Early Middle Age


Image Source: coffeeshop poetry and prose

“YOU ARE GOING RAPIDLY FAR IN THE DIRECTION YOU DON’T WANT TO GO AND NOWHERE IN THE DIRECTION YOU DO WANT TO GO.”

There it was, fixed in the tangible form of my notebook in bold all-caps script: a clarion call to revolution. My mid-life crisis at age 26.

It was a Sunday afternoon in August, 1999, one of the first days of the ending summer that hinted at football rather than baseball. I was in the basement of Curious Liquids Boston, latte and notebook on the table, trying to tell myself something about myself.

This was an optimistic line, since I was also going rapidly nowhere in the direction I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t really know it yet. I had been working 50-plus-hour weeks as a temp for John Hancock: my boss seemed to like me and there was talk of moving me to a permanent position. But all the talk was thin, rapidly melting ice.

Curious Liquids was a lovely coffee shop directly across from the State House on Beacon Hill. Don’t go looking for it: it’s now the Fox 25 studio. The liquids weren’t curious, exactly, but they were damn good, and there was a stone basement room that felt like an extremely cozy Medieval prison. I tended to gravitate there on Sundays, when I could kick out on a leather sofa and while away a few hours writing.

I wrote the line as part of a larger journal entry, and I remember staring at it. Epiphany time. I didn’t hear the Hallelujah chorus, no sirens or disco balls appeared and no confetti dropped from the ceiling. But I felt a change, and I knew that this would be an important moment in one year, five years, ten years, and I would remember it.

What direction did I NOT want to go? Corporate life. Button-down, soul-sucking, divide-and-conquer 9:00-5:00. What direction did I WANT to go? After several years away, I wanted to play in a working band again, but bigger. I last worked playing the Augusta cover scene, and I would have rather drank hairspray than play “Sweet Home Alabama” for a room full of tooth-deprived backwoods drunks ever again. I wanted to play originals in Boston, one of the greatest scenes in America.

And I wanted maybe to write. I had thought of writing a bit, and the writing in some of the fan ‘zines covering the Boston scene was pretty atrocious. Maybe I could do that. And, I thought, if I’m writing, it will be easier to overcome my painful shyness and start circulating among musicians…

I left Curious Liquids that day and immediately went looking for a copy of The Noise, one of the longest running and most prestigious ‘zines. I had never written for even a high school newspaper, and I knew nothing about word count or editing or anything. But I thought I could at least write a little better than some of what I had seen.

On Friday, September 10th, my position with John Hancock ended, starting a two-year descent into instability and depression. The next week I whipped together a few bogus writing samples and mailed them into The Noise. Several days later the phone rang, right in the middle of Sally Jessie Raphael (or was it Rikki Lake?). It was T-Max, publisher of The Noise. I expected a polite thanks-but-no-thanks, but no, I was suddenly a staff writer.

From there I started writing live and CD reviews and started circulating. From there I landed in several bands playing originals in Boston. From there I recorded several CDs and got a decent amount of airplay. From there…

I had my first mid-life crisis at 26 in the basement of a Boston coffee shop that no longer exists. I have gone rapidly far in the direction I want to go, and I continue to follow that direction as my goals and dreams shift. I think I may have been on to something pursuing that writing thing. I have a long way to go before I achieve literary self-sufficiency, but that is the goal. And it’s fixed in the tangible form of my notebook in bold all-caps script: a clarion call to revolution now as I’m days away from 40.

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29 comments
  1. Paula said:

    It’s nice to know someone out there knows how to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and go off in search of the dream, whatever it might be. I wish I had been like that at age 26. I wish I was like that now, at age 50! The older I get, the more rapidly I go nowhere.

    If this leaves anyone with the impression that it’s been a not-so-great day…yup. The last three hours were spent wrestling with substandard mailing labels, and I couldn’t get any of them to print! I burned through I don’t know how many pages trying to print half a dozen labels. It should have been a piece of cake.

    Never buy no-name address labels! They suck.

    So why does this leave me feeling like I suck?

    I think I need a little curious liquid in the form of single malt!

    • It’s NEVER too late!

      • Paula said:

        Some days it really feels like it’s too late. :-/

    • Paula said:

      Funny how losing even a job, even a horrible one, can make a person sink. It’s been a little over a year since I walked out of a really abusive employment situation (full story here: http://intotheheavenknowswhathaveyou.blogspot.com/2011/05/it-is-finished.html). Even though there were valid reason for my walking out when I did, it did not feel like a triumph. It felt like: “Paula, you goddamn loser, you can’t even hold a stupid factory job!” I liked the stupid factory job, and I was good at what I did, but it was the sort of company where no one gets credit for good work, and an atmosphere of fear and bullying and backbiting prevails. Yet still, knowing all that, I keep thinking I should have been stronger, I should have been tougher, I should have fought back. But the best I could do was simply get out, with no warning, before they had the satisfaction of firing me. That damn production manager was just waiting for his chance, and I wasn’t about to give him one.

      What hurts and demoralizes is the loss of my steady income. I guess i do OK with my yarn and stuff, but it’s variable. An hourly wage, multiplied by X number of hours per week, would make life a lot easier, IF I could find a situation where I would be treated with some respect. Sometimes I really believe such a thing does not exist, or, if it does, I will certainly not have the opportunity to land there.

      I have an application pending with a local company that would be right in line with the sorts of things I do well — working with knitting stuff in various forms — and this is really an oversimplification, just to keep a long story short. I want this job so badly I can taste it, and I think I would do it well, but…

      I’m still waiting to be called for an interview, and…well, because I want this so much and it would make life a lot easier in many ways, I’m convinced I don’t stand a chance.

      This is all a bunch of bad old tapes playing in an endless loop. “Trauma” left over from childhood. Nothing I do is ever good enough.

      This is the path down which depression takes me. I hate it, and have little control over it, though I take my meds religiously.

      Sometimes only a good night’s sleep helps clear the decks. Sometimes I can’t get that sleep without half an alprazolam. I do hope this is not going to be One of Those Nights…

      • I’ll be pulling for you…

  2. chitchat140 said:

    Ah Brian, wonderful! I live for that moment of epiphany, like Paula, I wish I had that moment @ 20 something. True, it’s never too late, but at 40 with all the 40 yo stuff that goes with it, it’s so much harder to seize the day. Your post is both inspiring and yet makes me wistful…

    • Thanks for stopping by!

      • Paula said:

        Actually, after listening to this, I feel somewhat better…

      • Good call, ma’am!

  3. I love this Brian. It really speaks to me right now and gives me new enthusiasm.

    • Thank you so much! So glad to read this! I really appreciate it.

  4. A gripping life said:

    How lucky for all of us that you stumbled onto the idea of writing! It was your gift just waiting to be opened.

    • Aww, thanks Grips! I’m working on it…

  5. I’m with Grips….well done!!

    • Jots!!! Always a pleasure, love!

  6. lens1 said:

    Can’t say I’m still pursuing the roadie for Soundgarden direction anymore…but your 26 year-old words do ring true. Thanks for the reminder…

    • Nice thing about life: it’s really just a check-list, and the more you get to check off, the more background you have to add on to the list. Or something like that…

      Great to have you here, Lens, thanks!

  7. free penny press said:

    i have been fortunate in that I’ve not ever been boxed in with work and even though I now work for a great corp., I’m exploring options for a what I want to be my ‘last employment gig”..It will include writing, for sure..
    Loved this piece Brian..live the dream or as Nike says, “Just Do It”!!

    • Damn, but I envy you. Theoretically, at least.

  8. I had mine at 27. Rather pathetically I think it tied in with the that’s when great rock stars die and great writers first publish…I’d done neither. What an idiot I was.

    • Oh, I do that all the time. Why didn’t I achieve this or that by the time I was 27, just like blah-blah?!? Well, because I wasn’t supposed to. I think the best is yet to come for us, and I’m all about delayed gratification. *grin*

      • Yeah, and as soon as I got past 27 I started looking for writers who first published when they were 27 then 28 then 29 then…you get the idea

  9. Your life has been so interesting, man. You should be proud.

    • Ah, blush! It’s been a hell of a ride. Can’t wait for the rest. It just gets better from here…

      • Especially once you start getting the AARP magazine. That’s some good stuff.

      • Yeah, looking forward to AARP and the Finger Hut catalog along with my pulverized corn mash, thanksalot. Ya whippersnappin’ bastid.

      • We can start trading teeth, at a certain point, too. So, we have that going for us, too!

  10. settleandchase said:

    It’s great to have these reminders of ourselves isn’t it..notes, journals, old songs, can get us back on track and remind us where we want/dont want to be..

    • Oh man, esPECIALLY where we don’t want to be. Siiigh…

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