what we do is each Thursday night, when it’s late, we go to a nearby chapel because it’s empty and because we can. We sit above the floor and beneath the ceiling and we play songs like “Bleeding Love” and “Hiding My Heart” and “Syrup & Honey” because they used to be hits and because we still think of them that way. I play the guitar and when I go out of tune I say I’m sorry but they don’t hear me because they’re singing and their voices rattle through their stomachs and into mine and it feels like music and it feels like walking a highway and like a new pair of hands and you’re just beginning to learn how to touch.
Do you remember the first music you heard? I’m not sure I do. It could have been Hootie and the Blowfish or R.E.M. or James Taylor. Or maybe it was Billy Joel. What I know for sure is that the first song I heard live was “Let it Rain.” After that concert, I went home and listened to everything Eric Clapton. I researched his life like it had never been researched. Something about the show had been that good. I remember how he wasn’t too animated, how he just stood in front of the microphone and played. I remember how his band’s sound was at once clean and dirty. I remember his voice, how he would sometimes growl in a way that wasn’t scary. I remember how the man standing in back of me pointed at Eric Clapton’s drummer and exclaimed that he looked exactly like George Clooney. I remember that the drummer looked nothing like George Clooney. In fact, the drummer was Steve Gadd. And the keyboardist was David Sanchez. And the bassist was Nathan East. And the rhythm guitarist was Andy Fairweather-Low. I am listing these names from memory. They might mean nothing to you, as they are not household. They are great musicians, but I only know them because I was that obsessed. The pianist was someone named Chris Stainton, who had long wispy hair and a withered face. The man behind me said he looked like the Crypt Keeper. He was kind of right.
Yesterday I went to Best Buy because my brother wanted new speakers. While he was off choosing the right system, I went to the aisle with headphones in it and made a point of trying on every pair. I need something new. I usually buy flimsy ones that are good but just barely. They don’t last long, and I listen to a lot of music. A lot. Which is why I dream of fancy hardware, like these.
The world of audio equipment is interesting. If something’s over $100 it’s either not worth it at all or else worth everything. There’s no in between. And every pair comes with a demo. If you put one on and press a button then a song plays and there’s either a lot of bass or crisp vocals or an even keel. You can feel the noise in the deepest parts of your ears. But the most prominent display belongs to headphones that don’t want you to hear anything at all, not anything else at least, as the noise reduction demo features an external sound machine that continually blares what must be a mack truck digging into gravel and then a voice says something like, “Now take off your headphones and listen to the difference.” You do as the voice says and it still sounds like a mack truck digging into gravel. When the noise finally stops, and when you put the headphones back on, it all sounds like the outside of an airplane. And you feel overwhelmingly self-conscious. And you wonder if anyone else feels that way or if it’s just you. After all, the rest of the store is milling and churning and you’re standing there trying on headsets that will help to drown it out. You wonder if the whole thing is wrong, if there should be a store dedicated to headphones and nothing else, a place that people can visit when they don’t know where else to go. Doesn’t that seem like it could work?
Anyways, the last pair of headphones I tried was gold. I didn’t buy them because I didn’t have the money, not yet. I put them over my head and on came a song I hadn’t heard before. When it ended, I pushed the play button again. And then again. If my brother hadn’t found me, and if he hadn’t signaled that it was time to leave, and if he wasn’t carrying a new speaker system in his arms like a victory, then I might have stayed there all night, listening and listening. The same song. Yes, the same song.
It was that good.