The Troubador

Dear Troubador,

Let me make one thing clear: I am, in most cases, a lover, not a fighter. While there are plenty of things in this world of which I am not fond, I tend to prefer the “let life roll off your back” method of living. And really, I think we probably have a lot of common interests. You come out to play your guitar and sing on beautiful summery afternoons and evenings. Me, I love spring and summer, and warm weather in general, and I can really appreciate live music. I think there’s something really charming and wonderful about living in an apartment where, from time to time, the strains of a musical performance find their way up to my window.

Hold on, let me really emphasize the key phrase in that last sentence: from time to time.

Near the end of last summer, when I first moved in, I heard quite a variety of sounds from down on the street. I heard at least one vocalist accompanied by acoustic guitar and while I found his stylistic choices pretty irritating and bland and his tempos ill-advised and draggy (come to think of it, maybe it was you), his was just one of many voices. I also found myself outside my apartment one evening around eight o’clock because I could hear a men’s barbershop quartet vibrating from below. I can also recall a lovely young woman who set her harp up just a few yards down the street. Okay, so I don’t remember if she was necessarily lovely, but the twinkling notes that filled the air (without disrupting the environment, I might add) as she played certainly were.

Like I said, though. As grating as I may find a particular set of noises, I’d generally prefer to let these things go. However, recent piercing developments (most notably, a harmonica) may cause me to subvert my own philosophy– or at least, act in contradiction to its principles.

Not that I intend to threaten, exactly. But since there’s a tree between my apartment window and yourself when you stand in your makeshift amphitheatre, and I don’t think you’ve been able to notice any of my disapproving glaring, I just wanted to put my particular request into clear, readable terms.

So, here it is: stop that. Maybe some people like your many Bob Marley covers, your drawling “Ramblin’ Man,” or your undertempo version of “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” but no one needs to hear them every day. And while I’m sure Old Crow Medicine Show is very nice, maybe it’s time to forsake the medicine, accept the fact that the crow has seen better days, and just let it die.

Regards,
your reluctant neighbor


A theoretical introduction to blog.

My mother had the opportunity to give a speech at her high school graduation, but she passed. I don’t remember the circumstances, exactly, but I do remember her telling my brother and I this particular detail. As a kid, I could never understand it. Not only would I kill for the attention, I thought, and the opportunity to perform in front of people, but I also couldn’t imagine passing up the recognition that comes with that honor. The kids who get to give speeches at graduation are also the kids with the best grades, or they’re well regarded enough by their peers to be voted in. As a kid obsessed with being the best, I couldn’t imagine not showing that off. In spite of this worldview, though, I was still pretty shy. And honestly, when it came time for me to graduate from high school, if I’d been given the opportunity to give a speech I probably would have passed, too,  because, like my mom, (and these are her words) “I would have had nothing to say.”

That charming anecdote has nothing to do with this blog. Wait, yes it does. Kind of. Here’s the tenuous link. Both my mother and I fancy ourselves writers. Okay, she writes all the time and has an advanced degree and has actually published her poetry. So I guess she’s been ushered into the category of Actual Writers, whereas I’m still hovering in the category of nebulous Would-Be-Self-Fancying-Writers (who haven’t actually written much of anything outside of school assignments, but who are currently majoring in or graduated with a degree in something like English and haven’t done anything with it yet and therefore cling to the liminal post-graduate space hoping that inspiration or divine intervention will strike and define them so they don’t have to figure it out for themselves). The point, though, is that whatever stage of writerdom my mother and I have achieved, we both have an interest in carving some kind of living out of our own words. And, when given the opportunity to speak her own words in front of peers, my mother declined. And, when I complained about my lack of direction and skill and subsequently prompted some dear friends to inquire why I didn’t start myself a blog of some kind, I balked.

I have nothing to say.

Fortunately, these very friends, in their dearness, dear as they are, told me to shove it because I’m always happy to yammer on about almost anything. I have to give them some credit: this is true. And to be honest, I can think of a hundred reasons (well, at least three reasons) not to have a blog, but I’ve let the idea turn over and leak into my head enough that I’ve also collected just as many reasons to do it anyway.

And to start this collection of thoughts from someone with nothing to say, I thought I’d introduce this blog with some of those leaky, blog-oriented thoughts.

Here are a few reasons not to have a blog:

Everyone and their mamma has a blog. This is always the first line of anti-blog defense in my mind: there are plenty of useless, boring, online journals. And even if I were a useful and interesting person, there are also already plenty of more useful, more interesting people out there, blogging their little hearts out. If I don’t have anything to contribute, shouldn’t I keep myself to myself? I’m not exactly Neil Gaiman (who has a great blog). Shouldn’t I just lurk more, as classic internet wisdom would suggest? Probably, yes. That said, even if no one ever reads this, or I find out that, in fact, I really do have nothing at all to say, well, at least I practiced. I’m pretty sure that writing is just like anything else: you stop doing it, you get worse at it. You get out of condition. Then, before you know it, you own this violin you used to play regularly in high school but you stopped playing when you were an undergrad and now you’re just carrying it around with you and you can barely remember how you’re supposed to hold it, let alone any of those position and vibrato exercises you worked so hard on. Which brings me to my next point.

Coming up with interesting things to talk about is a lot of work, without much obvious payoff. It’s been almost a full year since I graduated with my B.A. in English, and I’mma be straight up with you, blogosphere. I miss writing papers. (Before you ask, blogosphere, I generally didn’t use phrases like “I’mma be straight up with you” in my various analyses of Melville, Shakespeare and Stevens.) I don’t necessarily miss stressing out about deadlines while I sat in the twenty-four hour study room in my library and chugged sugar-free energy drinks, but… okay, I actually do kind of miss that. Man, those geniuses up at Avenue Q were onto something when they wrote “I Wish I Could Go Back To College.” But then, everything looks less shitty when you’ve finished doing it. Which is probably why some people have more than one kid. Not that I can speak to that experience with any authority. Moving on.

Going back and reading all the stupid shit you wrote is embarrassing, especially when everyone in the world with an internet connection can join in on the judgment party. This is incredibly true. I’m embarrassed by everything I’ve ever written. I’m embarrassed by the stories I wrote with crayons on big sheets of typewriter paper when I was a kid. I mean, really. You would think I would allow my nine year old self to write a story about a magic squirrel. But no, I just can’t let it go. My twenty-three year old self is all, “What the balls, kid? You thought this was good? What are these, pigeon oracles? Don’t gimme that shit. You spelled ‘tough’ wrong.” In spite of this, I’ve decided the merciless mockery of the self is actually a blessing incognito. Or something. I probably don’t gain very much from abusing my inner nine year old, but the fact that I can look at a paper I wrote and edited heavily during my senior year in college and see all of the things that are still wrong with it has to mean something. At the very least, I haven’t lost a critical eye for my own work. Which, I think (I hope) means that I’m getting better, Beatle-like, all the time. I mean, I nearly called this post “To Blog or Not To Blog,” but I didn’t even need my future self to kick that idea in the ass. My present self was all over it. She was like, “What is that? Some kind of hackneyed Hamlet reference? Are you planning to have an audience of mostly infants and fruit flies, the only beings who are either young enough or have a short enough life span that they’ve only heard that reference four or five hundred times? I shake my head.”

Long story-arm foreshortened-leg, when I could answer all three of my major doubts, I decided to give it a shot. What the hell? Beats watching TV all day.

More soon. Maybe of some substance. Maybe not. Welcome to the blog.