Performing Without A Net

jazz_club

Tonight I’m drinking with Fitzgerald, Bukowski and Kerouac, those fuckers sure could spin a tale and drink like a school of drowning fish.  I invited Hemingway to drop by, but he was busy playing nursemaid to a typewriter and polishing his guns.  It’s just as well he couldn’t make it, as guns and alcohol make dangerous bedfellows.  Although, spilling ink can be equally as painful as spilling blood.

These fellas had so many foibles and bad habits that it would be hypocritical for them to say a bad word about anybody else, that’s why I hangout with them, cause they don’t come at me sideways with their God-speak, patriotic-mumbo jumbo or self-righteous, sanctimonious finger wagging. The whole lot of them are serial liars and dexterous sinners. Ya see, writers don’t really lie, they just kind of bend the truth a bit—-and as for being sinners, a life without sin possesses no sustaining storyline.  If ya don’t believe me, just ask God about his favorite protagonist—the devil. We all need our devils and our Gods to test our balance as we wobble across life’s tightrope.  One misstep and you could end up in jail, or worse yet, a Mormon or a new-age vegan.

In the corner of the dark dank bar Waits meanders about the piano keys playing a melancholy jazz riff on an old battered upright piano.  His whisker stubbled face is silhouetted in a smokey blue light, the derby on his head cocked forward and a cigarette dangles from his perturbing lips.  A cat named Bird stares blankly into space as he lifts a shiny alto to his mouth.  His improvisations are a soured marriage between black blues and leftover notes that fumble their way into dissonance—more or less a drunken lullaby.  Vincent sits at a table near the musicians. He makes his childlike sketches and occasionally looks up at the band to lend them his ear (so to speak). The duo plays forlorn melodies that we slowly get sauced to, as we indulge our miseries, such is the sad yet beautiful futility of recounting a long-lost love-affair or friendships now withered and gone by the wayside.  Most love affairs are doomed from the get-go, but friendships are all we really have to sustain us, someone to catch us should we fall.  I miss my friends.

I only see my old pals now at weddings or funerals. I once unsuccessfully attempted to organize a Mens Retreat. I called a few of the old gang and emailed a couple of others.  Most of them never got back to me and those that did offered up some slipshod excuses about how they were predisposed.  They awkwardly mumbled on about work responsibilities, family responsibilities, money responsibilities and other middle-age obligations.   This may sound crazy, but I miss my once young irresponsible friends—what they lacked in maturity they more than made up for in temerity.

To much time alone can cause a man to substitute regret for nostalgia.  What is, “is”—- what ain’t—- “ain’t”—-and what never-was— “ain’t never gonna be”.   Everybody changes, some for the better, others for the worse.  Shockingly, some of my old buddies have even thrown their lot in with the right-wing conservatives—-go figure?  I do my best to remember the good-times—And I’m fortunate to have absorbed so many fond memories.

I’m reminded of one of my old favorite tunes by Simon and Garfunkel, “Bookends”.

Time it was and what a time it was it was,
A time of innocence a time of confidences.

Long ago it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you

Unexpectedly, Twain, Steinbeck, Armstrong and Columbus drop by. They’re all excited about heading out west to explore some uncharted territories. They claim to have some rough draft maps and charts they got from a couple of fellas named Lewis and Clark. They came by to ask if we might like to throw in with them. We all looked at one another with that singular writers eye. Most stories don’t come to you, on the contrary, you have to seek them out.  Ah yes, only through adventure do we discover new worlds and in the process come to better know what we’re made of.  The decision is unanimous, we’ll all head out west come first dawn.

To often adventure is perceived as a young man’s game.  But I say, attitude will always trump age.  Adventure demands an odd mixture of risk, courage, stamina and as some might see it—-a shit load of irresponsibility.   George Mallory expressed it so concisely when asked, “Why climb Everest?” George responded, “Because it’s there.”  Now isn’t that a Goddamn foolish and irresponsible reason for doing anything—-”Because it’s there?”  But as for me, those three words sparkle with a stark and eloquent truth, to evolve and grow the heart must be pierced with a curiosity to see what’s over that next horizon.

What I love about adventurers, artists and writers is how they peer at the world through the eyes of a child.  They never seem to lose that youthful sense of wonder and imagination.   They may come off as brash, irresponsible and even a bit mad, but perhaps that’s why they aren’t afraid to perform without a net—–.  So Adios mi amigos, I’m off to see what lies out west.  Hey, why don’t you saddle up and come on along as well.

th-6

This piece is dedicated to my life long brothers—Steve, Django, Mike, Chris, Pat, Danny and Norm.

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