Are you bound by your stuff?

First off, I’m listening to jazz as I write this. Maybe it will mean that my cadence will slow way down. Maybe it will mean that I will pick up smoking cigarettes, although I hope it doesn’t. Maybe it will mean that my desk will be soaked in circular red wine stains – I’d be alright with that actually. Coffee table Jazz is what spotify calls it. I think music playing in the background can have a large impact on your writing and Joshua Redman is calming me, so that you Joshua.

I am typing atop my writer’s desk I got for $12 at the restore, along with an office chair. Check out the habitat for humanity restore in your area if you need furniture, there is a lot of second hand stuff you have to sift through, but you may just find a gem.  Although, the gems I found are not polished or shiny.

I am sitting in my new room, in a new city and I am loving it. My room is the coolest it has ever been; aesthetically. I have a rack with electric guitars, an acoustic guitar and a banjo hanging on the wall. I have a mix of cheap art that looks expensive, moderately expensive art that cost what I believe to be a fortune to frame, and a friend’s graphic design piece that reminds me of him (it is a desert scene with many wells in lines and a quote from the bible that read’s “You’ll never thirst again”).

There is a signed picture of Mario Lemieux (my childhood hero), a small Native American sculpture that was my grandfather’s (a man that I try to emulate in every way) and a silhouette of a stag that my sister made out of aluminum. There are two small pictures on a shelf above my bed. One is a photo just before prom of my best friends from high school suited up and the other is of my college brus on the steps of a new building at BGSU. I’ve been told the later looks like an urban outfitters advertisement.

Your belongings will wither away eventually, if given enough time, so I have learned not to hold too tightly to my “stuff.”  But I think it’s ok to look at something and remember your grandfather’s laugh when you see it, or at a photo and remember a time when a friend visited you in the hospital.  I gave my sister a little ceramic sculpture after she had brain surgery.  It is a big frog with his arms around a little frog. I know it’s pretty stupid, but that damn 3 inch painted sculpture makes me weepy every time I see it, or if I even think about it. Like right now for instance.

I do like that almost all of my stuff fit into two cars when moving. I know that probably won’t be the case as I move forward in life and get married and have kids, but it is a nice feeling to live minimally. I also know there are people who would look at my life and say it is the opposite of minimal; people who live in tents and huts, some by choice and others not.

So what’s the point?

 I have seen both ends of the spectrum. I have seen hoarders who cannot let go of even the smallest knick knacks and trinkets. Whose houses get filled and cluttered to the point they can no longer get to their bathroom or kitchen. And I have seen people who “purge” their houses every few months, only to buy the same things a year later.

The point is this: you cannot let your stuff have power over you. If you lose or break something that reminded you of your dad who passed away, it does not mean you lost a piece of your father.

It means you must be creative in crafting something else that reminds you of him; like a collage or a painting. Or maybe something that takes up no room; like a poem.

The design of a room is very important to me. My parents, for a long time, designed the most beautiful kitchens and bathrooms and living rooms that I have ever seen. That is why I wanted my space to inspire me when I walked in. It is alright to have nice, quality things.

And while I want to take care of my things, I am not bound by them. I want you to think about what you would do if someone stole your stuff. Think about what would be the hardest to lose. And then think about what that says about you. Think about who you could help if you bought a guitar that was $500 cheaper (I am pointing that last one directly at myself). 

Also, listen to Jazz. It’s good for you.

Interesting Encounter

Let me first set the scene. At my house, on the first floor, there is a small porch that one can only get to from the inside. Well, one can get to the porch from the outside, but it would require you to scale a small stone wall. On the porch, there is a wooden swing, which takes some effort to climb into. I went with my full-bodied Yamaha acoustic guitar and set up shop on the swing. I played mostly songs I had written and people passed by nodding their heads at me or dancing a little down my road. My neighbor across the street came outside and smoked a cigarette and listened. It was very relaxing. This all took place about 11 pm last night.

Then a man, not much younger than me, walked in front of my house. He was bobbing his head more vivaciously than any of his predecessors. I stopped playing as he was leaving my field of view. He also stopped walking and dancing and said to me, “I like your trumpet playing.”

“It’s a guitar,” I said half laughing, “but thank you.”

“Do you slice the viola?” He asked.

“No, I do not slice the viola,” I said, bewildered.

“Do you ever mixilate the phalanges?” Is what I think I heard next, but to be honest, I’m not entirely sure.

I didn’t say anything at this point, but it is important to point out that this man was very nice and seemed interested in my musical abilities.

“Sometimes when I trumpet slide, I really get to slicing,” he said.

“Oh do you play an instrument? I asked.

He changed the subject and began walking away. “But your good,” he said. “Even with your little guitar trumpet.”

I am not sure what to make of this little encounter late last night, but I am going to take everything he said as a compliment. He seemed genuine in his almost incoherent babbling, very confused, but genuine.  I hope I meet him again and we can talk music. Who knows, maybe he was playing an elaborate prank on me and was very committed. Either way I liked the babbling man and I mean that truly.

 

Dear Not Gonna Pray – Andrew W.K. responds

“It’s the feeling of power in our powerlessness. A feeling of knowing that we don’t know. A feeling of gaining strength by admitting weakness.” – Andrew W.K. 

LINK TO ARTICLE HERE 

Andrew W.K. responds to a letter written to him about prayer. The sender has just learned that his brother has been diagnosed with cancer. The sender’s grandmother feels the family should pray for his brother, and he feels prayer is pointless and solves nothing. It actually makes the sender angry to even think about prayer.

Andrew W.K.’s retort is amazing:

“I want you to pray for your brother right now. As a gesture to your grandmother — who, if she didn’t exist, neither would you. I want you to pray right now, just for the sake of challenging yourself. I want you to find a place alone, and kneel down — against all your stubborn tendencies telling you not to — and close your eyes and think of one concentrated thought: your brother.” 

love that response. Asking some one to pray out of respect for their grandmother. Asking someone to pray as a challenge. We should constantly put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Because if what we believe is in fact true, then it will stand up to any challenge. As Shad says, “The truth is bulletproof.”

W.K. goes on to say that prayer is more than meditation because of humility (which means the condition of being humble or having a modest estimate of one’s own importance). Humbling ourselves before something greater than us.

I enjoyed this article, and subsequently, every article I have read that Andrew W.K. has written. I think he has a unique perspective.  I don’t always agree with everything he says, but I think his voice is very important and has a meaningful place in the cultural landscape. Also, his music is rad.

WK Photo by Ashley Eberbach

Misheard Lyrics

So I was listening to a Blackalicious song “Blazing Arrow,” and I heard a line that intrigued me. What I heard was “the kind of homeless only God can know.” The line, in fact, is “the kind of onus only God can know.” Either one really gets me thinking. Onus means a difficult task, burden or obligation, and for me I immediately think about sacrifice. But homeless, somehow affected me more.

There have been stories in the newspaper recently about a sculptor who installed small statues of a homeless Jesus on a park bench or street corner with a hand extended begging for change. The only way one knows it is Jesus depicted is by the holes in his hands. One such sculpture showed up in my home town in Connecticut in front of an Episcopal Church. People passing on the street were startled and so was I when I went for a walk late one night on main street. Who is this homeless man begging at one in the morning? I walk pretty late at night and had never seen someone begging for money that late before. Nor had I ever seen someone begging for money in my home town, which should inform you of the kind of place I grew up.

Some people even called the cops on the homeless statue. 

I was glad for the culture shock. It made me stop what I was doing and think. What am I doing to help those with outstretched arms? I have heard people say some version of this next sentence a lot lately. “Oh, I’m not giving them any money. They are just going to buy drugs or beer or cigarettes with it.” Congratulations, you have become the morality police. Walking around, being stingy with your money and “cleaning” up the streets with every dollar you stuff back into you wallet, only to spend it on some pumpkin spice latte that will kill you in 30 years.

But I’ve had these thoughts too. What I decided is that instead of not giving the money away, I am going to ask the homeless man or woman I encounter, if I can go to the nearest (crowded) deli or coffee shop with them and buy them something to eat or drink. I have not done it frequently. Sometimes I’m still too scared or maybe too stingy and think I don’t have much myself.

I heard this in a sermon recently. Those who make $40,000/year or below give slightly over 10% of their income. For every $10,000/year more that people make, they tend to give away 1 to 2% less. Let me sum that up: the more you make the less (percentage) you give. I’m not saying this occurs across the board but it does leave me pondering.

I want to start good habits of giving while I have very little, and plan to give away consistently, even if it’s not much. I think it’s good for your heart to get used to that posture.

Sometimes mishearing lyrics can open a whole new door in your mind. Sometimes it can change your perceptions.

Top 10 Intellectual Rappers – listverse.com

If I were a rapper, I would want the title “Most Intelligent in the Game.” I think that would feel pretty good. I agree with the names on this list, although I’ve never listened to Kool Keith. Aesop at number one, huh? He certainly packs ’em in and uses words that few others are using. If you follow my blog at all, you know I’m going to mention Shad. I know he hasn’t been around as long as some of these other guys, but he certainly fits the bill of “intelligent.” I’ll stop before I get too fan boy on my own blog, but I hope brotha Shad won’t stop slaying tracks till he’s unanimously atop all these lists. 

Top 10 list LINK HERE

Word of the Day

Ricochet 

[rik-uhshey]

Definition: the motion of an object or a projectile in rebounding or deflecting one or more times from the surface over which it is passing or against which it hits a glancing blow.

Instead of using the word in a sentence, which I usually do, I wanted to talk about why I love this word. It sounds like someone striking a match. It sounds frenetic. It sounds like the thing it is describing. Not sure if this word can be categorized as onomatopoeia, but to me I can hear a bullet glancing off parked car and hitting a concrete wall when ricochet is spoken. 

 

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Writer?

“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.” – Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke 

LINK HERE to storylineblog.com

Banksy

Check out Bansky’s website here. Although, if Exit through the Gift Shop has taught me anything, I would not be too quick to rule out a Mr. Brainwash situation; a clever misdirection. His anonymity could be my favorite aspect to his ever growing legacy of subversion. His beef with Robbo is also the stuff of legend. Every great hero needs a villain. Not sure which of these street artists I would truly label the villain and who the hero, but I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. 

graffiti

deM atlaS – All We Got

deM atlaS is on Rhymesayers now, one of my favorite music labels run by a guy who got me into underground hip-hop, dare I say got me into good hip-hop. I think this song is great and I’m glad he didn’t feel the need to rhyme in the first three lines. Usually I’m not cool with rappers using the same word at the end of the line, but it works here. “I never understood a lot. Cause I didn’t need a lot, have a lot. So I never cared a lot. Stumbled through a black hole and ended up in Camelot.” Parts of this song remind me of the group Shwayze,that Corona and lime swag, most specifically what i’ll call the “pre-hook.” Cause even in the shade and it is sunny. Somewhere over the rainbow, walking down this brick road. I stare at walls at night, hoping they do not fall down. While that section does feel light and airy the rest of the song has that Rhymesayers grit, that something grinding and real, which I am thankful for. I am excited to see what this guy has in store for us next.