(Bit of news: DGC ebook volume 6 is up for pre-order on Amazon and Smashwords now! -ctan)
I think one step in figuring my shit out wasn’t making better decisions so much as recognizing when I was making shitty ones. That didn’t always stop me from making a bad decision, but it was better than the times when I hadn’t even realized there was a decision to be made.
I decided not to stop drinking when I started processing what Sarah and Trav were saying. I was feeling really unmoored by the whole conversation and being intoxicated isn’t exactly a grounding thing. But at least I was aware that I had a choice whether or not to have another drink, as opposed to it being some kind of inevitability. Does that make sense? Trav bought me a drink, and then I bought myself another one, not out of habit but in a conscious decision not to sober up yet.
I apologized to Sarah some more but every time I ran up against something in me that felt really basic, really solid in my core: my beliefs about the superiority of my chosen mode of artistic expression.
That night six of us ended up at Trav’s loft in Soho. The other three were also music industry people. Good people, though, Trav’s people. A backup singer, a producer I think I’d met before, and a third guy whose connection to the group I didn’t know at first but I figured I’d either find out or I wouldn’t.
I know I sail through life without people’s names sticking to me. I used to think that was a failing on my part. Now I think it’s normal. Everyone I know says they’re bad with names. I think this means the people who are good with names won’t admit it because they’re such a minority. I still feel like crap when I forget the name of someone I actually like and respect because if they realize I don’t remember their name they automatically feel like I must not like or respect them. Like if I really cared, I’d remember. But that isn’t how my brain works.
Anyway. I don’t remember the names of the other people there, but that didn’t mean I didn’t like them or that I was unfriendly to them. Although I was not at my best, what with being in the midst of an existential crisis and all.
I made the decision to sober up when Trav showed me the coffee setup in his kitchen. Since he lived in a loft, the kitchen was built into one corner, and the coffee machine took up most of an entire countertop against the wall. He was showing me how it worked while we talked.
I was still kind of hung up on what we had been talking about. As you can imagine. “Authenticity isn’t just about place or culture, though. It’s about era and time, too,” I said. “If I go to the Haight and drop acid and make an album with fuzzed out guitars and a lot of flange effects, that doesn’t make my psychedelia more authentic.”
“Well, because it would lack the element of originality,” Trav said, while he measured out the beans. “Thing is, now you’ve got a whole new generation of hippie kids, wearing the hairstyles and the bell bottoms.”
“Okay, but are they into the philosophy of the whole freedom and love generation? Or do they just think the style is cool?”
“Is there really a difference?” he asked.
“I think the people who went and protested in the streets against the Viet Nam War and stuff probably think there’s a difference.”
“But how many was that? And how many of that generation just liked the style at the time? And did they define their identity by the music they listened to? I thought you were against that whole concept.”
Apparently Trav and I had talked about this before. Probably while we had been recording 1989. “You mean the concept that the punks and the metalheads and the rappers can’t get along?”
“Well, of course. It’s patently ridiculous that people who like one type of music can’t get along with people who like a different type. As if there’s something inherent about their identity? Something that is ‘true’ punk? or ‘true’ metal? It’s bogus that you have to choose between one or the other and it’s like you’re not allowed to like both. That’s as ridiculous as saying if you’re Italian you’re only allowed to eat Italian food. You’re not allowed to like Greek or Chinese.”
“It’s worse than that,” Trav said. “If you’re Italian, at least you grew up with it and so maybe there’s a tradition from your family that you feel a part of. Whereas what music you listen to? No one listens to the music of their parents. That’s the whole point.” He had to pause because the grinder was loud. When he was done grinding the beans he went on. “I mean, I get that people use music as a way to break away from their parents, as a way to grow up and be independent. But we were talking about genre. And people choosing which genre they listen to and the fallacy that what genre they choose is therefore superior to the genres chosen by others.”
“Oh shit, now it makes sense.” I pressed my palms to my forehead. “That’s exactly what I think, and yet when it came to myself, not as a listener, but as a creator… Ouch. My head hurts.”
“There will be coffee soon,” he said, as if the reason my head hurt was what I’d been drinking.
“There’s a word for that, isn’t there?”
“Lack of coffee?”
“No no, that thing where you’re convinced you’re better than everyone based on an arbitrary thing that has nothing to do with it.”
“You mean, chauvinism?”
“So you’re saying you’ve been a… guitar chauvinist pig?”
“Alternative chauvinist pig, I think.” I called over to Sarah. “Hey, Sar’. C’mere.”
She was barefoot and had an afghan wrapped around her shoulders. “You guys making coffee?”
“He’s making the coffee. I’m helping by staying out of the way,” I said.
Trav started doing something with mugs and got out a carton of milk. “Daron wants to know if you agree on something.”
“Okay.” Sarah gave me a skeptical but expectant look.
“Am I an alternative chauvinist pig?”
She dissolved into instant laughter. “Yes! Yes, that’s exactly what you are. Or were…?” she asked hopefully.
“I’m working on it,” I said. “God. I knew genre was meaningless. I told people I believed genre was meaningless. And yet deep down I still have this feeling…” The more I thought about it the more it felt like a lead weight was pressing down on my head. “If I don’t believe in what I’m doing, I’m not sure I can keep doing it.”
“Wait. Music’s only worth doing if you believe your music is superior to everyone else’s?” Sarah asked.
“No. No, that’s not what I mean…” But this was why it was an existential crisis. Something had changed. Something had moved out from under my feet.
Maybe it had moved a while ago, though, and I was like the cartoon character who kept running long after passing the edge of the ledge, but only fell upon noticing there was no ground under him.
“I don’t feel so good,” I said.
“Bathroom’s through that sliding door,” Trav said, pointing.
“Not that kind of not good,” I said, and decided I better sit. I sat cross-legged at the edge of where the kitchen tile changed to hardwood and leaned my back against the brick wall.
Trav mixed me up a cup of coffee then, heavy on the milk and sugar. I don’t know how he knew I liked it like that unless he remembered from when we were working on the album. Come to think of it, that was the sort of thing he would remember. Jordan Travers was nothing if not observant.
Me, on the other hand, we know I’m not as observant as I could be. Case in point: after Trav handed a mug of coffee to Sarah, he brought some to the other three, who were sitting a couple of yards away around the coffee table. He put a mug down in front of the backup singer and one in front of the producer, but the third one he handed right to the guy I didn’t know. The guy kissed him on the cheek in thanks.
Yeah, I can be pretty thick sometimes. I forced myself to look into my coffee mug so I wouldn’t stare. I mean, my whole worldview was already in a shambles, what was one more thing?
Trav came to collect my empty mug a little later. What came out of my mouth was, “Have you been gay this whole time?”
“Only for the last thirty years,” he said.
Daron’s Guitar Chronicles Omnibus 1: Compiling chapters 1-200 of DGC (ebooks 1, 2, and 3) into one huge paperback. $25 including shipping in the USA. (Overseas, contact me for the shipping price.)
Daron’s Guitar Chronicles Omnibus 2: Compiling chapters 200-388 (ebooks 4 and 5) into one huge paperback. $26 including shipping in the USA.
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Moondog 3 Totebag: Black cotton canvas shoulder tote with the Moondog 3 logo on the side. $27 including shipping in the USA.
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