Last week, I faced one of the most arduous tests of strength during my ongoing recovery than I think I have ever encountered. I have faced less lethal situations in the past and failed but those were different times. Then, I thought I could get away with it, I thought I could beat the odds, so to speak. The situation of which I speak was my one year anniversary ... 365 consecutive days without drugs or alcohol.
I say it was a test of Strength because all kinds of crazy thoughts were going through my head in the days leading up to the anniversary including but not limited to picking up that drug and doing just a little more research to see if things may have changed in a year.
But I have been recovering, not abstaining. I have been doing work to insure that thoughts like these, "the thought that pulled the trigger," don't get the best of me. Working at recovery has given me the tools to combat such thoughts.
It was an interesting week that is for sure. There were successes and triumphs as well as setbacks some major and some minor, but I didn't let the setbacks draw me into to a dark mode of thinking or take me to a place where I feel comfortable, alone with my thoughts and would be solutions. That place is comfortable indeed. You see, everyone there understands me. I don't have to yell, I don't have to argue. When I am in that cozy room of solitude, I don't even have to finish my sentences ... yet, I am heard loud and clear like a crisp echo bouncing off of a distant canyon wall. Thoughts of visiting this dark place are why we work one day at a time. As I have found out, I managed to do it one day at a time, 365 times in a row.
The other successes - We finally came up with a band name. It is the Glenwood Mills Band. We play an eclectic mix of jazzy jams, blues, reggae, country encompassing both original material as well as some covers.
I like to call it Sedentary Rock, music that will extricate you from the couch, but not necessarily cause you to get up dance like a whirling dervish. unless you are a 20 something hippie chick, of course. They can wildly dance to music which consists a cowbell, a couple of djembes and someone humming through a black plastic comb wrapped in tissue paper ... and make it look good.
The setbacks were minimal with the exception of my finally coming to terms with the fact that, unless he tells me or demonstrates otherwise, we have lost the rhythm guitar player in the band. He was the catalyst who originally brought this group of musicians together.
I can understand his frustration and He is a busy guy, just like the rest of us.
Our last gig was unorganized, we were playing outdoors in the late afternoon. We were scheduled to play at 3:30. The timing got screwed up and we were put in a position where we had to start earlier. Only two of the folks in the band got the message. When we all got there and set up, we had to alter our two sets of music down to one abbreviated set, half of which the guitar player didn't know because he had missed so many practices. Sounds like fun, huh! After all that is what it is supposed to be, isn't it ... fun? We ended up playing a great set of music in front of about 10 people.
A few days later, I was talking to Stuntman Steve Sanderson, a professional musician who has been on the front lines of performing with his band Drunk Stuntmen, for the better part of the last two decades. He asked me how the gig went. I told him of the woes with the timing and two of the musicians showing up when we were supposed to start, the frustrated guitar player who was upset about the set list which included songs he really didn't know, and the fact that there were four more people in the audience than were in the band.
He started laughing and simply said, "Welcome to my world. How does it feel?"
How does it feel?
It feels fucking GREAT!
I want to go out of the way to make sure that the guitar player feels at ease about his decision. I understand. I really do. At the same time, I need him to understand how profoundly I have been affected by his early willingness to lay the foundation for getting the band together. My life has changed dramatically.
I have always been into music. I have "jammed" with various people over the course of the years along the way absorbing different musical nuances and styles. I have figured out the type of musician I like to play with and who I Don't want to play with. I have picked up aspects of music theory, some licks and most importantly confidence in both my voice and what is happening with my hands. The funny part is, it took me twenty years rather than the few short years of suffering through music lessons and an unyielding practice schedule most people endure.
I have taken music lessons in the past. For the most part they were not fun. This probably had to do with the teachers I had.
This is also partially due to the fact that I have always had other artistic interests. Between the writing, flame working glass and music, I have developed a self imposed brand of creative schizophrenia. I go through phases when one aspect of creativity is always in the foreground while the others swirl around in the background, jockeying for postition on, at the very most, my list of priorities: at the very least my list of whims.
Right now the music dominates the landscape. I've been writing intermittently and for now, the torch sits idle.
But getting on a schedule with all three seems to be the natural progression of events fulfilling a goal I have set for myself.
When I rented studio 33 1/3 in Building 2 at the Indian Orchard Mills, someone asked me if I had a goal?
I set out to create a space where I could do glass work, writing and music. The goal was to make it all work within 5 years. By work, I mean, income generated by my activities at the studio would pay the rent, not necessarily my bills, but the rent and the minimal overhead associated with the Studio. I remember Jerry Garcia belting out that encore which everyone hated in the early 80s ... you know the one that had the lyrics,
"Keep your Day Job until your night job pays." Good advice Jerry.
It is happening. I am gaining notoriety as a glass artist. An example being, I am doing a Flame working presentation at a Child Care center next week. (Please ... No Clown suit jokes from the Peanut Gallery.)
I am going to put together a powerpoint presentation along with some tangible examples of what I do. A few weeks later I have a three hour lesson planned as well as inquiries from others regarding lessons and renting torch time and the time is upon me when I must begin to build up an inventory for the Fall Show and the upcoming Holiday gift giving season.
Greg Saulmon of Local Buzz fame, a free Arts and Culture newspaper which is no longer in print but thriving online as a featured department on Masslive.Com, mentioned my writing in an article he wrote a few weeks ago. It was in an article which was a salute to may father Garry P. Brown. The passage read
676: Number of words into Garry Brown offspring Paul Brown's stunning essay "State Fair" when Coliseum Charlie makes an appearance: "They would be sitting in the same seats where 'Coliseum Charlie' would sway behind his tower of empty beer cups drunkenly swinging his tee shirt above his head cheering for the Indians as Eddie Shore looked on in disgust and yelled for him to put his shirt back on, but he let Charlie come back every week. At least his feet weren't on the seats."
That day my website got over 80 hits from curious onlookers. Hopefully they read something that made them laugh, cry, think, cringe, and perhaps even turn away in either embarrassment or disgust. Who knows how they felt when they left?
And, again there is the music. I was at an open mic the other night, as an audience member, when I walked by a stranger and he greeted me by name. A good friend who just finished a tour, with his band, in Europe simply said,
"Get used to people knowing your name first ... It is part of the parcel with this whole "notoriety" thing. You deserve it."
I described how I got to playing music, slowly - at my own pace. I never stopped doing it because I wasn't good enough or it was too hard. I love doing it.
I finally broke out of my shell getting up there on stage and wanking on the guitar singing my songs at a couple of different open mics. As my guitar playing skills improved, apparently so did my latent bass playing skills. People have noticed. I have been asked by one of the folks who I met through an open mic to be the alternate bass player in her band. It is a band which plays Recovery/Sober Festivals. My first gig with them is September 25th.
As it stands now, three years into the 5 year plan, things are starting to come together and not seem quite as schizophrenic.
Even though my friend has decided he no longer wants to play in the band, his efforts to initially get us together was the catalyst for manifestation of the wonderful things which are about to happen because I now know I have the skill, confidence and willingness to get on the stage and do my thing.
As long as I have my noodles and my fingers cooperate, that situation is not going to change.
Perhaps my higher power put him in my life in the context of the band to give me the opportunity to grow. Just as his higher power may have put him in this situation so he could better understand concepts of patience and tolerance.
I love him and consider him a dear friend, none of that has changed. Hopefully he benefited from the shared experience in ways which are neither obvious to others and will be cherished for a lifetime.
Finally, I want to mention the passing of a friend, Jennarow Jerome King, who died a young man as he lost a battle with cancer. I understand it was a battle, as he fought to the very end.
J.J. was a fine man. He was a loving husband, father, child and sibling and will be missed by all who had the unique pleasure of meeting him, knowing him and loving him.
I send my love and blessing to Heidi and JJ's family.
It is a beautiful day outside. I think I'll slow it down a bit and take a leisurely stroll rather than speeding things up and ...
Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.