I mean, rah rah for saving the Earth, but I really just think the thing is cute.
See you all in Utah and San Francisco this weekend.
An Argentine folk art, they paint buses and trucks and billboards and wine bottles and shop windows with it.
On the heels of this record’s completion, suddenly I’m BANG! in art mode again. Journaling extensively. Practicing constantly. I’ve been really turned on by the musicians I’ve been auditioning–I’m kind of amazed how deep a talent pool there is out there, that have responded to my ad.
The last time I ran an ad looking for musicians, it was in the New York Press in 1991–I had a band I called M. Doughty’s Soul Coughing, there were ads in the Knitting Factory schedule for it, but I had no players–and all I got were a few freaks, and one guy in the Coast Guard.
I put a stack of poetry books beside my bed. I read ‘em before sleep, a few poems at a time, then switching poets. Dylan Thomas, Zbigniew Herbert, Borges, Robert Kelly, Rimbaud, Whitman. I get good dreams.
Having petitioned the universe for months to have the opportunity to get this record out to a wider world, suddenly I’m annoyed at all the extra labor.
I keep titling and retitling this thing–there was a title I loved for years, intending it to be the one even before I was done writing the album, and then there was another one–and when I went down to DC this week and recorded a show for XM radio, I announced authoritatively what the new title was, and then changed my mind on the Amtrak back to New York!
I’m spinning obsessively through art options, as well. My ideas for covers are always too dark–I mean, too emotionally dark–I keep coming up with these melancholy ideas, and then backpedal on myself, realizing that want I want to transmit to somebody in a record store is an almost psychedelic, explosive color scheme–that’s how I hear the record, anyway. The melancholia and the psychedelia, which do I underline? I have ideas that I love and then abandon.
The good part of this week is the auditions. I’m hearing some really good players, and am pleased to be beginning the audition process. I was completely swamped with applicants, and I’m sifting through ‘em.
When I was 5, my family moved to Kansas from New York. 1975. We crossed a river and the sign said WELCOME TO INDIANA. “Are we really in India?!” I asked. Yes, my distracted parents said.
I spent the next hour staring out the window, spooked, worried about cobras.
I’m looking for a band. Wanna join?
I’ve found all the visual artists I’ve worked with over the past few years–all the covers of my solo albums–on the internet. Now, needing a band, I wonder if I put the call out here, if I’d find some musicians…?
Here’s the ad I put up on my bulletin boards at Friendster and MySpace:
I’M LOOKIN’ FOR MUSICIANS.
My next record will be out in the Spring, and I plan to tour like a fiend; so, I’m putting a new band together. (the guys I did the record with live in Minnesota, and the guys in New York I’ve been playing with are just so happening they don’t have time for me!)
So–if you’re a player who likes my scene and wants a gig–or you know someone who is, and does–
I need a drummer, an upright bass player, and an electric piano player (Rhodes, Wurlitzer). The sound, is, you know, my vibe–singer/songwriter-y, hiphop records circa 1991 ish, weirdness and simplicity in liberal doses. Not quite like Soul Coughing–less hardcore freaky–but not the stripped down Skittish thing, either.
Be in or near New York; don’t be a weed addict. And be awesome!
Send yer links or MP3s to email@example.com.
“We sell bread here,” is what that sign means, on a restaurant in my neighborhood that we call Fake France. But everytime I see it, I read: “ICY DEPOT OF PAIN.”
This morning, I’m in my shrink’s building, heading downstairs. I just make it onto the elevator before the doors close. There’s a guy in there who hit the door-open button just in time. “I almost hit the alarm button,” he says. “That would be bad news–me being black, and wearing a kufi.”
“Oh yeah,” I say, “I guess it’s rough being a Muslim these days. People panic really easily.”
“Well,” he says, “the scriptures say that if you serve God, you’re going to be persecuted. The prophets were persecuted. So I don’t mind.” He smiles. “He knows better than I do. That’s why I read the scriptures, so I know what’s coming.”
Elevator opens, and I say, “As-salaam walaikum,” and he replies, “Walaikum as-salaam.”
I meant it genuinely, but on the train back downtown to my house I felt a little cheesy about it.
“It is not outer awareness, It is not inner awareness,
nor is It a suspension of awareness.
It is not knowing, It is not unknowing,
nor is It knowingness itself.
It can neither been seen nor understood.
It cannot be given boundaries.
It is ineffable and beyond thought.
It is indefinable.
It is known only through becoming It.
It is the end of all activity, silent and unchanging,
the supreme good, one without a second.
It is the real Self.
It, above all, should be known.”
I love that “It” is capitalized, as Christians capitalize “Him”.
I read a piece in the Times yesterday about scientists and unprovable beliefs. There were some resentful remarks about the nonexistence of God–which I guess I should take as arguments for the nonexistence of what George Carlin calls “the invisible man that lives in the sky,” as opposed to an Eastern/Upanishadic idea of God.
There is an arrogance, a very human arrogance, to that kind of vehement disbelief in things that can’t be empirically proven; that there is nothing to existence that can’t be comprehended by the human mind. That everything about existence can be massaged into data. I believe that there is something, or there are some things, about the universe that are just too big for the human mind to wrap itself around.
(There’s the old Alan Watts argument for God–you can’t prove the existence of God just as you can’t prove the existence of love. You feel it.)
A central component of my spiritual life is that I don’t force myself to be beholden to what I believed God was yesterday. It’s pretty difficult! I want something to hold onto. But sometimes I think of it as the spirit of humanity, or the nature of Nature, or of music; sometimes it’s just whatever that huge knowledge is, that thing which is too huge for the human brain to understand.
Sometimes–in hours of extreme trouble–I do believe in the invisible man in the sky.
According to my guru, David Johansen.
“Your ego is like your liver,” he said. “We evolved with egos because we need them to survive. The problem is once you start letting your ego run the joint. It’s like letting your spleen be in charge.”
There was a guy who went to my high school a couple years before me named Steve.
Steve was this huge, hulking guy, but low-voiced and very gentle. They called him “the human tripod” because the A/V club couldn’t afford them, and yet the shots in Sam Saldivar’s 11th grade opus The Day The Earth Turned Vertical were impeccably steady.
Steve lived in Garrison, NY, which was across the river from our high school. There were four towns feeding our high school’s student body; West Point, where I lived, was generally the obsessively high-achieving, secretly-haunted kids of Army officers. Highland Falls and Fort Montgomery were, respectively, lower-middle and working-class towns characterized by extreme resentment at living in West Point’s shadow.
Garrison was where the rich kids lived. On that side of the river–the East–was the commuter train to New York, Grand Central Station. This was an extreme demarcation–the West side of the Hudson is forever the thrift side for lack of of this pipeline. Garrison kids tended to wear clothes bought at Canal Jean in the city, had excellent multicolored Vans shoes, and good cars.
Steve’s dad was a famous artist. But Steve was humbler by nature. While his dad was travelling the globe being celebrated, Steve mostly lived by himself through high school. He had an autoharp. Matt Saldivar–Sam’s younger brother, and my oldest friend–I literally went to preschool with him–told me that Steve would sit in his empty house at night, playing an autoharp.
Steve’s still around–in fact, my whole high school crew is still loosely confederated, is that not weird? One friend has kids and runs a major recording studio, another is a struggling actor of awesome talent, another spent his twenties shuttling to and from the UK until he married his girlfriend, another joined the FBI. Such disparate corners of life to which we all went, and yet when we get together for barbecues it’s like no time has passed.
And then I went to the annual non-drinkin’/druggin’ dance.
It was a hoot. I haven’t gone for a number of years–since my friend Kelly Sue got married and moved to Kansas City, in fact–since then, my potential companions for the non-drinkin’/druggin’ dance have been hipster boys prone to skulking by the wall. I like to dance like an idiot and, as Bow Wow Wow have said, Go Ape Crazy.
This year, I found a friend to go with –actually, a non-non-drinkin’-druggin’ friend, just tired of boozy so-called festivities this year, who was astounded at the depth and breadth of the non-drinkin’-druggin’ subculture–how many of us there are, how young we are, and, most pertinently, the ridiculous joy and abandon on the dance floor. Lots of young ex-ravers freaking out in front of the speakers. We danced until we were literally soaking wet.
Benefits included not having to keep an eye open for scary drunk guys; feeling a spray of liquid, one knew that it was water, not beer, getting splashed; girls not having that fuck-you-get-away affect, as no lone scary drunk guys were there to grind on their asses uninvited.
A delicious irony of the non-drinker-druggers is the joy found in drinking-drugging songs–50’s “You know I got the X if you’re into takin’ drugs!”–et al. Wild enthusiasm ensued on the dance floor. Confusing to my dancing partner but made perfect sense to me. I have nothing against drugs–love ‘em, in fact–I just don’t do ‘em anymore.
We left, I walked her up to the L train, we were both completely drenched. I found a $20 bill on the sidewalk, which I plan to give to the first busker I encounter as a merit-making gesture for 2005. I got a slice at Stromboli’s on the walk home; a leggy blonde lurched into the pizza place and unsuccessfully tried to get a Diet Coke. “Nobody in this establishment is drunk enough,” she said to me.
“You mean,” I said, “nobody that’s working here is drunk enough?”
“Yes.” She smiled crookedly, flirtily; I guess she thought it went without saying that I was as drunk as she was.
I thought: You’re absolutely right; as a matter of fact I don’t believe that I’ve ever been drunk enough.
I passed misfortunate girls as I made my way home. One squatting between cars on First Avenue, in a nice dress and heels, puking. Another passed out cold on a bench in a bus shelter, ministered to by friends stroking her hair. She was shoeless, for some reason, and the bottoms of her feet marked up with pavement dirt.