Tonight, after some coffee, I took a drive around town. Decided to avoid the big streets and thoroughfares I always take. Investigated some of the little neighborhoods I never see, the stuff in-between the high streets. The nooks and crannies.
I had the windows rolled down; radio off. Vent fan was turned off. All I heard was the engine, the tires, and the surrounding street. Ambient, peaceful. The midnight city was my music.
On West Lynn and 6th, I overheard three pedestrians talking about the song “Disgustipated” by Tool. One of them was quoting lines. It woke up a distant memory in me of a guy I used to know when I was 23. He was optimistic. Weathered, but ever-watching, ever-listening. He hungered for experience and thirsted for expression. He would watch documentaries like “Baraka” because they blew his mind. He drank to friendship because it blew his heart. He wrote poetry because it blew his load. All was life, death, pain, joy, suffering, art.
I haven’t been that guy in a long, long time. I used to think that I was one of the residents of bohemia, an enlightened, energized and empowered free-thinker who, with the stroke of his pen and a swish of philosophy, could create his own world.
That song, that album, I discovered it in my last year in school, and it informed me of a bigger world. One where the ugly beasts were beautiful; monsters and mind-expansion held hands and penned words like, “there was goo all over your hands; you wiped them on your grass, now your color was green.” That made sense to me. Bang.
And during that time I ran with people who understood, who knew, who had ideas, thoughts. Still in the twilight between youth and adulthood. We smoked, and talked, and drank until the lights went down and the sun came up.
That. That’s the distant memory. I’m reminded of that guy I was and I get a chill in my heart when I compare that guy to who I am now. I’m experienced, but with less hope. Weathered, but beaten. I don’t write poetry anymore. Music, the rhythm and melody has overshadowed any lyrical importance. “Baraka” doesn’t hit me as hard. My artistic drive has diminished, and tonight, I caught a glimpse of a reason why.
Back then, I could write my future. And I attempted. And passed, and failed, and failed, and passed, and failed. And I didn’t care one iota what was thought of me. It wasn’t important. We had our own society away from, yet within, the society of the world at-large. We were connected with a dim idea of something bigger Out There, that somewhere somebody was thinking the same Really Deep Thoughts that we were. So the eyes and ears of the people on the periphery of that world had no sway. I saw my friends, and my nonfriends be damned.
But that changed after I moved here. I started caring. And the voices of those around me carried with me as I walked. Suddenly, my thoughts and desires and drives had an audience. They told me every side of the story. They ooh’ed when I felt like striking out and aah’ed when I placated them by doing nothing. And as my world got smaller, they got bigger.
And that, that is my failure. I started listening to the idea that people, with whom I no longer associated, had something to say about the things I did. I let the faceless They With a Thousand Faces bear weight on my decisions to express myself. And it had a serious chilling effect.
I’m not sure if I can resurrect the dead. I don’t know if, during the course of the day, I can have him speak my voice again. I know his ghost haunts me in the night, but the scorching light of day overpowers him and I have to be a grownup again. His Eros, his Pathos, hides in the cool and the shade of the tomb. Wake up, dead man.