In praise of Radio Bistro at the C&O

At the end of a marathon City Council meeting the other night, I went to the bar at the C&O to wind down and to check out Radio Bistro. James Ford was there spinning discs. As soon as I shook his hand, Brian Eno's "Needle in a Camel's Eye" blares out as loud as possible and I knew I was in the right place.

I went in alone. I didn’t bring a notebook so I became the nerd at the bar with something to say, but no proper way to say it. I brought out my laptop, and it was a bit rude to insult the wooden bar by placing plastic upon it, but that’s all I had. If I had a paper and pen, I would use that.

The music pulsed and I could feel the pulse flow through me and I could feel the notes oscillating, aware of the magic that my ears perceived vibrations in the air and my brain somehow translated into something that brought me joy.

A new chapter has begun in my life, and I want to stay there. I do not want to slip back into the pages of what has come before and I do not want to dwell in the past. I do not want to upset the past by going back there to reinterpret it as something it was not. Instead, I will have to reach into the future by remaining in the present.

Oh, the jargon, the semantics, the nervous energy calmed by a deep breath blown out through the nose. The feelings of inadequately caring for anything, for caring about the wrong things and for not knowing how to tell the difference until it’s too late.

There are things that I’m aware of, but don’t quite see. Increasingly I can see people just outside my line of sight, and they’re not there. I look straight ahead, and they’re there in the corner again, but when I go to look they’re gone. I’m only certain of a few things at a time, and then my mind flows on to something else. This is not necessarily a good thing by any means. It’s just the way things are.

The music kept flowing, one amazing song after another, and my fingers typed wildly on the key board. I wrote 2,000 words in half an hour. There had been so much energy in City Council.
I watched a sea of people in red explain how they are coming together because of the Occupy Charlottesville movement. I remain neutral, neutrino-like, but I was glad I had witnessed their testimony.

Three years on from the end of my marriage and I have turned out okay, even though I still remain aware of the heartbreak every day. I know it’s all of my own doing. There is no one else to blame but me and everything is going pretty well as I continue to experience my place in this universe.

Earlier in the day, I had run eight miles today, and this made me understand I am qualified to live this life. I am qualified to make it through the day, and I have a right to my own happiness as well. I’ve been in a funk for three months now, more or less, and now I’m ready to put all of that behind me and move on because I feel I’ve had to have paid my dues by now, right?

I feel like a veil has lifted and I’m thinking clearly again. I have to pay careful attention to my mind to remain positive. I put a lot of energy into a relationship that was always doomed, and there are still live nerves that need to be forgotten. I fished and fished even though I had no bait.

And then James started playing a sad song from a Motown singer, one about a relationship that’s ended, and I could feel her soul as if it were there in the C&O with us. I reflected about how
someone who put their heart and soul in a song, or put a heart and soul in a song they wrote, and then it got produced into something human that lasts. An idea that dances, an idea that pulses with thought and emotion and soul. How does one create this sort of thing?

I wish I knew. My own songwriting has hit a dead end because I seem not to be able to get off the improvisation. I need a collaborator, but that person is hard to find. Maybe I should be more open and just open up to more people but time is the main factor.

There are things to say and I’d better hurry up and start to say them. There are things to say and my time on my earth, my time alive, is finite and I’d better take more risks, not less.

Three years gone, and I’ve lived. I’ve lived and loved and made good choices and made bad choices, but generally I know I’m in the right place, doing the right things to get back to normal, to finally find some sort of happiness. I’ve always thought that happiness had to have something to do with the feeling you get when someone loves you, but that’s always been fleeting. So much of the pain of the past thousand days has been related to the fact that I did love someone, and that someone turned out to not be able to love me. Or, broke free of the love because of how I was, and she had no loyalty, and why would she? Second marriages end all the time. We all find ourselves broken as we float higher and higher into the sky, chopped up by the giant blades.

Now I want to try my best to get better about figuring out how to position myself for the future. It’s a future where I have two school age children who need my guidance and encouragement and love.

And then as 2:00 am approached, "Cross the Breeze" by Sonic Youth came on and I knew all is well in the universe, because those particular vibrations fit so well in the geology of my life. Hearing that song, in that place, where I danced to old time music last Christmas with friends I've had to said goodbye to, I was reconnected to the first time I heard the song in 1990 as a kid in high school. Kim Gordon blaring out “Come on down to the store, you can buy some more, more, more” and I remembered that.

I remembered that even on the day I die, hopefully in my nineties, I’ll be able to hear this and I’ll be able to feel alive. I’ll be able to take some meaning from the way this pulse sounds, I’ll be able to know where I was at every single moment I heard this song.

Thirty-eight years of life, and I refuse to believe that this isn’t the way it was supposed to be. This doesn’t have to be second best. I have to remember that I have a choice of how I respond. Do I want this to be a life in which I lament what happened, or do I want to have a life where I get to decide what happens next? Do I want to be scared, or do I want to be excited and passionate and willing to accept new pulses, new ideas, new concepts?

I know the answer. It’s staring me right in the face. It’s all around me in this cloud of sound and fury, signifying everything, signaling chaos and energy and dissonance and distortion, everything I love.

Sadness evaporates.

1 comment:

james said...

thanks for coming, Sean! I'm glad it was cathartic for you.

FYI, the "Motown singer" you mentioned was probably either Irma Thomas (who was actually on Minit records) or Candi Staton (on the Fame imprint on the Capitol label) ... I played both, between Eno and Sonic Youth.