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The Muse

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The muse is hard to pin down. Like trying to grab a fist full of water. Or a wisp of air.

When it arrives, we sit hunched over guitars or notepads or keyboards, thinking of lightning in a bottle. It’s been captured, and there’s no way it can get way. And then….

Well, you wake up the next day and suddenly you’re playing the guitar with all the subtlety of a meat cleaver. Your legal pad is filled with games of tic-tac-toe and hangman. And your computer screen is as white as Glenn Beck. What the hell happened? Why am I all of a sudden spending much of my day studying a piece of lint on the floor? Didn’t I used to be good at this shit?

Maybe. And maybe you will be again. But not today. And maybe not tomorrow either. What you could pluck out of thin air has now gone underground, like a guerilla army, and you start checking to make sure you can still spell your own name without pulling out your license.

And so it starts to eat away at your confidence. Maybe I was never that good to begin with. That would certainly make a dry patch like this easier to deal with. I mean, what can one expect? Maybe he was born to be a Salieri with a greying beard and a creeping suspicion he’s become a misanthrope? As Ted Knight put it so succinctly in Caddyshack, “the world needs ditch diggers too.”

But please don’t bury me in the cold cold ground. John Prine said that, and he’s a cancer survivor whose songs have done more for mankind than any politician’s policy’s I can name. And as a cynical political junkie, I can name way too many. Liars. Thieves. Partisan maniacs. Sex fiends. What does it say about the brainpower of a nation that it elects somebody (twice) to be President who believes in the rapture? It says we need a new pack of John Prine songs desperately. Or maybe we need to listen to “Angel From Montgomery” closer. We’re alienated. In our own homes. Fear keeps us in front of the TV with a 6-pack. “How the hell can a person go to work in the morning / come home in the evening / and have nothing to say?” These lines taught me more than all of Shakespeare’s poetic wanking.

But on some nights, that’s me. I’ve got nothing to say. The day sucks the air out of your lungs. Spend 8 or 1o hours doing what you need to do as opposed to what you want to do, and try not to arrive at the dinner table with a chip on your shoulder. A successful life these days is defined as one spending more time with people you largely despise (co-workers if you’re lucky enough to have a job) than with those you genuinely love. Wife. Kids. Your dog. When that mortgage payment comes and you can pay it, you’re officially a boring old fart…..the kind of parent your kids walk 10 paces ahead of at the mall so nobody thinks they actually belong to you. The only time they allow you to catch up is when they need money. Pay up and they like you. Say no and you’re the anti-christ and probably on the hook for untold future therapy bills. Want to talk to your kid? Hope he or she hasn’t de-friended you on facebook. If they did, you’re pretty screwed. It’s like when the astronauts disappear behind the moon. Total communication blackout. Wake up one day and your kid has a tattoo of Che Guevara on their left buttock. Nobody seems surprised but you. So you ask, “a Che tattoo. Interesting. Where’d you get the idea for that?” And they’ll give you that look that says “when did you get so old and uncoll?” But it comes out that one of the latest Disney Poster Boys of the minute showed up at some premiere wearing a Che t-shirt, and now it’s an obligation to show support. And oh by the way I owe her money to pay for it because I’m the father and that’s what father’s do. They pay for Che tattoos.

Course none of this has happened to me yet. Politics for my kids during the last election boiled down to the “African American” (never “black”) vs. the “Old Dude’…..who seemed a lot smarter before he picked his running mate than he became after. It dawned on him that first day that he’d asked a crazy, unintelligent bitch who when trapped one on one with a real journalist kept looking for the nearest fire exit so she wouldn’t be bothered with pesky foreign policy questions that could not be put off by the “I can see Russia from my house:” stock reply. It was an interesting, almost surreal time in which John McCain, for whatever reason, pulled the pin on his last grenade and blew himself back to Arizona and his trophy wife and her vast fortune….never to be heard from again. He suffered the kind of presidential beating that even Fox News couldn’t spin. Obama was president. We rejoiced. It was a miracle. Surely, here it came. Another great society. End the wars. Bring the boys home. If not guns and butter, then butter only. Feed the hungry. Take care of the sick. Take this disparity between rich and poor and start hacking away at it. Things were gonna change.

Except they didn’t. Wall Street took all our retirement and 501k and suddenly we owned nothing but clothes on our back. House. Two cars. All that middle class stuff. We paid the bank and they said as long as we did they wouldn’t huff and puff and blow our house down….which was pretty nice of them since I’d just chipped in giving them a $600 billion dollar bailout. Obama was supposed to rise us up. He was supposed to make us all feel better about ourselves. “Yes we can” and all that shit. Well, “yes we can” if we work for wall street and suddenly have $600 billion extra George Washington’s to spend with no need to provide receipts. But for the rest of us. “no we can’t” afford the mortgage and nobody is offering me a bailout and the sheriff is outside with a piece of paper I’m in no mood to read……and a crowbar.

Barack, I voted for you. I believed you. You let me down. I get lip service for TV sound bytes. But my dreams? What do you know about my dreams? Nothing. You take care of your boys now while the getting is good, and I wonder how I’m going to be able to send my girls to college. I work hard. I do the right things. But I’m priced out, That seems unfair. Worse, it seems Un-american. And people tell me I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t feel lucky. I feel used.

Being pissed is good for the muse. It can kick start it…..and set up a roadblock to get it back on the right tract. I have these songs. They’re about my father. His life. His Alzheimer’s disease. His battle. His refusal to not rage against the dying of the light. Watching him die was the worst of times. But it was also the best of times, because for the first time I saw what the human spirit is capable of. Hell, Alzheimer’s had it’s claws in my father, but I’m convinced he was aware enough to go on his own terms. He shut down and said….enough. Forget me. My family has suffered enough. I’m going to close my eyes and not wake up anymore.

And so that’s what he did. Some 5 months ago. He never went to work in the morning and came home in the evening and had nothing to say. Not Pop. Alienation is for weaklings. Like me. Pop had too much to do. Too many people to help. No time for this self-pity shit.

I want to be more like him. I want my muse back so I can pay him this compliment in song. A song lasts forever.

That’s what I’ve learned in all this. A song lasts forever. Everything else dies.

So, that should clear this up. My muse? Where are you? I’m waiting.

In a bit…


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