Where Are You Now?

“Where are you now? As I’m swimming through this stereo, I’m writing you a symphony of sound.” ~Jack’s Mannequin [“The Mixed Tape”]

no_looking_backDo you ever wonder where they are? I mean all the people you’ve left behind, or the ones who’ve left you behind? I sometimes do. In the darkest shadows of the night, when I should just move on, I can’t seem to do it, because they come to me, like ghosts, vestiges of the persons they were when I knew them, when we were new and unblemished. But this distance, it blemishes them, it stains them with broad brush strokes that I wish I could unsee.

And I guess you can say I’ve been stained too, that I am not the same person I was either, that some of that is my own fault, or even if it isn’t, it’s fair to say me feeling that way makes it so. It’s even funny in a way because of all the things I could regret in life, some of the biggest regrets are the ones I don’t even remember, because something, in some way, alienated people from me. I shouldn’t even care. I should say that it’s their loss, but I somehow can’t bring myself to look at things that way. Maybe I’m a masochist.

I hear songs that we shared and I think of them. I listen to the melody and I can’t help but relive the memories that we still share, except now separately. When my phone vibrates I still think on some level that it might be them, that they might be texting to make amends, or at least to explain. Because the lack of an explanation is what makes it all so… incomplete. The lack of an explanation is the difference between the shadowed nights with ghosts and a good night’s sleep. When my phone vibrates I keep hoping that it’s the one line that will bring me closure.

“It was never you; it was all me.”

“It just wasn’t the right time for me, emotionally.”

“You never listened to me, and I couldn’t deal with it anymore.”

I firmly believe that some people are only in our lives for an age to teach us lessons, to be there for that moment, to be a brief impetus in our lives, and that these people inevitably move on. But I can’t bring myself to think when the time’s up that only one of us would know about it. Maybe I’m just not the kind of person who can move on to the next thing if something is left unsaid, even if I know the time has come to separate from whatever I’ve had with someone else.

Now that I’m older I’ve taken to reminiscing an awful lot. I find myself seeing time ago through some colored lenses, letting the blacks, whites, and grays blend together to form a kind of muted rainbow. I find that I think back a lot less, but that when I do it’s for those people I really thought would be around my life forever, either because they said they would or because, to me, it was merely understood. And for those ghosts I can’t help but hear specific songs and get brought back, every single time.

In spite of myself.


Hopeful For A Dry Season

“Casual match in a very dry field. What could be the season’s yield?” ~Suzanne Vega

heavy_rain_001The rain is coming down. First fast. Then furious. Then so blindingly swift it ceases to be rain, but instead becomes a curtain of water shielding me from the outside world. I don’t reach out to touch it because I don’t like being wet. I don’t like the knowledge that comes with feeling wet more often than not. And even though I know when it’s coming nothing ever makes it any better.

There is this Enya album called A Day Without Rain, and it brings me back to Ireland every single time I play it, back to the lush verdant green fields, and the endless days of rain keeping them that way. I guess it’s a tradeoff then, when I think about it, how the brilliant green doesn’t come without the steady downpour. But that day without rain, it’s precious. It gives us a chance to actually enjoy the brilliant green for what it is, not for how it’s obscured in the downpour.

I called my dad this week. That in and of itself doesn’t really qualify as news, except that it’s the first time I’ve spoken with him since his stroke, which was two months ago. We fell back into those patterns, not unlike riding a bike. We pedal one foot at a time, the rotation moving us forward in incremental steps, but we never truly go forward. We just go around in circles because that is our dynamic. It has always been our dynamic. I don’t know if I expected it to be different since his own life-altering experience.

a-father-is-a-man__quotes-by-frank-a-clark-16Strike that. I did expect it to be different and I was absolutely devastated when it was the same. Something about arriving back in the same place we’ve been so often before made my soul ache, made my spirit break into a million disparate pieces. If hope truly is the thing with feathers, then the conversation grounded me in a way that few things ever have in my life. It was like I was waiting, looking up at the sky, hoping it would stay dry, but like clockwork the clouds came and unleashed the rain. Continue reading “Hopeful For A Dry Season”

This Malaise

20170114_081817.jpgSome days truly are better than others, in every way, shape, and form. It’s like I wake up on the “off” days and it hits me like a slap in the face, this feeling of despair and worthlessness, as if whatever I’m going to do on this day won’t matter. It’s like knowing I’m going to be going through the motions, knowing that I will have to paste a fake smile on my face and just not wanting to deal with any of it. Some days I really do wish I could go back to bed and wake up again when the day is done, fingers crossed that the next one won’t start the exact same way.

Maybe it starts with my subconscious, like most things. Perhaps these days begin so poorly because of the fugue nature of my dream state. I toss and turn in the night, blindly searching for some comfort, my tears soaking the pillow and my conscious self unaware of the silent struggle within. It is during these mornings that I feel most mortal, that I am reminded of the finite nature of this life, and I’m not even sure why. It might be my brain’s wake up call for my body to get it together, to physically climb up from the doldrums and to bring my mind along with it.

Or it could just be a depressive state that I don’t want to label, because we all know that labels stick. I don’t want these mornings to stick. I don’t want these days to stick. I feel so helpless and life seems so hopeless when I am like this, and I have to write but nothing positive comes out. It’s like my brain goes down a path that can’t be short circuited, that has to run its course, and I go along for the ride, a straitjacketed mess, with absolutely no control over anything.

I know when I was younger I would rely on others, like my mother and my sister, to save me from myself, to protect my fragile self from having these days spiral down into oblivion. And these days I count on my children to remind me that life is not hopeless, that I am not helpless. Instead of pasting a smile on my face, when I am with them I can still feel my authentic self despite the devastating nature of these thoughts. But I know that’s not healthy, that I should be able to deal with it myself, to develop some mechanisms that will get me over this malaise.

I just don’t know where to start.


Let’s Hurt Tonight

“Oh, I know that this love is pain, but we can’t cut it from out these veins, no.” ~OneRepublic

im-just-trying-to-avoid-being-hurt-again-quote-1I’m in pain. I guess it’s time I admit that to myself after all this time. Because I’ve been in pain for a very long time. Because I channel it differently, though, it wouldn’t have been easy for you to see it. So I don’t blame you for not noticing. I blame me for being that good of an actor. But every actor has to leave the stage at some point, and this is my time. Because I’m in pain, and I need another outlet.

My father had a stroke a few days ago, and the news of it hit me like a sledgehammer, but that is not the pain I spoke of before. That pain came a long time ago, when he disappeared from my life. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not exclusively blaming him — far from it. I’m taking responsibility for my own part after the fact. It cut me to the very core when he left, when he took off, first emotionally, and then physically. But I smiled. I said I would see him soon, that I would visit often, and he said the same.

That didn’t happen, for many reasons. Then my life happened. It exploded into many different offshoots, and I was able to bury myself in all of that, to hold my breath while he did whatever he was doing. I don’t think any of it would have mattered, because it was obvious he too had moved on, that the mantle of father was a coat he wore twice a year. It was like the act of moving on physically was the dividing line. There were no longer any excuses to pretend a relationship.

And I hurt. I hurt because I depended on him to make those things right, because to me it was a two-person effort and my mother was straining at the seams doing everything for us, as she had always done. I hurt because it seemed like no matter how many times I called him, how many plans he made for coming up, that nothing mattered. Because there were always the excuses, the other things that materialized that were more important than me, that were more important than us.

All this while I burned inside. Not a white hot anger, but a slow burn, a crackling and withering heat that turned that part of my heart to ashes.

“I know you’re feeling insane. Tell me something that I can explain.”

What hurt the most were all the promises. Perhaps if he had just left it alone, if he had allowed me to stop missing him the wound would have been cauterized, cut off from that part of me that mattered. But he couldn’t bring himself to go that way, to allow me to stop hoping, which was so much worse. And I guess I was always a glutton for punishment because I would put my misplaced faith in him time and again. I opened the door time and again, just to have it closed once more in my face.

So this stroke, the call that told me the news, it hit me just as hard as if I had seen him yesterday. Because even now I can’t close off that part of myself. Even now I see a reunion where he will realize how much he misses me, where he will become that perfect father I always wanted him to be, or at least a reasonable facsimile of such. Even now I have these pie in the sky ideas of what my father should be and could be, those old wounds once scabbed over bleeding again.

992ccde83c279b535e65281153600837Someone asked me how I feel, and the word that keeps coming back to me is confused. I guess I didn’t realize how much I still want those things, how much I felt I had closed myself off but I really hadn’t. When I thought in that moment that he could have died, that he could still die, it hit me hard like concrete. And this pain, I realize it will always be with me. I will always hurt when I think of those wasted years, all those missed opportunities, all the excuses and misplaced trust.

Because I love my father. After all of this, after all this time, I love him. Maybe it’s because I’ve been conditioned by society to love him, or maybe it’s just that’s part of my nature, or maybe it’s even as simple as biology. I don’t know, and I guess in the end it doesn’t even matter. My heart broke when I got the news, which says something more profound than words and contrivance ever could.

So this pain, this hurt that I’ve lived with for three quarters of my life, it’s here to stay. It means that I’m still alive, that I have a lot to be thankful for, but that my life is not securely mine, that it belongs to this heart of mine too, and to the people who fill it, for better or worse. He’s hopefully coming home from the hospital today, and I will be trying to find a flight to get down there, because that’s who I am.

And life is too short. So let’s hurt tonight.


To Be Needed

neededThere have been very few times in my life when I truly felt like a part of something, like I was intrinsically involved in the inner workings of a cause, a movement, or even a group of people. I have always been a catalyst, for sure, because of my boisterous personality, but what has that done for me when it comes to feeling necessary?

Others often look to sports as a way to feel a part of something, as a means to an end, but even on that front I was always lacking. For some reason I always chose the sports that weren’t really a team concept, like tennis, and golf, and I left the group mentality to those who needed the push and pull. But I need the push and pull too. I guess I just didn’t realize it back then.

As I’ve gotten older it’s been about friends for me. Maybe I just wasn’t meant to be the friend type in this society because for me to feel like a part of a friendship I need a lot of contact. So, of course most of my friends throughout the years have always been the type who aren’t contact people. I seem to attract the type of friends who are content with sporadic communication, and that’s not me.

Even my sister was an enigma to me. For years I was jealous of her, which hampered our relationship. It always seemed like she made friends easily, the type who were there for her early and often. It always seemed like she had it all down, that people flocked to her without her even trying, that she was an integral part of the world she inhabited. I was jealous that it wasn’t me, that I didn’t have whatever she had to make myself necessary to others.

But it’s not about her. And it’s not about the friends I chose to surround myself with off and on for years. It’s really about me and my expectations. When I think about the times when I felt like a part of something I inevitably go back to my poetry groups, to the first one in Philly so long ago, and to the one in Utica now. For some reason, even though poetry isn’t my first love when it comes to writing, it brings something out of me that makes me feel necessary, like I’m a part of something so much bigger than myself.

I expected nothing from either poetry group, and they gave me everything. Funny how that happens. And I wonder if that’s how I should be when it comes to other situations and with other people in my life. Maybe I should stop beating myself up over lost friends, or over time between conversations. Perhaps I should instead spend my time getting rid of expectations, just living for the moment and seeing who comes along for the ride.

That’s a very renaissance kind of attitude for me, but I’m feeling a renaissance kind of feeling right now, so it fits. I feel like approaching 40 is making me see things in a completely different way than I ever have before. If I want to be a part of something I need to let it happen organically, to just explore my interests and let things come to me. And stop blaming others for not fulfilling that need.

Because it’s all up to me, and it always has been.


What a Fantastic Death Abyss

b08c7fd762a65b5292d08721e70f1c16“Paddy, will you carry me? I think I’ve lost my way. I’m already five years older. I’m already in my grave. I’m already…” ~The Hearts Filthy Lesson, David Bowie

I met David Bowie in late 1995, at a time when I was a young adult trying to find my way in the world. That’s when many people met him, maybe not in 1995, but perhaps in 1972, or 1983, or 2002, or whenever, but they needed guidance just like I did. And David Bowie was there for me, for them, for US, just like he always had been, just like I knew he always would be. While I didn’t shake his hand, or look into his eyes, or even have a chance to ask for his autograph, I did hear his voice for the first time, and I cried.

Late 1995 was a time of change for me. I had just started college the year before, but I was floundering. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing right then, or with my life, or what was going to become of me in the future. All I knew was that music was my life, that lyrics made up the complicated fabric of my emotions at the time. I knew that there was so much out there that I didn’t know. Instead of looking to those around me for support I went inward. I went to my favorite place to meditate on the music. It was always the music.

David Bowie snuck up on me back then. I was into darker stuff at the time, having just discovered KMFDM, Nine Inch Nails, and Portishead. So it was a bit ironic that my introduction to the Thin White Duke took place because of Trent Reznor and his influence on “The Hearts Filthy Lesson.” I first heard the song over the speaker system at one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall record shops, the same place where I had listened to the entire The Downward Spiral album some few weeks before, purchasing it on the spot. When I walked in that time the song was blaring loudly and petulantly, and I liked it at once.

If you have never heard “The Hearts Filthy Lesson” then you’re missing out on a masterpiece. It is the perfect marriage of industrial, drum-machine throbbing bass, and the voice of an angel, with a bit of grunge thrown in for good measure. If there was ever anything to be said about David Bowie, it was that he was a chameleon, changing his music to suit his mood, to suit the place he had gotten to by that time. I didn’t know it then. Right then all I knew was that that one song was dynamic, that I had to hear more, so I bought the Outside album without hearing anything else. It wasn’t until later, on my bed, with my headphones on, that I was introduced to a concept album.

It was trippy. Something about Bowie’s voice grabbed me and made me want to pay attention. Something in his tone and in the words he used filled a void in me that I didn’t even know existed. I absolutely loved the album from start to finish, even the strange disembodied vocal tracks that weren’t even traditional music. I felt like a ghost in the machine, hearing the inner workings of the form without missing a beat. In fact, every single time I have listened to that record since I’ve felt the exact same way. I was hooked.

So I worked my way backward. I knew at once that I wanted to have more, that I needed another hit of that drug that was David Bowie. But the record store where I had purchased Outside wasn’t the place to go. It was the only album they had of his, focusing as they did on the industrial music that was so popular at the time. I went instead to a small place downtown that sold Boyz II Men, The Beatles, and Mark Knopfler. In their B section I found a virtual goldmine of Bowie records, and I realized for the first time the breadth of the man’s work to that point. That first trip to the store I picked up Space Oddity and loved it from the start.

In bits and pieces I began to build my collection with those first two CDs as cornerstones for what was to come. Every other payday I would head back downtown, to that little shop, and pick up another David Bowie album. Until, a few months later, I looked inside the crate where I kept my albums and I noticed that there were more Bowie records there than I even knew. I had built a collection of 12 albums in a matter of a few months, and by and large I loved what I heard, from the “Moonage Daydream,” to “The Memory of a Free Festival,” to “Ziggy Stardust,” to even “I’m Afraid of Americans” (from an album — Earthling — that was released while I was busy collecting).

I was in love. It was such a rush to get each new record, to put on my headphones, and to immerse myself in what was to me new music. I would listen to each album over and over again on a constant loop until I knew every single word, every note, every beat even, until it became part of my very marrow. I kept buying album after album in this fashion until I had every single one of the 20+ in my collection, and I have to admit that it felt a little odd when there were no more to buy. It was as if I was an addict, and my dealer was out of the drug. So I did what I did later with Harry Potter books. I kept going back to the well and experiencing each of the volumes again, as if for the first time.

Eventually, though, as with most things, other music came in to take over some of the real estate in those crates in my room. I began listening to Bowie less than I had before, but it didn’t mean he had lessened in my eyes. It only meant that music shifts and changes, and Bowie continued to change along with it. Every time he released a new album I was there at that moment, buying it and listening to it like I had in late 1995 when I first unexpectedly found Outside.

And I have to admit that he fell off my radar between those new albums, probably because the time he took to release them grew ever larger over the years. I was excited a couple of years ago when The Next Day came out, and I knew he was releasing another one this year, so I was excited, anticipating another brilliant record from one of my favorite artists. Then I woke up this morning, turned on the television, and received an absolute shock. David Bowie was dead. I thought my eyes had blurred, that I hadn’t read the screen correctly, but the anchor was saying it again, and I couldn’t ignore it. I couldn’t pretend it was happening to someone else.

20 years after I discovered the man, the myth, and the legend, he was gone. And the music remains. But it’s not the same. Just knowing he was out there, that any time now he could be releasing another album, that I could curl up on my bed again with my headphones, it soothed my soul. Now my soul is in chaos. For the first time since I’ve been alive, David Bowie is not, and I have to make my peace with that. But first I need to pick up a copy of his new album — his last album — and immerse myself in him one more time. For the first time.


Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: