Friday, April 08, 2011

virtually every tree and flower is in bloom, making a stunning show and driving allergenic people inward toward their comfort zones. some people are driven by the beautiful weather to drive fast, or drive crazy, or shout out on campus; one gets the impression that the semester, if not the year, or perhaps the college career, is just about over. this is a college town, and it will be graduation soon, but in the meantime, the weather is breaking, the work is getting more intense, time is running out, and the sap is running in the bushes.

when i was traveling once i happened into a college town and had been encouraged by a friend to look her up when i was there. when i found her she immediately announced that she was leaving town, with me, on the following day, for good. she was sick of the town anyway, there was nothing in it for her, her boyfriend was treating her poorly, and since i was just drifting that looked good to her, though i was going nowhere in particular. southwest, maybe, into the folds of the clinch mountain where i lived once, and where the weather is always moderated by the mountain hollows and the fog rises from the valleys. tne boyfriend confronted me as if i were stealing his girl, which i guess i was, but i had no special intention that way and told him so; i was just traveling and she'd taken it upon herself to up and go with me. it turned his world upside down, i'd guess, but i hadn't really seen that coming. i've lost track of both of them somehow; she moved off to the netherlands for many years i think, and never really was my girlfriend, even then.

back then the expression "out there" had several meanings. if you stopped, and had a job, and a home, even temporarily, you were not "out there," but plenty of other people were, and once you came unhinged from that gig or that spot or wherever you were, then you were "out there" again, and that was a feeling of seeing every fork in the road as a life-changing experience; it was a pair of green signs, but it was everything, or nothing. you'd think the goal would be to find a place to land, make some money, set up a life for oneself, and sure, people would talk about the best place to live, or a place where someone knew someone, or where there was work available. but some people weren't happy even when they found that, and would rather be out there anyway. once you landed, all nature of problems would come crashing in, not the least of which was, having a general lack of money, it would be difficult getting truly established without some expense.

nowadays i come home from a job where i'm literally teaching, grading, frantically running around all day, and being addicted to the bog i log on and play a few games with a random bunch of highly literate wordmakers like pseudonym, jack grace, Jerseygirl, oniondip, and a few others. team join me is a constant competitor but they put their name in all caps and people do join them and they often win, rounds at a time. i know nothing of these people except what they reveal through their names, though i have a general sense that they're better than i am, consistently. tonight i got off the bog, took a shower, and went off and played a gig with a friend who came up from texas to perform at a coffee shop; it was a difficult gig, if only because my wife was sick, stepdaughter in the hospital (with a problem that's better now), and little lad, now six-yr.-old, at my knees. the music was hot though. i get extraordinarily shy now, onstage, whereas in those days i would do virtually anything onstage and had no skill. in the same way i'm extraordinarily glad to be home, on a quiet street, windows open, spring raging outside, while all those people, out there, get drunk, drive too fast, whatever. i'm a homebody. with family sick, in bed, coughing, or worried about people, i'd rather be on the bog, working out my passions, putting letters in order, as if i'm sweeping up some mess one of my students made by scattering errant letters all over a tile floor.

on this particular night my sister slips in on the bog for a single game, and, voila, we happen to win that game together by a single point, though i alone place only fiftieth, and she doesn't get any higher than thirtieth. for some reason we have complemented each other so that, between us, we beat everyone, but, she disappears immediately, probably to answer some phone call or go play a gig herself somewhere in the metropolitan new york area. it's good to connect with my sister though she often reminds me that getting better at the bog is generally a bad sign, not a good, as she too suffers from this kind of addiction. she is as i write arranging to aunt up my older sons who badly need to get out of this small one-horse town and go to the big city, where she will show them around and teach them a little how to cook; i've given up on that. the boys are, in their own way, out there, in the sense that they are no longer in the comfort of a safe warm house, provided for and easy at night, like their younger brothers.

i'd also, in those days, use the expression "out there" to refer to a mental state that was so different from that of most people, that it was almost incomprehensible. i have now come to have a deep fear of this sense of falling off the edge, though tonight, on stage, i had a foot more or less on the edge of the little metal stage and couldn't seem to move it back onto more stable ground; i enjoyed what it did to my balance and my fiddling and kind of played with the shifting sense of balance; it improved my fiddling by actually giving me a way to rock on the edge of my foot. a folkie, former musician of the community, had apparently died today, leaving my partner in mourning; she played some sad songs but also "life goes on" which is basically hopeful, and remembered this guy, who i couldn't seem to recall though i've been here almost fifteen years. i was never really a bedrock anchor member of the folk music community, though folks down at that coffee shop are beginning to know me now, and it's an honor to play, even once a year, at that venue, though this year i'm also playing the best auditorium in town, this wednesday, just by chance, to a dozen or more roving groups of third and fourth-graders from all over southern illinois. in these gigs, like i say, i'm quite shy, gladly giving over the stage to my more gregarious partners and playing backup but very melodious fiddle and getting slowly but steadily better at it. my friend, tonight, from deadwood texas or some such place, made a comment about missing home while he was traveling, but yet the minute he got home, needing to be on the road again. i on the other hand spent so much time on the road that now i just fantasize about it; its images follow me around as i drive through town; the feeling of van as mobile world, leaf in a spring breeze, is a shadow around every corner; odd images pop up partly as a result of the fact that, in going to new orleans recently, i opened a very old and slightly untidy drawer in the memory file. reminds me that this time of year, and this is virtually all i know of astrology, we go relentlessly through the time of the traveler, the pioneer; until we reach the cusp, and there we are at the time of the settler, the homebody. and right there at that cusp is my birthday, right there on that edge, though i'm slightly over the edge on the side of the settler. having made my stand, carved out my clearing in the trees, i sit here, axe in hand, and all i want to do is bog. that, and go to bed after a long night.


Blogger J-Funk said...

You and Margot ROCK at the bog!

11:29 AM  

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