Mental soundtrack today has been Spin Doctors’ “Turn It Upside Down” (1994), for various subliminal reasons.
Feeling kinda bedraggled and alone, wandering between obligations. This album was one of the few salves during my Hell Summer of ’94, where my entire week was accounted for; between two jobs, one summer course, and all the time in transit, I only had the 48 hours of the weekend to claim as my own.
I certainly would’ve lost my shit if not for the constant presence of my friend Tom A. down the hall, and with Pam B., Eddie W., and James S. (plus a handful of others) in my Arkadelphia periphery to keep me sane. (Thanks, guys.)
These people, and that collection of albums, really ministered to me to keep me together, to lift me up out of that soul-dead state. They really threw me a lifeline.
I guess the way things are going now, I could use a little bit of ministration again. And so here I am, spinning this album in their stead.
Break the thread of indifference
They’ll suck the wind right from your soul
To never listen to the voice of memory
Is to die waiting for nothing
At the end of this Christmas holiday, I had some time to be outside and feel the crisp air on my cheeks. The cold weather tonight is knocking loose a few odd memories, particularly this nugget from the year 1984 which, dare I say, is the golden age of heavy metal and hard rock.
Dokken wasn’t exactly a band I followed religiously. They were on the radio for a span of time during my formative teenage years. But, taken out of context, their lyrics are fuel for all of the Satan-rock street preachers who had screamed for our rapt attention in that era. There were so many bands out who played up the Satanic connection just to increase their magnitude and pump sales. Unfortunately, most of the kids in my world (and some adults, sadly) bought into it and thought they were the real deal; the same kind of chumps who would carve “666” into their schoolbooks and think they were summoning the Dark Lord himself.
Really, “Into the Fire” was the inner struggle of a man that keeps running back to a bad lover who burns him on every touch. Image notwithstanding, that’s basically all it is; a bad relationship that he won’t let die. But the over-the-top music production, the expensive video, and everything about the entire product screams excess, waste, and sex for the sake of itself.
That sound still sticks with me decade after decade.
And don’t get me started about “Dream Warriors” — that’s wedged so deep into my psyche, it’s soothing to the touch.
driving around texarkana area tonight. wandering. thinking.
funny how the new happens, old memories still return.
north jefferson. in the highbeams, telephone poles look like crucifixes. fields of them. three sixteen. gethsemane. sheol. texarkana.
sugarhill road. old beech street haunts, youth groupers lived there. parents successful. edge of town, suburbs.
sanderson lane. saw stars. cassiopeia. mash of others. streak of cloud confused the glow of the milky way. blurry x in the sky.
distant stars. distant headlights startled, mustn’t get caught on the side of the road looking up.
mustn’t be caught wanting to be alone. inviting inquisitions. accusations. trouble.
started car, drove away.
waffle house. read dharma bums over coffee. found a chum behind the counter, told me to read palahniuk. told him to read miller.
cruised the downtown. bright lights, empty city.
turned right. hwy 82. widened to 4 lanes. still 45mph.
turned left at orphanage, where first girl laura lived. confusing times, those. longest month. first 2 weeks in love, remainder alone together.
drove to rondo, turned right. cruised past amy’s house; father ministered rondo methodist church. retired. house has changed hands.
phil and sandy’s old place. now just sandy’s place.
turned left, 82 outbound. thinking. remembering. upward bound trips.
stars through the window. geolocation by the domes of light on the horizon. there’s hope.
there’s nashville. there’s ashdown. there’s magnolia.
stars and moon came up. the old man. the half moon. the couple arising in glory. winter’s first glimpse of orion, my old, old friend. memories.
fields at ouachita, talking, communing with the old man. asking questions, questions. stars in the window on my radio. wrapping it around, inspired returning to the inspiration. the born back to the place of birth.
heavy moment and smiles.
found myself in stamps. tiny sleepy burg. orange lights, dusty houses, gravel garages and propane tanks.
ez mart has no bathroom. sacred and profane. u turn and found a boat ramp. pissing in the river.
made something live. left my dark mark on the light caliche. train whistles and dark lights. key to pedal to getting out of there.
returning. remembering. arkansas life. distant memory, but soaked into the makeup of me.
had a tough time of it then. knew things but didn’t know things. smart but stupid. brilliant but ignorant.
built the half moon and old man i am.
dreams. had dreams. spoke poetic jibberish, it all came from here, but needed the distance to speak the verses.
no support structure, no friendly air.
but in finding my people outside, i found my voice. then i lost my people along the way.
and then austin.
those voices spoke poison. so ragged and bedraggled. so negative. so cruel.
enough time with them, my own voice stopped. creativity shriveled. mustn’t get caught looking up.
mustn’t be caught wanting to express. inviting derision. humiliation. trouble.
why did i care about their words? why close lips and hope to sneak on by?
texarkana. the source and fuel for my psyche. texarkana. where i lost my soul. fields of crucifixes. three sixteen.
our god is an awesome god and holy holy holy.
no way. no fucking way.
43 and on mute. 25 years hence trying to find myself. ongoing battle, eternal war.
turning. wandering. searching.
searching for the voice.
remembering the dreams.
i miss tomorrow. tomorrow is not what it used to be.
ever hoping, but driving into the uncertainty.
Do you know what I miss? I miss the headspace I could afford without a screen constantly in front of my face. Sometimes i remember my early 20’s before always-on communications, when I could sit in my room for hours and write, read, build, craft, think, dream the big dreams. The world outside was just over the horizon, calling to me to consider it. I felt it in my soul. Made plans to go out to it (instead of having it barge in on me). I’d visualize it like radio waves reflecting off the ionosphere, like a dome of light from a nearby town at night. Thoughts as deep as clouds are high.
Now, shallow thoughts, distracted thoughts. In my opinion, less a factor of age and more a factor of scattered attention. There’s a red flag on my screen with a number inside. There’s a tab with “(2)” on it. There’s a notification on my phone. There’s always something to answer.
It’s getting awfully crowded in this headspace. Not enough room for this addiction to confirmation, for this empty stand-in for real connection and friendship. When I turn face from the screen to do something with my time, the world moves on and I feel lost in a game of Catch-Up when I finally come back to the screen. That desperate emptiness kills me. So what is the solution?
Gaslight comes through the window of my bedroom.
Its incandescent hues cast a broken square upon my wall.
It makes the old paint glow a faded yellow-white.
I can see the moving shadow of the curtains
blowing to the beat of evening breezes.
Lying in my bed, I feel so much;
only a child, but experiencing a memory of the ages.
Two other beds beside me.
In them, my cousins lie;
some on beds,
some on cots below,
and I’m the last awake.
Worn out, we’ve had a busy day
down in the river.
I can hear the traffic go by, to the late-night tempo,
down the street, just one block down.
The grownups are in the living room
talking, laughing, living.
I will remember this.