Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year?

I wanted to wish all my friends and listeners a Happy New Year. Given where things are politically, economically and environmentally, that may be a tall order...but I'm wishing it nevertheless.

I always seem to have a dominant theme every year and this one is no different, but in this case there are TWO dominant themes: disappointment...and letting go.


Disappointment has actually been an extended theme, really a lifelong one, and it permeates, increasingly, all levels of my being and my perceptions of the world around me. On the musical level, as an artist who is driven to write songs of depth that deal with subjects that provoke the denial mechanism in almost everyone, I have had four decades of doors slammed in my face on every front, and as the culture careens headlong into a full-tilt real-time enactment of the movie Idiocracy, this has turned out to be a banner year for said slamming. From local musical cliques that favor marginal talents as long as they are “in with the in crowd” and “go along to get along”, to my recent discovery that there is almost no merit-based way to get past the gatekeepers of online promotion, it's been a downer front to back. As to the latter issue, I've found that pretty much everyone who is not either already in the throes of fame has to engage in outright payola to get ears on songs and eyes on videos. Sadly, if you can't be pigeonholed into some tiny little genre box by some 23-year old hipster idiot with a Wordpress blog and a tin ear, you're on the outside looking in...and it doesn't matter how good your material is and how well you present it or how germane it is to the larger world in all its splendor...”different” is scary and it MUST be kept away from the public...unless you want to start PAYING for that direct exposure directly. Which I may do at some point, just for the hell of it. Why not? We're probably all going to die soon anyway, so why should I keep playing the last honest man? I'm getting tired of it..and tired of a lot of things, basically.

That “die soon” thing...I'm really feeling it now. The general malaise that has been my constant companion since I first became aware of politics during the Watergate scandal (well before I sprouted my first pubic hair) has blossomed since the election into a barely-subdued panic that only fades when I immerse myself in some pointless project or another. So much has been written about the stunted man-child that 'Murca has plopped into the big chair that I really don't feel like adding to the wholly justified pile-on, but suffice it to say that I view him as a complete abomination and his cabinet-to-be as possibly the most appalling confluence of ghoulish monstrosities since Goebbels, Himmler, Mengele, Hess and company upended every last notion of decency back when twittering was the mere purview of birds. There is no way that this does not end badly...probably horrifically. And you know what? We deserve the bastard...we really and truly do. Maybe not ALL of us, but most of us. This is a creature born of the most infantile repressed dark zones of the human id, and he is the logical end result of our collective apathy, denial, complacency and the naively egalitarian notion that EVERYONE deserves a reward just for showing up and having the ability to fog a mirror.

I blame the Left for Trump as much as the Right, frankly...and not just because Bernie Sanders had the rug pulled out from under him by the DNC...but because of the long term cultural trend that has dictated that EVERYONE deserves a seat at the table, no matter how completely stupid they may be. The idea that everyone is entitled to a high level of self-esteem regardless of their merit or accomplishments is why we have a tragically inept reality TV star mere days away from being the “leader of the free world”. We are about to learn that the notion that “everyone can grow up to be president” is a dangerously stupid one when applied to a rather large segment of the public. In a world where Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty are considered valid forms of entertainment we need to let these sentiments go, however seemingly noble their intent was once upon a time. In fact, much of what this country was founded upon probably needs to be revisited...and it will...but not in the direction that would lead to a better world for all concerned: it will very likely descend into overt fascism...overt fascism with a Modern Country soundtrack and a collective Billy Bob leer. This is one of those moments in time where I am actually glad that only a tiny handful of people are interested in myself or my music or my judgmental blatherings: I may not end up in a camp when things get really going out there...I may be left alone. Not that it matters that much to me anymore...I've kind of let go of it all on some levels.

Letting go...the other theme. Perhaps it's an artifact of finally getting old or having my adrenal glands so overstimulated by this phantasm we call reality that they simply can't process anything anymore OR perhaps I've developed SOME vague level of spiritual maturity that allows me, finally, to be relatively sanguine in the throes of utter chaos...but I've really let go of a lot this year. Even basic staples of human living like sex, romance, hope for the future on ANY front whatsoever, even THOSE elements have finally dropped from my psyche like the fur or feathers from a creature that hears the muffled cries of its brethren from the slaughterhouse. I have reached a place of zen in some ways...a place where I keep looking within to find some remaining connection to the greater world as it reaches the hockey stick curve of the downward spiral, and finding nothing but the desire for some quiet small place to fade away into the hereafter. About all I have that still gets me up in the morning are my friends and my music...and the latter basically translates into wanting to record and gig a bit with my acoustic partner and maybe squeeze out another album of my own to top off a musical legacy that will fade into oblivion shortly after I do. That's about it. I do have the desire to find that quiet place somewhere where the weather and the people are warmer, so I have my beady little eyes set on the Ozarks...but it's sort of a race against time as I fully anticipate that Trump and his minions will eventually pop this ephemeral balloon of an economy and wherever anyone is when it happens will be where they end up pushing up radioactive daisies, as once the money stops so does the gas...and the food.

Letting go has played heavily in our venal pox of a mass culture too: we've let go of a lot of luminaries this year...important ones. Of course a lot of that is purely natural in terms of numbers: as a population ages, it dies...but the quality of the people who left us this year is what is incredibly striking to me. I can't recall a year where so many people who single-handedly redefined our society went trundling off into that goodnight. Bowie, Prince, Cohen...these were some of the most singular talents among us and their passing hit really hard. The two things that really sucked the wind out of me this year were the death of Bowie, the man who made me want to be a singer AND made it ok for me to be the flamboyant little weirdo that I once proudly was, and the election of that orange-haired two-legged carp to the highest office in the land.

The latter event seriously broke something in me. I had, for the longest time and despite all evidence to the contrary, had a tiny little vague flicker of hope for our species...hope that at some point we'd collectively wake up, finally, and get it right. That's gone. As a friend of mine says “into the hopper with us”. I had long harbored the notion that a species that could come up with all the brilliant art and music and philosophy that we can come up with was somehow redeemable. I have let that go too. It was a painful operation and the stitches have not yet come anywhere near healing, but it's the conclusion I have had to draw from the facts presented to me: perhaps it is just wrong to be human. We take entire planets and reduce them to toxic cesspools, even though we do write some nice symphonies to go along with it. I have to judge by actions and not laudable sentiments and lofty words, and my feeling now is that we kind of suck across the board. Sorry...it's just how I feel these days. How can I feel otherwise, given that we chose such a blatant demagogue to lead us, despite centuries of historical background telling us that that is exactly the worst thing we could possibly do at exactly the worst time we possibly could do it?

Granted, INDIVIDUALS (or even small groups of them) can be incredibly kind and loving and helpful, we CAN follow the better angels of our nature...but under long periods of duress or gathered together in larger collectives a lot of that breaks down and it's the Darwinian Death Stomp that takes hold it its place.

So for me 2016 has been an exercise in not just lowering my expectations, but eliminating a fair amount of them entirely..and I suspect it is just an appetizer: the main course will manifest in 2017. A lot of people that I am quite fond of, love even, are wishing for 2017 to be a year of some Great Awakening where we will come together and realize that we are all one, etc., and I REALLY hope that they are right...but I feel like this will be the year where the darkness descends in earnest, and where those of us of conscience and goodwill will need to summon every inner resource available to help each other get past it...if there IS a “past it”...because on the other side of it is a world with a climate system gone horrifically awry that may make all of our sociopolitical hi-jinks a relative mote in the broad grinning face of it all.

My own new year starts with spending a few more days with some wonderful friends and their goofy and lovable animals and then some more time playing a bit in warm places before I head back to the tundra to plot the next few steps of my life's journey...a journey that now is solidly overshadowed by some rather large global question marks: Is this the year the economy finally crashes? Is this the year WWIII finally breaks out? Will the new administration be a joke or a dictatorship?

And where in that huge heady mix does a little man with broken dreams find a place?

Regardless of where I find MY place...if I ever do...I hope YOU find a place in it, if you haven't already.  A safe and warm one. A loving one...one you can call home.

May this be a good year for you.