I Love Music

November 10, 2010


I love music because it can't be conquered. No one will ever get to the end of music, solve it or master it, although it can be dumbed down.

I love music because it is only occasionally black and white. It deigns to be black and white only because it represents all colors, and black and white are colors. Music has no more desire to be black or white than it does chartreuse.

I love music because no one should make it because they feel required to. I don't mean musicians don't have a responsibility to make it, I mean anyone who isn't making it because they love to probably shouldn't be. Music is there to be made, or not, just as you please. It is the opposite of bills, jogging, taxes, health insurance and laundry.

I love music because it's such an easy way to get happy.

Music is good for you. What some people do to music can be bad for you, but music itself is good and does not require moderation. It is good for weekdays, the weekend, holidays, Sundays, cloudy days, sunny days, fast days, slow days, work or play, alone or with friends, home or traveling, relaxed or serious, weddings and funerals and Tuesdays, year-round. And it is especially good for boredom.

I love music because it is free and unregulated, and anyone can make it.

I love music because it is never offended by incompetence. It's very patient with my small efforts.

I love music because it's like food: after you've made it, you can enjoy it. Also like food, music can be complex or simple and still be delicious. Itʼs also better than food: once made, it canʼt be used up.

I love music because no one can spoil it. It can be insulted and abused, adulterated and prostituted, but music is never harmed for good. It still exists in its pure form, ready and willing for someone humbler to visit.

I love music because it is not of this earth. It has its own dimension. We hear ourselves in music, but we also hear something else, something we can't quite wrap our minds around. It is beyond us.

I love music because it is better than I am. It is more beautiful, cleverer, stronger, truer and more creative, and I have to respect that.

But most of all, I love how music makes no sense. Life is terrible when it is made up only of things that make sense. In this way, music is both an escape from real life and a glimpse of what life is really all about. Music is impractical and pointless and absolutely vital to existence. (As Wilde observes, "All art is quite useless.")

Music would never make the traditional list of those basic human needs, food, shelter, clothing. But just see how long you could get along without it.


The Great Josh Road Adventure

August 12, 2007

Dear loyal readership,

Hope you had a great July. Remember, humidity helps you live longer. So if you're out in the UV rays all day, but it's humid too, you're probably going to die exactly when you were going to before. And that is a comfort.

OK. I've learned the hard way not to squeeze too many gigs into one weekend -- shows run long or start early, flights get cancelled, that kind of thing. It's just too dangerous, with too much potential for severe unprofessionalism. And we avoid unprofessionalism whenever possible.

But I really thought I could make this one. It was a wedding in Vermont, and I was completely honest with the bride about the possibility of being late. See, I was flying in from Chicago that morning, and there's a bunch of things that can go wrong when you wake up in Chicago and try to make a one o'clock wedding in southern Vermont ("I think I can be there by two").

The way you pull it off is, you try to troubleshoot all the stuff that can be troubleshot, and the stuff that can't, well, you just hope for the best. And more often than not you get away with it.

So. Item 1: Alarm clock. What if it doesn't go off? That's why God made backup alarm clocks. Item 2: Traffic. What if there's some on the way to the airport? Leave earlier - fifteen minutes usually does it. Try to get to the airport an hour early; depending on the airport, this is either way too much time (I respectfully salute the tranquil Manchester Airport, NH) or just barely enough (I give you the infamous Chicago Midway, IL). When I got to Midway at 7:19 a.m., with 56 minutes to spare, the line to the ticket counter stretched around the terminal, down the corridor, through the lounge and - oh yes it did - out into the parking garage. I kid you not. Southwest is too popular. To their credit, the line moved briskly. But not briskly enough - upon finally gaining the counter and punching various icons on the computer check-in screen, a deafening buzzer informed me (and everyone else) that my baggage was "late-checked" and might not show up in Albany. It was only later I realized I had checked my car keys.

The plane took off on time and landed on time. This was good. Planes definitely qualify as stuff you can't control (try it and see if you don't believe me). My bags made it too, and I drove out of the discount parking lot at 12:15 p.m., the very minute I'd hoped to. So far, so prompt.

Item 3: Directions. Always, always get them, and backup directions from a local are a great idea. But I let the backup go this time; Google Maps hadn't failed me yet, and so it was just me and my hastily folded sheet of printer paper as I took a right onto Route 7 and headed for the Green Mountain State.

I was supposed to travel Route 9 for 54.8 miles and then look for Shearer Hill Road, but who remembers to punch the odometer? Needless to say, I missed the turn and had to go back for it. By this time it was 2:00, but my directions said I only had ten miles of back roads to cover, so I was looking good for 2:15.

I found the next turn, Hatch School Road, and turned left. These roads were becoming progressively rural, by which I mean less pavement and more dirt. This seemed ominous. Shearer Hill had been about 10% dirt, Hatch School was about half dirt. This wedding reception was evidently in the middle of nowhere. I drove the required distance and found a road with no street sign. With a sigh, I turned right and gunned the car up a sliding, gravelly, potholed dirt hill, my confidence pretty much shot.

'After 0.1 miles, turn left on Josh Rd.'

Josh Road was the kind of road that Pa and Ma Ingalls probably bounced over in their covered wagon through the Big Woods of Wisconsin, except then it was Joshua Road, or Chester Road or something. I own a Honda Civic, very dear to me, we've been together a long time, and this little car was not into it. Josh Road qualified as a road because there were no pits or fallen logs, but driving it felt like I had suddenly exchanged my Civic for a hydraulic lowrider.

And then it ended, in a line of carefree, overgrown grass with just a shadow of tire tracks continuing off into the cool, sun-dappled forest. A small house sat at the end, out of which a large white collie ran out, barking furiously. I knew I must have missed a turn, though my directions said I still had a mile to go. There was no turning around - Josh Road was, it turned out, exactly the width of a Honda Civic - so I backed up the road, bouncing along, looking for anything that might resemble a turn ... but all I saw was woods. It was now 2:20, and I was officially late and unprofessional.

Mastering an impulse to run over the dog, which had energetically accompanied my journeys up and down Josh Road for the last few minutes, I drove to the end again, carefully nosed the car into the grass and began to buck down the trail. It was honestly a trail, like a hiking trail. After a hundred feet, the right side fell away in a steep cliff. I saw a boulder ahead of me, dead center, embedded, about a foot high. I thought I could clear it.

A horrible, scraping, gouging sound came from directly beneath my feet. I actually felt the impact through my shoes, this awful scraping sensation, like when you drag the sole of your foot along a gravel road. It was like getting shipwrecked. I smelled engine. I stopped, impaled on the rock, then pushed through, in effect planing the underbody. Half mad, I jumped out of the car and ran down the road to see the turn, but all I saw were boulders, higher ones. The road was impassible. I had to go back -- in reverse.

For both physical and emotional reasons, I couldn't back over the boulder, which meant I had to angle one side of the car to climb up over it. This took a minute or two, and soon the hood was smoking, the tachometer having been in the red the whole time. I was sweating and cursing and barely sane. Slowly I managed to grind back up the hill. At the top, I again encountered the dog, which ran and jumped beside the car, barking like I'd stolen its bone and put it on the passenger seat.

My car, surely discouraged, had decided to continue functioning, so I turned around in the dog owner's yard and made my way back down Josh Road, utterly defeated. I passed another house with an old guy in the back yard hanging up his laundry. I got out and hailed him. He was wearing overalls and, God help me, one of those really tall caps made out of denim or something. He looked like he had just crawled out from under a cow's udder a hundred years ago. He plodded over.

'Hi there, I'm trying to find Stage Road. My directions said to take Josh Road, but I ... can't. Do you know another way to get to Stage Road?'

'Josh Road? (Long pause.) Josh Road won't get you there.'

'Right, I know. Do you know another way?'

'Well, now. (Long pause.) You can't take Josh Road, I c'n tell you that much.' He chuckled.

It took another 45 minutes to find Stage Road, because its sign had been stolen. I got to the wedding reception around four, by which time most of the guests had left. I found the mother of the bride, apologized profusely and explained the situation. Her face was all sympathy, her eyes widening as I ploughed through the story, and I got the response I had hoped for when I finally mentioned that notorious strip of dirt that had been my downfall. With a gasp and a piteous wail that seemed to lament all mankind's suffering, she cried,


I was vindicated.