There’s more I want to say, and this goes deeper into who we are and where we are in time, you might say.
At the heart of what I write about at the Omphalos Cafe is an understanding of something that is going on in our culture, and has been going on for a century or more.
And that is: men are in crisis these days. The customs and rituals which used to aid in a young man’s threshold crossing into adulthood no longer apply, are no longer effective in his life, in our lives. The result is we men are virtually on our own and what might have occurred say in our teens or early twenties at an earlier day in age can be prolonged or delayed into our thirties or even forties.
Long ago writing about attending a poetry reading I summarized by saying the men all complained of the maddening onslaught of the machine and the women all lamented the absence of men. I hear that in so much of the music created by women these days. A line I read thirty years ago has stuck with me through the decades. It was written by a woman named Anais Nin and it went: “It’s not strong women who make men weak; it’s weak men who make women strong.” And to me women have become very very strong these days. Almost too strong. It doesn’t help that they too are bombarded with silly images and role models, such as the new Captain Marvel movie. They’ve become strong because they’ve had to. Take D. for instance. She’s alone and doing what she has to to sing her songs and raise her daughter at the same time.
As a side note I hope everybody on the planet goes and sees Captain Marvel, not that I will, but I’ve recently bought stock in Disney and could use a nice twenty or thirty percent jump.
Anyway, every song on your album is about love or more accurately, the loss of it. But tell me, how would anything have been better had the woman not walked out the door and remained instead? Where would you have taken her? How would you have made it right? I think of Springsteen calling out Mary in Thunder Road: “The screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways, and like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays. It’s Roy Orbison singing for the lonely, hey that’s me and I want you only!” Again the images. But more importantly he’s saying climb into my car cause I’m pulling out of here to win! And again in Born to Run, climb aboard my motorcycle and hold on tight, cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run!
It’s youth but there’s courage and affirmation. There’s faith that tomorrow will be better, all the old promises which were broken, those old boyfriends who screamed your name at night in the street, with your graduation gown lying in rags at their feet, but in the lonely cool before dawn, you can hear their engines roaring on, but when you get to the front porch they’re gone on the wind, so Mary climb in, it’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win.
And then in The River when the dream of eighteen years old has turned into the drudgery of thirty or thirty-five, the river being the river of life and the promise it holds: “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse that sends me down to the river, though I know the river is dry, down to the river tonight.” Even here there is the courage to play it through.
So J., I know as well as anyone how difficult the journey can be. What I set out to do at twenty-two took well into my forties to clear up and begin to take shape. There were dark times for sure, drunken times when I definitely faltered. But maybe because I was lost in books I never really landed a girlfriend and made her life miserable with my struggles. I would have though.
Nowadays I know exactly what I’m doing, which is why I say I’m not sure if I want a woman in my life. Of course I do, as we all do, but as Jim Croce sang, “if she’s going my way, I’ll go with her.” However, so many these days, maybe because we as younger men bruised and hurt them terribly and forced them to be strong, are happy on their own.
The love of a good woman, the best woman, won’t get you where you need to go J. That you have to do on your own, although if you really look around, especially between the covers of books, there is plenty of help.
Watch the drinking. Believe me I did my fair share of it in my weakness and confusion. But it never really gives us strength. It undermines us. Makes us sick, physically and emotionally.
The artist has the toughest task. Be a doctor, a lawyer, a police or fireman, and your role is defined and status and a semblance of manhood comes along with it. But what is an artist? What exactly does he have to give? Where, if not in his deepest being, can he find and then embody his manhood? Artists, although appealing and romantic, are suspect in the eye of women. They are frequently bad bets, especially if they haven’t hit their stride or come in to their own. And the artists, in their moments of weakness and self doubt, rather than redouble their efforts to bring forth their vision, are liable to fall back upon woman, beg for her sympathy and nurture, things that should go less to him than to the child that might be the fruit of their union.
Wow, big things going on here.
Write of courage J., the courage to follow your vision through. Capture it with images of today and young men your age and younger will go “Fuck Ya! That’s me and I’m gonna fucking do it!” And the women will say “Fuck Ya! Take me with you! I’ve been waiting for you since I began to bleed!” How crude is that? Oh well, you’re the lyricist, not me.
The music, the voice, the riffs, the dynamic range, it’s all there. Find the strength to say it isn’t all a waste, isn’t all a shithole and a meaningless mess; this life right here and right now is a gift. It’s the only one we have, my man, and as a good friend has put it, afterwards, we’re a long time dead. Come out the other side, defiant and strong.
Ok, that’s it. There’s turbulence and in a short while the plane will begin its descent into Vegas. The flashing brilliance of the Strip doesn’t beguile me, doesn’t fool me into thinking there’s action and adventure and real experience out there if only I drink enough, carouse enough, loose myself enough. It’s all illusion. But it’ll be warmer and I love to walk, stopping here and there for a coffee or even a beer. I’ll observe the show, the foolishness, the excess.
It’s all a gift.