Music and Bootstraps

(and a new outlook)

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get out of my head. New songs help. As we all know, the year has wreaked havoc and has us punching ourselves in the head from the inside as we wrassle with fight or flight. Anyone? Maybe it’s just me.

Fortunately, I’ve been having great creative sessions with one of my dear friends. I’m sharing project details on The Writing Record, so check it out! So much creative progress has occurred in recent weeks, that our skype calls have become a temporary escape from the anxiety of our new normal. Our world on fire. A pandemic of real cost and consequence for half the country, and a farce labeled as such by the other half. Our orange president speaking in tongues and soaking with incoherence those of us in the front row. Uncertain times, for sure. Fatalistic? Most definitely. That’s my primary setting.

Nonetheless, world aflame and all that shit, I am now left with a clarity of joy and purpose I had forgotten about. I remembered what it was like to get out of my head. I’ve been working with my friend Dane on a mini-musical that we hope to finish by the end of September. One song a week. Four songs. Incidental music and a small helping of dialogue to strengthen the through-line, and then voila! We will have something new. But already, collaborating has led me to this obvious revelation: Bootstrapping your way through life is fun and all, but have you ever bootstrapped your way through life without boots? Boots aren’t for me. My feet sweat at the thought of helping myself, I suppose. What’s better than finding hope and drive and dignity at the bottom of your worn boots? Helping your friends find their boots, and reaching out in case they need a hand with their straps.

Is that so goddamn hard to ask?

I ask this of myself first. Because why should I chastise anyone without confronting my own bootstrapped feet? (not to mention, I have boots for days at home)…

I just don’t want to keep thinking about bootstraps and giving my neighbors the finger when I can lend the whole hand. Few working class people are having a grand old time right now. These feelings of panic and distress are only escalated by our collective scarcity mindset. Speaking for myself, I find I have a scarcity mindset that at times permeates into my emotions as well. I feel as if I don’t have enough to give. But what can we do when scarcity is the only song we were ever taught? It was the only song we learned, because it doesn’t have many notes and it’s easy to remember by ear. We sing it to anyone who will listen, and its melody is simple and contagious and so everyone picks it up and continues to propagate it. What the fuck are we doing? The wealthiest nation in the world is an orchestra and it loves to play Mary Had a Little Lamb. I’d like to hear that orchestra at its full potential someday.

And as I try to grapple, once again, time and again, with the magnitude of the issues we face as a country, and the fact I feel helpless in the slung heaps of injustice and hurt and sickness of our American everyday, I must remind myself I am not the orchestra, but the stray clarinet player doing the best he can. Indeed, I have my part to play, but so do the rest of us.

So this is where the clarity of joy and purpose found me. I felt it guiding me to a better place, emotionally. I felt the hurt and heartbreak leave my body for a brief time. I forgot about the fires, and the injustices, and the goddamned pandemic, and the horsemen’s additional bag of pending plagues. Thanks to a friend who took the time to reach out and offer a temporary diversion, I put my panic attacks on hold and stepped into a familiar pool of light: One of hope and possibility. Sweet wounded Jesus and the heavens above, we all need that right now. Hope and possibility.

I’m not a doctor or a health services professional. I’m not a fireman or a nurse. I can’t kill the fires with my bare hands and I sure as hell can’t step into an emergency room and clobber COVID with roundhouse kicks. I’m barely an essential worker. But what I can do, is bring hope and levity to the people I care about. I miss my Mother and Father, my sisters too. I miss my friends, and the times when we made each other laugh in person. I miss so many things and I know you do too. I’m not in a position of power; I can’t fight the pandemic with executive orders or legislation. I’m just a guy who writes and records. But no matter what my jaded self tells me, I know there’s new songs out there for us to play. I’m pretty sure you can find one too. All ears on deck.

…I think I found mine. I think it’s true. And if I play this hopeful part on the clarinet just right, maybe the bassoons and oboes will join in, enticing the woodwinds, and then the brass and the strings and even the fella who dings the triangle is welcome to join in. Maybe it’ll just be me and my friends, but at least we won’t be bootstrapping on our own.

All I wanted to say is I am feeling better, optimistic, and bearing a lighter emotional tone. So I will be consolidating a few things in the coming weeks on, and prepare for a new chapter of collaboration by sharing this blog and this space with my creative allies to make great shit, and to promote joy. Let’s see what sticks.

Much love,


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