Museum Pieces

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The exhibit is nearing completion, though there are still a few pieces left to be completed, logged, inspected and displayed.

The exhibition is of my most productive period and will be in permanent residence in the grand hall. The room, the central hub and featured showroom, has been closed to all visitors for nearly four years. That’s how long it has taken to produce and display the items that are to be featured.

There has been a great deal of buzz generated by myself, the curator and a collaborator on this project, but the room itself has been open only those crucial to the process.

The grand hall in the museum of my life will be hosting the display, ‘Our Family, the Early Years.’ It is a permanent and evolving installation.

I’m forever curating the museum of my life. There is endless detritus that is logged once, noted and recorded for historical purposes and donated or outright given to others or placed in the cold, dark, vast warehouse of forgotten details and mementos. Of those items that I choose to display they are ordered by importance and their prestige is evident in how I choose to display them.

This room, this grandest of rooms, will feed me and fuel me through the times that lie ahead. Through times that will so devastate me that they will make me wonder what all this was for. My aim is to curate an exhibit so stunning, so perfectly designed for my audience of one, for me, that I will be so enamored of it as to be unable to wander too far from it. Over time it will hard wire my memories and the feelings that drove me to embark on such an ambitious, albeit not groundbreaking, body of work.

I will wallow in it, work in it and invest energy in keeping it pristine. All of this in the hopes that even in my feeblest state I’ll always know my way back to that room. That room filled with love and meaning and work and creativity and awe and beauty. Its the room that I intend to live in for as long as I can, until the end if possible.

I will marvel at it’s treasures and inspect those pieces that so transformed and transfixed me. When I can no longer manipulate the artifacts of my specific humanity anymore, I intend to nest in them as I did the first time around in order to feel that pride and love and warmth until I die, smiling at what was and what is.

This document is a map of sorts to a memory or two. An artists description of the work in real time to be used by me as a patron of the museum in the future. It will help me access more fully the pieces that are before me. I’m compelled to do this to make up for all those pieces I didn’t log in this way due to exhaustion and the foolish belief that the memories would be so powerful as to never drift away into the ether. Perhaps I thought them permanent in some way, a way that would make documenting it formally a waste of time. Foolish indeed and I should have known better. But, ours is not to wonder why, and so forth…

It is also for you, reader, truly it is. Knowing that you read, and that you are occasionally moved to engage with me has added immensely to my experience. It is also for my wife and our kids. A log of sorts, though I hope an artful one, capturing this time. A fools errand to be sure, and likely a fruitless and hopelessly failing attempt to capture just a piece of its essence for our collective and individual future enjoyment.

Teddy sits in my lap, every night sometime between 8 and 8:30. Bathed and brushed and comfy in his pajamas. He’s my little bedtime buddy. He’ll cry when I pick him up and momma gives him his Elmo doll. A doll too small to be his lovey, but it is what he has chosen and our many attempts to provide him with a larger, more plush and easier-to-find-in-your-sleep or in the darkness of waking at 2AM doll have been shunned. ‘Mo-mo’, as he calls him, is his guy. The rest are discarded, literally thrown overboard, if he notices them. Two dolls other than mo-mo stay in the bed, a floppy brown bunny and a standard issue bear, but they are so untouched as to be unnoticed.

The routines are a dead giveaway now and he cries and lunges for mommy when it clicks for him that it is bedtime. She is a bit more pliable in terms of keeping to the schedule in general and he thinks if he could just get me to hand him over to her, he’d be able to avoid his fate. Neither momma nor I pay any attention to this complaint anymore as it ceases by the time we get to the stairs, a walk of no more than 12-15 adult steps from anywhere on the first floor of our small and perfect little suburban home, and usually not more than 5 steps from where he’s been picked up, in the living room.

Once to the stairs we make a dramatic flourish of thrusting our hands upward, toward the second floor, a show of bravado that he and I enjoy and one that always brings a smile to his face. Thusly we proceed up the stairs, following our outstretched hands and giggling when we get to the top. The theatricality of it all is just plain silly, but if you haven’t seen him do it it’s just not altogether possible to understand how adorable it is.

He is not going to have these cheeks, these bubbly, adorable cheeks, for much longer, but for the time being anything I can do to make him smile, I will.

Once on the landing we turn left to the bedrooms. Theirs one to the right, but we loaded up all our stuff in it when we moved in and now only reference it if something is in there which needs to be extracted or if we need a place to shove things when people are coming over. It is now, and I imagine will forever be referred to by Karen and I as ‘the cottage’. We christened it when it became the place we flopped down in when we’d pushed enough crap to the sides to lay out a futon mattress and it became the place where sick parents slept, or where we’d lie during that glorious long weekend when we had managed to get them napping at the same time. Our room shared a wall with theirs and we weren’t going to risk even the possibility of being the reason they might wake up.

I plop him down and he runs into his room. Once there he looks around for a second spots the glider chair that was initially used for nursing but is now the rocking chair, and makes a break for it. I pretend to be outraged and shocked, every night, that he’s going to sit in daddy’s chair, and he struggles his way up there, climbing like a pro, sits proudly and takes in my displays of shock, both facial and audible, and laughs proudly.

I don’t know if you have access to a two year old, but if you do, spend AS MUCH TIME AS POSSIBLE watching them walk around in pajamas. It’s just awesomely cute.

I pick him up, turn on various, strategically placed little lights, turn off others, turn on a bit of white noise and proceed to work my way through his stack of books until he decides he’s done, or we finish all of them. To this point, we’ve only added and not yet removed any of his books. Little Blue Truck and Goodnight Gorilla are the musts but usually it’s all of them. I’ve dozed off while reading. I always roust quickly enough, but his weight and warmth on my lap, the dim lights and the repetitive pleasantness of the books have a mildly narcotic effect on me.

Once done I sing to him. Usually starting with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, then You Are My Sunshine… I may hum from there, I may move to the Beatles. Some Blackbird, some early parts of Hey Jude, maybe some God Only Knows by the Beach Boys. I usually put him down at this time, but yesterday he made me hold him for a bit and kept bringing my hand up to his cheek, so it rested on him, fully holding his face on the outside, while the inside was pressed against my chest while he sat in my lap. If a meaning of life can be said to be a visceral feeling rather than a thought or a defined purpose, this is one of the meanings of my life.

This is one of the routines that evolve early in life that feel like they will last forever, but tend to last a few weeks to a few months before necessity forces them to change or the child simply loses interest and the routine is no longer effective. While I haven’t done a wonderful job of logging them, as I’m doing now, I hope to do more in the near future. Hopefully this is a nostalgic dad’s lament, chapter 1.

I want to go back to the old video’s and photos and jog memories and come back here and record them in detail, as much detail as possible, before they are all gone and I look at the photo’s and see my beautiful boy and remember everything he ever said, but start saying things like, ‘I don’t remember that apartment so much anymore. Was Charlie born yet when we moved in there? Was he only in the apartment for the first year or was it closer to two?’

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I don’t want that fate. But it or some more addled version of that state, or some less benevolent version of it is surely approaching. Just as new and exciting and enriching phases of my kids lives are heading this way.

So rather I log my memories, in pictures and in words in hopes that those triggers will trigger in me responses that will transport me in an instant back to that dark room, in our still disheveled, not fully occupied or appointed tiny little house where I can giggle with Charlie over the silliness of him pretending to be a dog named Sonny. Where I can pretend his carrots are puppy treats, a move I’ve stolen from his mother, in a multipurpose front room with makeshift changing stations and an unused fireplace and gates blocking every exit. To the place where my little boy won’t let me take my hand from his cheek. Where he will simply find the hand if it goes missing, and place it back on his cheek as he knows that is what’s needed. He’s right, and its one of the chief pleasures of my entire existence, and I will become a silly nostalgist adrift in gauzy memories and I will lose all currency and relevancy willingly if it will help me to remember this beautiful place of messy, sloppy, crazy love where our family began.

The Lodge Part One; Getting There

Amongst the clearest and most treasured memories of my youth are the handful of roadtrips that I took with my dad, just the two of us. One that sticks out for me as particularly enjoyable was a trip to Pennsylvania where I needed to be on campus early for basketball camp check in the next day.

The day started at the Morgan Manning house for the 4th of July town picnic and fair. Its the kind of tradition I had no idea I’d come to love about the town of Brockport, NY where I grew up.

After hot dogs (Zweigel’s, the only proper hot dog)  and my little brother doing the cakewalk and the barbershop quartet of high school teachers we went home, loaded the minivan and got on the road.

On this trip we were in the right mood. We were just relaxed and comfortable and conversation flowed and we talked about life and family, everything and nothing. I don’t remember the details and they weren’t important. We were relaxed, comfortable and alone. It was nice.

It was in fact the counter to my normal level of anxiety. Once when I was 5 or so I was in the bathroom while he was shaving. There were at least 8 of us, often more. As George Bluth said, watch out for hop-ons, you’re gonna have hop-ons.  Anyway, with two bathrooms overcrowding was not at all unusual so for me to be peeing while he shaved was not unusual. After a moment of observation he looked over at me, face half covered in thick white foam and half smoothly shaven and said. ‘Are you breathing.’ I wasn’t. He said, ‘it’s okay. Breathe.’ So I did. I’ve always been self-conscious, still am.

We stayed in a hotel that night near the camp. It remains the one and only night I’ve ever eaten at an Arthur Treacher’s. I imagine this was true for him as well. Then we went to a movie. The only thing that lined up with our schedule that was agreeable to both of us was ‘Soapdish’.

For a couple of hours we howled with laughter. A reserved 40-something dad and his jock 15 year old son cracking up at the antics of a cast of eccentrics populating the set of a daytime soap opera. It was downright hysterical, silly and perfect. It was one of the best days of my childhood. It shouldn’t surprise me that the most meaningful and metaphorical journey of my life was a road trip with my dad in a minivan across the state when I was 20.

Side note about my dad; He’s funny. Very funny. It’s a dry sense of humor, not needy, rarely reaching out, but often reactive and precise. I can be manic in my need to get in a funny line at every opportunity, even inventing the opportunities, or sticking a laugh line in as a non sequitur just to get the attention. It comes from a funnier place for my dad. He’s okay letting tons of good enough but not perfect pitches fly past, and then boom, HYSTERICAL. I’ve tried to learn from this, and to some degree I’ve calmed down. He’s such a good editor and knows when funny is funniest. My papa was that way as well.

Fast forward to what can either be referred to as my first Junior year at college or my second sophomore year. I prefer the former, but whatever your druthers.

I, remarkably, was in a night class. I say remarkably because my academic history is littered with classes that I never intended to attend and rarely did. But this was a 3 hour, 1 credit class and I showed up. It was part of a series of single credit, single night classes that were offered in the Human Services curriculum. I’d kind of backed and failed my way into the major, but it was in line with my personal ethics of being helpful to those less fortunate so I went with it. These single night credits were taught by community based professionals in a particular field of service. This night happened to be the Executive Director of the Chemung County ARC. He was a nice if distracted guy who gave us a good history of the movement, the state of the field and the needs going forward. It was interesting and I wanted to get involved.

In the course of the evening Jodi, a less then friendly and somewhat overconfident young woman by my estimation (which was informed by little if any evidence, but firmly believed. Ah… youth) spoke of her experience the previous summer at a camp for adults with developmental disabilities.

It was a camp run by AHRC of NYC, the chapter that was the progenitor of the entire Arc movement. I decided to approach her at the break. Turned out that being male, a decent fellow and willing made me qualified for a position there! Besides, Jodi would be there and I’d at least know one face. Might even get to see another side of her. So the dye was cast and my life turned at that moment and in many ways has never turned back.

After a week or so home from school I was off to the Catskills with my dad. It was a 6 hour drive, one that I’d make several more times over the years. The ride was long and disorienting. I’d never noticed the glorious mountains that buttress and soar over the New York State Thruway as you make your way east across the state. They existed there without my notice for the many trips I’d taken across the state over the years. But when we got off and went onto the local roads it took only a few miles until we realized we were heading to a place neither of us had known existed.

Other than some summer vacations when my dad was a kid even he had never really experienced the vast mountainous region of New York that stretched from the area city-dwellers called upstate and the northerners thought of as downstate all the way up to the top of the world up at the Canadian border. It was the spine of the state and we lived in the panhandle out west.

My dad is from the New York Metropolitan area, so this vast middle, encompassing the Catskill Mts. and the Adirondacks had managed to be avoided. The long looping curves of the valley roads gave way in an instant to roads that seemed to have majestically green, steep,  natural walls. It was like the mountains and there fauna were cradling the pavement that now wove a twisting and turning road that revealed which travelers were local as they bore down on the vast amount of out-of-towners there to feed the economy and reconvene with nature.

Finally, out of the hairpin at the Kaaterskill Falls trail head the roads started to stretch back to long and looping as we arrived in the higher valley.

Tannnersville is a small, humble and charming mountain town that would become my nearest ‘civilaization’ for the years ahead. The directions took us right through and up the mountain that hovered over it, all the way to the picturesque stone church at its peak and back down the other side. We took a right at the General Store/Post Office onto a beautiful, meandering river of a small country road that ended at Colgate Lake.

Rather, it didn’t end it turned to dirt and we continued through a tunnel carved through the forest, looking at each other partly worried and partly as Doc Brown looked at Marty at the end of Back to the future… Where we’re going we don’t need roads!

I can’t honestly tell you what conversations were had on this journey save one. I remember saying it and my dad has remembered it too. I told him that I had no idea what to expect. I told him that I was a little nervous but that I was thinking of it as 90 days and I can endure anything for 90 days. I’ve heard my dad proudly retell of hearing me saying that and he always follows it up by pointing out that after he left me that day he knew a change was coming for me. He was right.

I could most certainly endure what lay ahead. I had no idea that it was the start of a journey with as much learning and growing and failing and succeeding as I could stand bottled up in 5 two week sessions of sleep deprived sleep-away camp that would change my worldview, broaden my understanding of humanity, enhance my ability, grow my confidence, open my eyes to a world that was rich and vibrant and dynamic and revolutionary and introduce me to an instant community of friends and acquaintances who would create and sustain magic on a daily basis, all with the aim of righting a societal wrong and providing people with the opportunity to have the time of their lives. It would keep my otherwise antsy and unsteady and frankly dangerous life of excess in check as I discovered that when you are fully engaged in a thing, 20 hours a day is not enough. It was enough to get the work done, at least usually, just not enough of the experience.

I was enjoying all of it, the joy and the pain, the wins and the losses, the new experiences and the vulnerability I was discovering in myself and the world and I didn’t want it to ever end.

We’d drink and sing and dance and swear and smoke and hookup and breakup. During the day we’d bring people that would never have the chance otherwise to the top of the mountain, whatever that meant for them. If we couldn’t we’d not hesitate in getting to work building them their mountain, to spec, because we were delighted to be given the opportunity. We fought and created cliques, then we broke them and cross pollinated.  We created a utopian society their and we thought we were the first ones to do it. I’m still convinced we were the best who ever did.

But on that car ride, a ride that was both familiar and different it turned out that dad was dropping me off at the end of a dirt road in a beautifully landscaped world that was designed to make the world a better place. It certainly did that for me. It was the home that would take it’s place next to the big blue/gray house on Clark St. It became my spiritual and literal home. When I’d leave I’d yearn to be back. When I was there, even in the cold, dark, lonely and depressing winters, I never wanted to be anywhere else. I loved her even more then. Even when it was emptied of all the people that made it what it was. It was even more beautiful to me as it sat stoically dark waiting patiently to be enlivened once again. After the departures, after the work, after our irreversibly changed lives, after the love and the struggle and the ultimate experience, the  walls were my companions for months on end and I loved them as I had learned their potential.

I loved everything about that place and I still do. The Lodge was where I was able to make mistakes and miracles and to witness transformations, including my own. Where I learned to push myself and accept who I was. It was the greatest experience of my life to that point and would inform all the other wonders that were to come.

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

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Charlie insisted that Grandma, Koba (Grandpa), Daddy and Mommy all sit at attention at the picnic table. We were seated so we were facing him as he prowled the stage that was the landing at the top of the steps leading to the beautiful red Rockwellian shed that he thought of as Buddy the Cat’s house. He welcomed us to the show and proceeded to command our attention by acting out a story about how he lost his doggie. About how that doggie ran away and grew up to be a kitty cat, and how charlie found him by calling his name around both corners of the little house/shed/set. He informed us that his name was ‘Tree Pikwalk’ and that we all had to call for him if he were to be found. And low and behold, after we all gave it a shout, good old Tree Pikwalk, the dog that grew up to be a cat, returned home. We were then instructed by Charlie to clap for his story. When we did it was as if he were at Carnegie Hall and he’d just won the admiration of an initially doubting audience.

We were then instructed to stop. He was now the MC and he welcomed everyone to the show. Clap your hands everybody. Introducing, DADDY! He waved me up and left the stage for me to put on a ‘show’. I of course proceeded to do what the director instructed and told a story. Knowing his preferences I made it a story of childhood pets. In this case I told the origin story of our family pet, Mama Kitty, who was a housemate for almost all of my youth and how her passing at 18, an incredibly long life for a cat, lead to the occasionally odd moment when people came to our house and saw an etched stone slate that simply said, ‘Mama, 1980-1998’. It was a success and with all the generosity of a true fan my presenter and host started the applause and made sure that everyone joined him. It was grand.

I’m envious of his confidence and his constant creativity and in awe of his energy. Thanks to him and his little brother, Teddy, I’m able to somewhat approximate their joie de vivre, The two of them can knock me out  physically, but the result of their presence in my life has left me with a verve and joy that I never knew before they arrived.

These attributes, confidence, creativity, energy and joy will be informed by an increasing knowledge and understanding of the feelings and needs of others around them as well as the painful realization that people will sometimes be mean even though they aren’t necessarily mean people. Hell, at some point even they will be mean and not understand why. These are all things to be expected and are key points in one’s journey to aware, conscious and thoughtful adulthood. To be able to feel confident enough to consciously put on a ‘show’ and present enough to attend to the shows of others you love because we are all human and need love and attention. To be unafraid to be wholly and truly yourself despite your fears that it will cause others to judge you. To not be afraid to be judged by those people because you are the things you are and it is okay to be them. To be so entirely comfortable in your own skin that you are able to connect with the world around you and the souls you are fortunate enough to be near in a way that shares with them your fragility and essence. These are the things I see in my son’s that I hope will survive, somehow, the onslaught that is heading their way as they head out into the world without any armor. These attributes that will hold the key to happiness when they emerge on the other side of the chasm separating childhood from adulthood. We are in the bubble now and I treasure my time here, knowing already that it is fleeting.

I just hope that I remember, when it looks its ugliest and I’m compelled to react to the behaviors I know are not reflective of the boys they were, that they are neither predictive of the men they will be. That in order for them to get through the upheaval of adolescence and early adulthood they have to travel roads that are inevitably and imperatively roads I can’t go down with them. I hope I remember that they will carry with them, despite any and all indications to the contrary, their sweet nature, their fragile and vulnerable skin and their need for love and attention. I hope they are able to hear me as I call for them while they are lost, like Tree Pikwalk who grew up to be a cat. I hope I hope I hope.

I hope beyond hope that my little dogs grow up, turn into cats and can put on a show for me of a kind I now put on for my parents, relishing in their approval and attention and no longer bashful about how important and meaningful it all is to me.

We Weren’t Ready Either

There is the light of day and the haze of interrupted sleep. These are two distinct worlds and insofar as we are able to, we keep them separate. Fights that happen in ‘the haze’ should never see the light of day. They are to be dutifully ignored, in perpetuity if possible. If an event were to occur in ‘the haze’ at a later point that closely resembled the initial argument in both substance and tone, then, and only then, can the altercation be referenced. Once past, even if the altercation has escalated, it should fall back into the category of things which must not be named. These are the rules and they are organic and they are good. These incidences are like dreams in that they should only rarely be shared outside of a therapists office and should be done so with great trepidation.

We had such an altercation last night. In complying with the rules I shall not speak to the details of the disagreement other than to say that in expressing my dissenting opinion I can see now that I presented as a lunatic. The vast majority of the overnight happenings are tended to by one parent so the other can sleep, but in this case the concern of the sleeper overwhelmed their exhaustion and a suggestion needed to be made. At the risk of disclosing too much, as I know a certain woman related to me by marriage who may wish to continue to observe the ‘gag order’ in regard to referencing said altercation, I’ll state that in this case I was the night tender and she was the concerned and restless parent. Which I say only so I can tell you that when she interrupted me to suggest that we wake our son and give him a nebulizer treatment in order to allow him to stop coughing and to rest easier I went ballistic. This was not in my plans. I had already fed the baby and taken the toddler to the potty. It was past 2AM and I had decided that I’d wait out the cough. With a beer. And a book. A nebulizer treatment does NOT fit into this equation. Yep. I’m a bit of a jackass. My frustration bordered on the maniacal. Which is to say that it was on the wrong side of said border and had a full head of steam heading to the heartland of lunacy.

A mere hour later my wife lay soundly asleep and had been so for upwards of 45 minutes. I still could not unclench my jaw. The ability to navigate these wide emotional swings and return to a normal enough place to fall asleep, even with the assistance of accrued exhaustion is unbelievable to me. I’ve grown to understand that this is an innate difference. For her part she can’t for the life of her understand why I don’t go right to sleep the second I’m allowed to. But the fact of the matter is I literally can’t. I’m using ‘literally’ literally. If I were to attempt to transition between emotions at the rate at which she can and does I’d be in a hospital bed, likely catatonic, before lunch. Women reading this may read an exaggeration to express emphasis in this statement. It’s absolutely true. I’d break. Seriously.

I’m a LUNATIC when it comes to control of the overnight environment when it’s ‘my turn’. Just irrational in the extreme. And the reality of this is that this isn’t going to change. Can’t really. Which brings me to my point. Perfect is inherently and inevitably imperfect.

When we were fretting about whether or not to have kids the conversations were focused on our shortcomings, both personally and collectively. The financial issues and the emotional issues. The idea of a change so profound seemed impossible to navigate while retaining that which made us work together. But the truth is that the change was simultaneously of a scale that was so large as to have been incomprehensible prior to it occurring and of a nature so profound that it brought with it capacities and endurance that were heretofore unknown to either of us and which allowed us to grow in a way that has made all of the prior conversation irrelevant.

In some way every butterfly parent that has been through the transformation knows something caterpillar couples couldn’t at the time. Prior to our having been transformed their assurances and warnings were meaningless, even if many of them turned out to be more true than we could ever have imagined. So now that I’m emerging fully transformed I would like to amend the standard language of the butterflies thusly…

Rather than the somewhat dismissive statement that butterflies repeat ad nauseum to caterpillars that goes ‘If you wait til your ready to have kids, you’ll never have kids’, I think I would have been more disposed to seeing some hopefulness in a message that goes like this…

Let me cut to the chase, you’re not perfect. I’m not, you’re not, no one is. So stop thinking that merely being human and imperfect is enough of a reason to not have kids if you want them. And if you’re fearing that you’re not ready, you’re ready. That level of concern will in fact put you a step ahead. And besides all your shortcomings, you’re amazingly intricate, complex and talented people who will find a capacity for love you never knew before and it’s beautiful and destructive all at once. And the things that drive you crazy about your partner now will do so even more later. But the variations between your abilities will make you cover all the bases you need to so the kids can rise up because of your exceptional ability and in spite of your inevitable flaws. And don’t worry, your kids will reveal their own flaws, and many of them will mirror yours and that’s okay, cause you know what? They’re human too and they’re NOT perfect, which is something you must keep in mind, as your heart will never believe it. Perfect people do not exist, they are lying to you, and sometimes to themselves, and they should be looked at with empathy as they are in for terrible difficulties. In fact if this unicorn of perfection exists in some cul-de-sac in some suburb know that they are the ones truly missing out on the vast array of life as they are not fully experiencing what it means to be alive. Don’t fret that you are falling short of something so bland as perfect, rather delight in your struggles and move forward knowing that the sooner you accept your human nature the sooner you can get to seeing the beauty in life. Struggle onward and seek to see clearly and withhold criticism as long as you can. The more you can accept of imperfections the richer your experience will be. Oh yeah, and don’t be dick to your wife when she asks you to do something you should do. Its not nice.

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Blood on the Tracks; The Art and the Artist

It’s a very specific kind of artisitc genius. An expression that is so beautifully and specifically drawn that despite it recounting events and experiences that are not yours it still resonates. It resonates because you are human. It resonates because you have the capacity for empathy. It resonates because an artist is bravely standing before you in some stage of undress, vulnerable and eloquent.

Beautiful and broken.

The young artist has yet to live a life worthy of his already prodigious talents. He is however yearning to say something worth listening to and he is intelligent and skilled if not yet refined or experienced. As a result he highlights inequality and shines a light on the stupidity of those who rule him and makes art that resonates. If his talent is up to par it is worth hearing and worth heeding. If his talent is truly generational other artists might recognize it first. If his talent is epochal he writes of the hard rain that’s gonna fall. He inspires and enlightens his and all subsequent generations and shows the world how to think about a thing differently than it had before. He has used his considerable capacity to conceive of a new thought, disseminated it effectively and artistically and is hailed as an icon as he has entered the zeitgeist and knocked it sideways through words and music and as a result you imbue in him a certain level of intimate access to what you believe is your soul.

This is as it should be. For you this initial impact is the imperative as it allows you to shift paradigms. His spark will start a cultural inferno and alter the lives of millions whom he has taught to think.
But to him, to this prodigious and frustrated talent, unable to scratch an itch that is ever present, an itch to truly connect, he knows that this was an effective trick of sorts. Sincere at it’s time, but wholly inadequate now. He hasn’t done yet what he must. Couldn’t have, really. He hadn’t had anything personal and universal to say. Until he fell in love. Then out of love. Then nearly lost it all. And was left broken. As we all will be eventually. Brokenness is universal. Thoughts are debated and should be. He never intended his thoughts to be gospel, but a surprising number of people treated them as such. And to his surprise he spent a long time hacking away, admittedly at a startlingly high level of artistic accomplishment, but not without leaving clues that he thought it all a bit of a farce. Then he found love. True and intimate love that he thought he could sustain. Maybe he even thought it would sustain him.

But now that this love had experienced its entire life cycle, a thing he thought would last the rest of his life, he’s now broken. Not ‘broken down’ in some general way, but actually broken. Very specifically and in a way where he now needs to go to the tools he has fostered all these years to work out his feelings on the matter. He has to take his heart to the study and to the studio and write and perform ‘Blood on the Tracks.’
In my estimation it is his most personal (and at least the equal) of his most accomplished works and it could make even an early twenties, middle class white male like myself truly feel the spectrum of emotions that awaited me once time did her thing to me. Those songs introduced me to the nuances of both the human condition and the beauty in our frailty. It’s a remarkable piece of work that has never failed to move me. It can provoke every emotion a man can feel in a romantic relationship and reveals those he wishes he could. It reveals and instructs me as to my own emotional capacity for intimacy and my own limits in terms of truly connecting.

Its a piece of expressive art that is almost as old as I am and I’ve been listening to it for half my life. It’s the expression of feelings I never knew how to identify and in each phase of my life it has presented to me a deeper and more meaningful part of what it means to be human in a very detailed and specific and beautiful way.

It’s not the bombs thrown by a precocious talent, fueled by righteous anger. Rather it’s the earnest and sincere expression of a man who has, is and will struggle. A man who knows that its all worth it for the exquisite though fleeting bliss that life can give you and the swift inevitability with which it takes it away. It’s melancholic and joyous and angry and curious. Its concentrated humanity.