Q: What Happens When You’re Smiling? A: The Whole World Smiles With You.

May 12, 2008

I remember reading a review of Amistad that harped on its anachronisms. One of them was the misuse of the word “pathetic.” Apparently in the 1820s it meant deserving of sympathy. I realized that it’s current meaning must’ve begun when people starting using it sarcastically, and that an eventual sarcasm-tipping-point flipped the very definition of the word.
Touring is done, though I have those shows down South over the weekend, which means I’ve been in a kind of limbo. I’m starting to work on some new songs, ripping off some old country melodies and grafting bits from my notebooks onto them. And every time I turn on Ableton (it’s DJing/production software) and start tinkering with my electro stuff I look up and realize I’ve been working nonstop for six hours, without even eating. (I’ve thought about it maybe being a decent weight-loss option)
I threw another Dubious Luxury shindig on Saturday, and it was poorly attended. Oh well. The fact is that I love doing it; I’d be doing it at home with headphones on if I weren’t in the Knitting Factory’s basement.
A friend came, with the bizarre rationale that she thought she hated House music, and wanted to see if she was right. We shared a cab back to Brooklyn, and she said that much to her surprise, she dug the music, but was dismayed that people just sat along the walls, leaving the dancefloor an empty moat.
So something is amiss. I’m contemplating a quasi-hired group of ringers, inviting Lang and NYU kids down, and offering free food in exchange for booty-shaking. No, seriously, if anybody is a decent party promoter out there, get in touch. A sample mini-set is up at DubiousLuxury.net. It’s good tunes to get high to. I promise.
I met a woman who runs a theater company, and read her manifesto on the company’s Myspace page.
(I like to pronounce Myspace not MY-space, but rather My-SPACE)
She talked about how her goal is to make people uncomfortable, and how she tricks herself into beginning to write a play by trying to write the play she least wants to write. The latter seems like a good trick–maybe I should sit down and try to write a mainstream country song, or a string quartet, or a ballad in the style of “Memory” from Cats, as a means of getting something interesting to come out.
I read somewhere that some Beatles songs started out as them jamming a jokey take on some goofy genre–oompah or ragtime or reggae or something.
But making people uncomfortable? It sounds much more playful, and cheerful, when she describes it; juxtaposing, intoxicating, and thrilling. Not like the old joke about the guy who says, “Your play was boring,” and the playwright says, “EXACTLY!” But what am I trying to do when I sit down to work? Move myself, make a connection between the song and myself. Is that enough? OK, I know, it’s enough. But what am I doing? What am I trying to do?
Lynda Barry has a book on writing that I pre-ordered off Amazon, called What It Is–it looks like a great big collage/scrapbook/art project, and it has exercises about plumbing your memory, extracting details, finding very specific images from childhood. Sekou Sundiata always used to say, “You don’t owe the facts anything.” Meaning that you’re not required as a writer to represent the complete and utter truth, when in fact you could put fiction into the events and find something more ‘truthful’ (unless yer James Frey, ahem).
The facts, the facts, the so-called facts. Seek the middle path.
Am I looking for a girlfriend? I’m looking for a girlfriend. I was dating a woman that I had dated previously, who withheld some big facts from me–namely, that she had a kid, and used to date a really good friend of mine a couple years back–but I got back together with her and, though I knew better, convinced myself that I wanted her to be my girlfriend, and kept telling her, and she seemed to assent, until I looked at her blog one day and there was a big picture of her making out with her boyfriend.
As my guru said: D’oh!
Then I met this one woman who lived in a different city, and was so soothing, beautiful, and righteous, but am I gonna be in a long distance relationship, jump into that mess again? No. I’m not going to jump into that mess again.
There’s a drumbeat in my head that I ought to find a woman and get married and have a kid, and I want to have a kid principally because I think I’d be good at it, that my years of therapy, and understanding of my own half-fucked childhood would enable me to raise a child in a world of fun and kindness. But it’s partially a need and partially a feeling of inexplicable obligation, and I mistrust it.
But the misery of my parents’ marriage in the 70s and 80s has convinced me that I have to take it day at a time, day at a time, day at a time; meet somebody and sloooooowly get to know her, live with her, get past the romantic phase and become a team, like a unit, and only then decide to create another life. I owe it to whoever’s little life that is.
My last relationship broke up because she wanted to get married, and I was like, yes! Absolutely! Let’s get married! Only I outlined the program above, and in addition told her I wanted her to go to therapy because of the stories she had told me about her childhood (and not to mention had serious misgivings about the weed she was smoking, near-secretively, when I wasn’t around). This horrified her; especially, I think, the part about getting past the romantic phase. Despite the family she grew up in, she clung to a belief in a lifelong fuzzy-feely marriage. Maybe people do have them.
I think I’m looking for a genius.
There is a pain on the side of my hand that only happens when I’m playing the outro chorus on “27 Jennifers.” No other song, and no other part of the song. I’m taking it morbidly, as an indication of eventual old age.
Arthur Russell was this fascinating New York guy, in the old dirty arty New York. He was a gay dude with huge acne scars that played the cello and sang songs and made obscure disco records. Below is a video for “This Is How We Walk on the Moon,” which I forwarded to my playwright friend that wanted to not hate House music; it kind of mirrors a House structure; one progression, variation, addition.