Friday, January 25, 2008

Upside-Down Blues Cake

A cowboy stood outside the bar in the cold, not wanting to pay the cover charge, just wanting to hear that weeping Jeremiah pick the rest of a twelve-bar out of that Stratocaster. Just wanting to hear Gospel according to a Marshall amplifier.

I travel the blue pilgrim road of a junk driver, praying and hoping the car home. Muddy Waters pour out of the gaps in the radio static, and I look into the face of the hooker I pass up near Mario's on North Broadway. It's far too cold to be running a gig like that tonight, my dear, I think. But she attempts a smile and a twirl of her platinum hair. It's the same smile I've been attempting all night, plugging coffee to every SUV that rumbles up to the drive-thru speaker.

There is no shortage of attempts in the mix. Attempts at boldness. Attempts at love. Attempts at wisdom. It's like I was reading the dinner menu only to find out it was the New Testament, and the minor prophets were cooking in the kitchen behind closed doors. The whole world is quite upside-down. Every time I look somebody in the eye, I see the face of God, the Holy Ghost staring back at me in the rush of soul-nakedness you get when you really look at somebody. My usual response is to wall myself up and stare the person down, or to look away because I am overwhelmed. But boldness is keeping that unspoken conversation going - not looking judgmentally, but letting them in the door. Perfect love drives out fear.

Love is boldness? This makes no sense. I've run a gig of my own on Madison Avenue long enough to know that Love is an expensive fragrance, and Boldness is a disguise for outlandishly bad painting. This, plus wisdom is a silent listener and not a self-help book? What kind of world have we been living in all this time?

And then you say something really topsy-turvy like...

       Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pregnant With Work

The in-betweens of work are the most frustrating. The times when there's no breeze to catch in the sails and you've just got to row it out over the bland calm between the trade winds. I've been working at this album for more than a few months now, finding time to truck a one-man-band up to Sevierville in a car that can't take much more stuffing. It seems that every time I turn around, something has interrupted the work. No money. No studio. No producer. No money. No money. No equipment. No computer. The list rolls out like a government deficit. And whenever I play a song for someone, they're always asking, "Do you have a cd?"

No, I answer, and I seem to hear some disembodied voice laughing emptily as I stand there like the kid who didn't get picked to play kickball. "But I'm working on one!" I add hopefully, thinking that maybe the very speaking of those words will bring this journey to some fruition. Again, the voice laughs.

"God doesn't want you to record a cd. You're being selfish. This whole thing is all about you."

Okay, maybe so. God, how can I make it not about me, so I can accomplish it?

"I've told you, he doesn't want you to do it. In fact, this whole music thing is far to dangerous for someone like you who is so easily enamored with himself. You should quit."

But he gave me these gifts. You made this possible, Lord, so why stop with the possibles now?

"You know you could get a lot of money for those guitars and that piano and all that. Pay off student loans, car payments, credit cards. God wants you to be out of debt, too."

Damn, I wish that voice would go away sometimes. Okay, all the time. Assurance is most certainly a divine quality, and doubt a human one. I'm starting to feel like I might understand pregnant women a little, who spend nine months fighting, hoping, struggling, wishing, and crying, just to be the vessel of one miracle. Let's be honest, their experience is a little more flesh-and-blood than mine, but you get the picture. I'm starting to wonder if this recording is ever going to happen. And if it does, am I ever going to want to do this again? I know that I'll never be able to say 'No'. When you are given something to bring to life, as a shadow of the One who gives life, can you really say no? I would die with the effort of trying to keep it in. I'm not the best steward of these things, but I can't keep them silent.

God bless my family for being so supportive in all this, always asking, always encouraging, and paying out the wazoo to help. That's right, the wazoo. I hope I don't run out of steam to keep hope in the engine before this is over.

Oh, and while we're talking about albums, you should go out and buy all of Andy Gullahorn's right now. There are three. If I had the money, it's what I would do.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Making Gumbo

I find myself trying to explain to my Buddhist friend how I as a Christian feel about community. We go out to walk the dogs and sit down for a cup of tea and our conversation finds itself at a nexus of trail-heads, with cryptic signs hanging at absurd angles from old wooden posts. So the topic begins to wander and drift like a raft on a lazy river of Ceylon tea - and questions come up.

The thought of community has followed me around like a little white dog that won't go away. Sometimes I would love to be able to shirk of this jacket of need that I wear, and go it alone. The ergonomics of aloneness are perfectly logical. But I can't deny, I want you around. Sometimes where I can see you, sometimes just to know you're in the other room. Whoever you are, I'm addicted to you. And, no offense to the rest of you, but I really enjoy the company of Christians. Of people, that is, who perhaps don't see me as certifiably unhinged like the rest of the world does. You, my brother, my sister, are a draught of awakening. The anti-drug that un-numbs my eyes and ears, even when I don't want it that way.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Not "one man should sharpen another," but one man does. Inexplicably. Uncontrollably. You put two people together, and they become stones in a tumbler. They come together in kisses and left hooks. They are changed. And if their lives are wedded to the smile of the Christ, they are changed to fit a strange and storied pattern.

But sometimes we forget. Sometimes, there's far too much business to step into the rolling gumbo of community. Too much importance to get the spices on your tongue until your eyes water a little as your mind reels from the beauty of the calico taste of things thrown together. And just like alcoholics, we should never be alone. One alone is one who will return to his addictions.

I am blessed to have a group of siblings surrounding me who keep me accountable to quite a lot, mostly by their very presence and demeanor. It's difficult to remember to invade the space of your acquaintances and get to the messy business of making friends. It's much easier to ask how people are doing and be satisfied with a quick answer. It's easy to use the secrets of people you know to create juicy conversations in a sort of emotional masturbation, but it's harder to bear the trust of people and get involved in grief and in healing.

I don't know if I can say it enough. Do not forget each other. Do not forget each other. Oh, my loves, do not forget each other.

Love each other as I have loved you.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mic Check


Hello, is this thing on?

A man walks onto the stage, hearing whispers of the vaudeville ghosts rustling the velveteen curtain. An old Shure 52 stands alone in the island of a spotlight, daring him to plant the seeds of his voice into the waiting airwaves.

It seems to have been a while since I've done this, I hope you'll forgive me. I'm a little rusty.

He looks up into the sound booth, a beacon of dim yellow light three miles across the auditorium. The man with the headphones on flips a switch and pushes up a fader hopefully. The red light on the outside of the booth blares its presence into the dark.


We have stepped back into the river of the information superhighway here at Sinclair House. The water's a little further along than when I left it, but I'm glad to be back (sort of - the hiatus was a blessing, and it has taught me a few things). A lot has happened since then, but I'm not going to bother you with the details. I'm sure it will come out in the wash.

I'll try to return to the world of blogging with regularity and validity.

Oh, and here's the newest blogging fodder to add to your repertoire-
The Rabbit Room