First, as a thank you for plucking my electronic message in a bottle from a sea of subject lines, have a song. This recording, much like this mailing list, has waited too long. This studio version of “If We Come Too Late” (you've got a free download here at the bottom) is full of liveliness and hope. It’s about seizing the moment. Dancing for as long as we can, if not as long as we want. Exactly what I plan for 2023.
Still with me? Good. Because I don’t love mailing lists, but I DO love penpals and post cards and the art of REAL communication. If you’re here, I’ve performed for you or with you. I’ve slept at many of your houses. Some of you are family. I’ve seen you in the comments of my livestreams and the donor lists of every CD fundraiser. You’ve inspired me as artists and supported me as friends. After so many pandemic years doing the best we can with soul-crushing social media, I’ve decided here and now is the time to write you the love letters you deserve.
What you can expect from me:
Thoughtfully written two-minute tales about twice a month, and a free gift with every letter: a poem, a song, a video, a show-and-tell, a piece of visual art, a peek into the vaults and archives. And an upcoming show reminder. Just for you. All you need to do is hang out and keep us out of the spam folder.
(Today’s 2-Minute Tale)
On an unseasonably warm day at year’s end, a borrowed dog is dragging out our walk. Ollie stops to smell EVERYTHING -- goose poop, melting ice, damp earth, dogs’ butts and other invisible-to-me bullhorns of screaming olfactory information -- all with equal appreciation. I have patience for this; there are only a few smells I find abhorrent (moldering clothes left too long in the wash). Otherwise, most are like shapes or code -- just information. Given enough time, even pungent information (sections of I-95 in New Jersey, paper mills, decaying leaves, cow farms) inspires pleasant nostalgia. I know symbolism and music, but it wasn’t until recently I came to understand the complex notes required to make a perfume. I was out working in my garage, sweating, tearing up rags covered in dried paint for the last soft bits I could use. I hate to waste anything until it’s completely used up.
The salvage operations ended, I move on to washing paint brushes in lemon basil dish soap I impulse purchased instead of a pair of shoes or a piece of chocolate. During pandemic, I spent more of my life at the kitchen sink than I’d ever imagined. I learned that how much you resent the plates, pans (and the people who dirtied them) can be mitigated somewhat by a likable dish soap.
The brushes, as clean as they will get, the rags, as small as can still be useful, I move on to drying my hands. Suddenly, it's there. In that precise, coincidental cocktail of my sweat, musty rags, sawdust, metal, beer, damp concrete, paint and the damn dish soap, it's unmistakable. The smell called YOU. A decade lost.
It is joy and longing and pain and a numbed ache. I smile instead of cry, but it’s close. The information is too complex. The fragrance neither good nor bad. It doesn’t hurt because I am too amazed.
It’s one thing to purchase a lover’s old cologne, or bump into a stranger with the same taste in an ex’s perfume. YOU even once stumbled upon a hand soap in my favored fragrance. He brought his hands to his face as if in prayer, to take me in again. But that moment was a mass-marketed suggestion of ME compared to this miracle. I know I will lose it the second I move, kicking up the slightest dust of mouse dropping, cricket leg, decaying grass or WD40, and breaking the spell. So, I stand perfectly still for a long time. Because I hate to waste anything until it’s completely used up.
I’m left with a reminder that such spells, such art, require both luck, and a piece of the caster. "Real magic can never be made by offering someone else's liver. You must tear out your own, and not expect to get it back," is a favorite quote from The Last Unicorn. Of course, conjuring the smell of YOU required my sweat. And maybe that is the only, contaminated way we ever know another person: as they relate to ourselves.
* * *
The year 2022 is now completely used up to my satisfaction. I have wrung from it every drop I can (maybe I’ll tell you about my twice-weekly plasma donations next time). And I have rung from it every note I can. The good news is I am NOT used up to my satisfaction. In fact, I find myself ready for it ALL: the faint, the heady, the flowery and the fetid. Join me for the damned amblingest of walks to take everything in with appreciation. Tours. Tunes. 2023. We have not come too late, after all.
Here's what's next:
Write me. Add me to your mailing list. Let’s really talk again.
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