Jeezus New York is noisy. Don’t ask me how I managed to forget that fact in the couple of months since I’d been there. I usually slept well with the background sounds of the city, but that night I lay awake in Ziggy’s bed, very aware of every car and truck and dog and drunk that went by outside.
I lay there thinking, what are all these people doing here? How many of them came here to seek their fortune and got stuck in the grind? It just felt to me like there were so many people here and that just meant a hundred million potential tragedies waiting to happen. (In my head I’d done the math and decided each person had ten to twelve potential tragedies awaiting them so that was an estimate, not an exaggeration.)
Why it didn’t occur to me that each person might have an equal number of ways to turn out happy, I don’t know. Well, unless the reason is depression. But it seemed like each person gets exactly one path where it all works out and multiple pitfalls where it doesn’t.
Maybe it wasn’t depression so much as that seemed true for me. I could only imagine one path for myself?
Because here’s the thing. I knew music was the way. If I couldn’t play the way I used to, well, I couldn’t let that stop me. Wasn’t I the one who’d said–long before the injury–that if I lost an arm I’d still find a way? Yeah, that was me. If I had to play the glockenspiel with my toes on the street corner. But thinking about that: Would I actually be happy playing the glockenspiel with my toes on the street corner? (I don’t know how to play the glockenspiel, by the way. It’s just an example.) I probably wouldn’t except that I assumed I’d be happier if I could earn a living than if I couldn’t. Right?
But what if happiness wasn’t all about making a living? In fact, if both pop songs and poets are correct, making a living usually isn’t at the top of the all-time happy list. You know what is? Love. (And let’s count sex as part of that.) You know what’s next after sex and love? If pop songs are to be believed… music and dancing.
I mean, maybe there’s a bias there. After all, religious books say the path to happiness is more religion, so of course pop songs focus on music and dancing…?
But who do you think I’m going to listen to, the Pope or the Beatles? Lennon and McCartney probably had a lot more to say that was relevant to my life than some guy who spent his days acting like he was living in medieval times.
Of course thinking about Lennon and McCartney got me thinking about the defining partnerships of rock and roll, and wondering how many wives each of them had because there might have been more of them than I knew. My neck and back were starting to feel stiff from lying down but being all wound up. I was too young to have known what was happening when the Beatles broke up. By the time I came along, the story that “Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles” was what I picked up by osmosis.
But now I had to wonder. They had the whole music industry to deal with. The pressure of fame. The need to produce. Drug problems. Fucking off to India to find themselves…
I decided to take from this line of thought that my problems were not entirely unique. I was far from the first musician to feel like the industry was the problem and not the solution. Name me a song about the music business that has a happy ending. Mostly, they don’t. “Juke Box Hero” maybe? But most of the ones I can think of are along the lines of Depeche Mode’s “Everything Counts” and Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar.”
It’s not all songs about love and sex and dancing.
Maybe the problem was that I needed music to live, but by making a living with music I’d put myself into the grind that was going to kill me. Was that a depressing thought, or what?
And where did love fit in all of it? Ziggy and I were together, well and truly attached at the hip. Lovingly and willingly. He snuffled quietly in his sleep, oblivious to my angst. If I had to find a way to survive without the industry tearing me apart, I had to find a way to make music with him that didn’t tear the two of us apart.
And I couldn’t do anything about anything until I was healthy. But was that what was actually holding me back? Or was that my excuse for not having to deal with anything else? (Well, Claire was my excuse, but on top of that…?) If I really wanted to get on with dealing with everything, wouldn’t I have been doing my rehab exercises?
I sat up and stretched. It’s March, I thought to myself. It’s fucking spring. It’s supposed to be the time of renewal. So why do I still feel dead?
Ziggy rolled over and a warm hand crept over my thigh. He mumbled something with his face in his pillow.
“I’m sorry? What?”
He freed his face as his arm hooked all the way across my middle. “I said I know what you’re thinking.”
I doubted that, but I said, “Oh?”
“You’re thinking shit, I can’t sleep, and I can’t knock back half a bottle of bourbon and a Benadryl either, so I’m trapped and what am I going to do.”
“No, I…” I started to object but then I thought about it. I hadn’t actually gotten to the part about the B&B but otherwise that was accurate enough, I guess. “Yeah, I suppose.”
“Only one thing left to try then.” His hand slipped up my chest and then between my legs while he literally gnawed on my hip. “Eh?”
Oh. Yeah. That. “You think that’ll work?”
“And if it doesn’t at least we got laid? Come here, dear one. I’m feeling deprived.”
“Well, when you put it that way.” What the heck. Pursuing the things at the top of the all-time happy list was probably a good strategy.
(Metallica. Nuf said. But I also have to share my fave version of this song. Below. -d)
I’m still pissed you didn’t use Say Hello to Heaven at any point during 1991. Not even when Jordan died. You are not forgiven >:(
I Dub Thee Unforgiven, if you insist on Metallica.
It just hasn’t fit. (Unforgiven is also on the list of songs that haven’t been used, of course.)
Had a conversation recently with a group of visual artists from various fields, about the potentially unavoidable downturn when you make your passion your job. There is such a drive to do this: to turn your creativity into a moneymaker….what about just enjoying the passion?
Kind of depends on your goals. If I were flipping burgers for a living when would I have time to make the music I do? When reaching people–mass amounts of people, especially–is a big part of your goals, you’re not content with just standing on the street corner anymore. (Never mind that you really can’t make enough to live off flipping burgers any more…)