Flexible Expectations

Midnight hour.

Our practice went just okay this time. I observed more limitations on the part of all three of us. I felt a little tense after I noticed that “Bubble House” was supposed to be in G minor rather than C minor, as the guys had been playing it. They must’ve been a bit nervous as well. When we played Ron’s song “Boba Fett,” he stopped because he’d forgotten the lyric. As for myself, my old body got tired and kind of let me down. I felt that my bass licks were in a rut, somewhat repetitive and dull. But just when we were about to call it a night, I had a little inspiration sitting with my bass. Out of nowhere I started playing Nirvana’s “Come as You Are,” a very simple riff that we could groove on for a while. I’m not a mind reader, so I don’t know how Mike and Ron felt after we said goodbye until next weekend. My own thinking is that it’s important to be realistic concerning what our trio is capable of. It’s wiser to let them call out the tunes they feel comfortable with.

The journey to Mike’s house in the rain was executed with dogged resignation. I held my bass in my left hand, an umbrella in my right, and just hoped that no big gust of wind would blow the latter wrong side out. For visibility I put on a white baseball cap. I took a shortcut through the parking lot of the convenience store to the lane off of Maxwell Road. The trip took me about 18 minutes, putting me there almost precisely at 4:30pm. 

Heroes and Minstrels

Midnight. Yesterday and today I’ve done more than the usual thinking about my brother. He was very admirable when he seemed omnipotent. To my child’s mind he was the real model behind every ERB hero I read about. However, I think heroes fall into at least two classes: the egoist and the altruist, the physical and the spiritual. There’s a world of difference between Tarzan and Luke Skywalker. One depends on his own wits and strength, the other gets his power from an all pervasive Force. The first seeks his personal happiness, the second restores order to the Galaxy… If my brother resembles Tarzan, then I’m still a far cry from Skywalker, but I think the latter is a worthier goal.

One o’clock. I don’t really have the money to buy myself a big birthday present. I heard from Mike the drummer. He says we may have a jam on the weekend just after Christmas, and this in itself comprises a holiday gift. I’ll take along a bass guitar that’s comfortable to play. But the jam is still not set in stone. It makes me feel like a wandering minstrel to hike over to Mike’s house down the lane behind the little market. Minstrels have a place in the grand scheme of things as well as the heroes. Yet I speculate just what that plan really is and where it’s taking us. It’s about more than money and worldly success. And again, “Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot is appropriate. 

Tuneless

Six thirty.

I’ve figured out why I was stuck on the problem of society and the individual. It’s because society to my mind really means my family, and this is an alcoholic system. In choosing sobriety I’ve had to abandon the system, sort of like Lt Henry deserting the Italian Army in Hemingway. Did I need an altruistic motive for staying sober? Or is the validity of self preservation self evident? My brother used to say it was my brotherly duty to drink with him… Family politics is only so much nonsense.

Quarter of nine. I braved the rainy element and walked to the store where Melissa held down the fort. She said her little boy is two and a half years old and a real handful. He’s only quiet when he is sleeping. I said it was nice that she had a little family going, but inwardly I was thinking that it wasn’t for me… I expect Damien will be here at around noon with a buddy to rake leaves. The physical therapy people sent me a bill for over a hundred dollars. I’ll call them tomorrow and make sure they billed my insurance correctly. It could be an expensive month… A while ago I looked up John McLaughlin online: he is 78 years old and still performing and recording. I really like the chord textures in Birds of Fire, such as the augmented octave in the song “Sanctuary.” I didn’t realize the complexity of the mode until I sat with my bass and noodled around with it. It would be interesting to get a few guys together and mess with those scales and chords. Doing this by myself isn’t the same. I reckon a lot of musicians feel lonely through the pandemic. We don’t have a purpose when we can’t get together. The times are as tuneless as a Mahavishnu song. Out of context, the roots in the bass don’t make sense. 

An Old Friend

Midnight. I feel really good right now. It’s one of those moods when you believe no one can tell you that you’re doing wrong. The same Little River Band song runs in my brain, still mysteriously. It probably signals that my mind is on a memory of playing in the disco band long ago. 

I’m intensely curious about what happened to my old friend Chris. We had music in common, but our personalities were quite opposite to each other. While he was driven to be popular, I was more content to be just myself, take it or leave it. I was not much of a showman, and couldn’t pretend to be something I wasn’t. I cared only about the music, and not the way I looked onstage. I thought Chris and the band were mostly pretty shallow. One telltale sign was that neither he nor his wife could look me directly in the eye. If I was a candid person, then he was protean and slippery. In retrospect, I was involved with the wrong bunch, but music brings together people from all walks of life, and never permanently. It’s a very Emersonian phenomenon, in which Nature uses people as it sees fit for her own ends. As if this entity called Nature were intelligent and purposeful and could handpick a hero for a project for a limited time. When she’s done with you, she moves on to somebody else, inspiring individuals almost randomly and then chucking them aside. Satin Love Orchestra was like that for me and the others Nature threw together for a wild and chaotic ride… 

I’ve run into Chris’s dad a few times at Bi Mart. He had amnesia pretty bad and couldn’t find the words to express himself. But he still recognized me from the old days. Perhaps those times should remain in the past. Today I can’t conceive of bombarding my liver with so much alcohol. Did God intervene in my disease, or maybe I was fated to stop drinking from the beginning of time? Whatever, I have no desire to go back to it. 

An Old Yes Album

Quarter of midnight 🕛. Slept for four hours. Aesop is giving me the eye 👁. He probably wants to go outside, but I’m putting him off for a while. With the pressure off me a little, the terrible schizophrenic thoughts have died down. I had been thinking that doomsday was near, my own demise imminent. I don’t feel very creative with words right now. I was validated for my music today, and that’s what I’m inclined to keep doing. Playing music with someone else who is good feels a lot better than one hand tapping a smartphone. For a bass player, drummers are the best to jam with…

Accomplishing something today was worth a little pain of anxiety. Of course the world didn’t come to an end. Fear is unreasoning, but the heart says stick it out, and the original word for courage also means heart ❤️. It seems to me the heart is more rational than the mind. When the mind fails me, I ignore it and listen to my heartbeat. If the heart alone did the thinking, good things would get done. It would be our first step toward a better way of living. “As long as we see there’s only us who can change it, only us to rearrange it at the start of a new kind of day.” “Soon we’ll be as he proclaimed in a new way of living. Take the things you need in life but remember the giving.” Both of these songs are on Time and a Word, one of my favorite Yes albums. Listen to it to be eternally young!