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I never meant for this page to be a “blog”, and I still cringe whenever anyone refers to it as such, well-intended though they may be in doing so.

The idea was to continue work I had started, first with a friend, then on my own, to have a page that served as a sort of resume, a body of work I could steer editors, agents, etc. to when the time came. I suppose I “blog” in other places, and I have no problem at all with the blog form, but I wanted something a little more “profound” here. A little more “professional.”

But then a funny thing happened. I started gaining a following of bloggers, and started to return serve. And a real sense of community evolved out of my work. This is not a bad thing, and I’m unspeakably grateful for it.

So why not? I guess I’ll call this a “blog” piece.

Being childless on Father’s Day, and reflecting on life in general lately, here’s a check-in.

I’m 40, pushing 41.

I’m mostly happily married, for ten years this coming Friday. I’m mostly gainfully employed, with a mostly secure life: a house, a paid-for car, two cats, insurance, blah-blah-blah.

I’ve been dealing with a low-level mid-life crisis for a while, I guess around turning 40. Turning 40 was easy. Being 40 has been a bit tougher. I wasn’t afraid of turning 40, except in the sense of wanting to hold on to my 30s a bit longer. My 30s were so great in comparison to my 20s, which were so awful. My 30s were like my chance to re-write my 20s and get it right, and I relished that chance. I guess turning 40, and eliding comfortably into middle age, was a bit of a tougher milestone than I realized, though I still feel younger than I ever have.

My wife and I just returned from nearly two weeks tripping around the U.K. and Paris. This was a trip I had been waiting my entire life for, and it was a game-changer for the good on so many levels. I stood in front of the Mona Lisa, ordered Steak Frites in French and had Crème Brule, mousse and cappuccino in a deserted bistro while a Parisian rain fell. I stuck a finger in Loch Ness. I rode trains everywhere and wrote like a possessed demon. I heard Big Ben strike the hour and spent time loitering in Hyde Park, Henry the VIII’s old hunting grounds. I stood on the graves of Dickens and Darwin and walked the Seine and the Thames and had fish & chips on a rocky beach on the English Channel. I saw thousands of sheep frolicking in pastoral fields along the North Sea and ate Cullen Skink in an Edinburgh gastropub that dated to the 1700s. I paid for drinks in pounds and Euros and I heard accents from every corner of the globe. I fucking LIVED on this trip, like I haven’t lived in years. I live for these chances to recontextualize my life, and this trip served to do so completely.

And I realized something mind-blowing. Back at home I’m existing nicely, but I’m not LIVING.

I’m not following my passions. I’m not living the song in my soul. I’m writing the words in my heart and soul, but I’m not publishing them for money. Full time. I’m not even approaching my potential in life.

I wake, shit/shave/shower, drive, work in a Cube, drive, watch COPS re-runs and a ballgame, try to write, read in bed for a bit and shut the lights out. Lather, rinse, repeat Monday through Friday. On weekends I mow the lawn, wash the cars, clean the house, run errands, try to write and go to bed. I don’t stay up all night burning with passion, I don’t see the sunrise, I don’t push myself to make it with the written word, although that’s the passion that is silently burning a hole in my heart.

I am also battling my demons.

I’ve lived with depression and anxiety my whole life. I’m drastically better than in my 20s, when the demons had such a stranglehold on me that I could hardly get out of bed and the thought of being around people was too much agony to bear.

I’ve spent years on the couch, indulged in my share of recreational self-medication and kept several major pharmaceutical corporations in business. I’ve conquered all this and come to a place of stability and some serenity.

But it’s getting bad again. The anxiety is winning.

I have the greatest friends and family in the world and all I ever want is to take care of them all and save the world, no matter that I can’t. I reach out to friends even if I don’t have to, and then I worry that I’ve reached out too much and am pushing said friends away. I crack a joke and then worry that it was taken the wrong way. I take a comment at face value and spiral into a worry cycle, fearing that everyone sees me in the negative light I suddenly see myself.

I’m drastically better at pulling myself back from these spirals, but it’s getting bad again. And that’s not living.

So I’m now taking a chance to take care of myself. I’m in the market for a new shrink (any recommendations?) and new drugs. I have a slight disorder with my mental wiring: nothing that treatment with therapy and drugs can’t (and haven’t) fixed before.

And I’m exploring new ways to follow my passion. I’m looking at ways to lessen my day-to-day demands and spend more time pursuing the written word and full-time self-sufficiency from it.

I’m going to travel more and write about it. I’m going to flush out that song and present it to the world and submit invoices. I’m going to burn with newly awoken passion. Because that’s all I know.

Life is short. Life is precious. Life is right fucking NOW, and it’s all we have and all we know. It’s time to maximize this life of mine.

I’ve had an amazing run on WordPress. I’ve virtually met some amazing new friends, and my life is richer for it. I’ve reached new peaks of creativity I never thought I could. I learned a hell of a lot about writing, and a hell of a lot about myself. Likesay, it’s been an amazing run.

But all runs come to an end. At some point the act ends, and you rip up the tent pegs and take the Dog & Pony show to the next town. And it feels like a good time to move on from WordPress.

I’ve got some ideas burning a hole in my pocket. I WILL be back, in some other form, and soon. And I’ll keep you all posted.

And I thank you all so much, for reading, for commenting and encouraging. And for allowing me into your worlds. We’ll continue together (and drop a line anytime: greenback.media@gmail.com), and it will be better than ever.

As my old singer Max once wrote, “Just wish me luck and say we’re just changing scenes.”

See you out there somewhere…
BW

motel11-e1335127272402
Image Source: Pulsamerica

Soundtrack: Panama City Motel by Sugar

She lies on her side, panting gently in sleep, flower in her jet-black hair, which spreads out and pools across the pillow. Her unadorned chest heaves slightly, her legs porcelain lines. Satori in garters. In sleep she floats on lotus petals, bas-relief on the filthy linen of this borrowed Valhalla.

Ten balboa for the room, which is tropical oppressive. Crumbling white plaster and spackling chunks; one wicker chair; a crucifix on every wall…a fresco of the Virgin Mary in failed vigilance against sin…a nightstand with rosary beads, two liter bottles of water, two liter bottles of Coca Cola, overflowing ashtray, radio on low. An excited voice from Caracas…something about the revolution…or the glorious regime… The ceiling fan spins a languid wall of hot air, while the smell of kerosene and burning petrol and the sound of overworked mid-50s Chevrolets wafts in.

He stares at her in repose. She is too beautiful, too untouchable on terrestrial plains. The only way to reach her is with the ten balboa left behind on the nightstand. He gazes at her for a long moment while holding the doorknob, watching the pitch of her bare chest, dreaming of her welcoming clench, breathing in her perfection on his hands…

She is just a dream. She is unobtainable. You know this.

He stares at her immaculate beauty, blows a kiss, turns the doorknob and walks out into a world of vulgar uncertainty…

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Image Source: Entertainment Buddha

I would spend hours spinning the dial and watching the vinyl spin. My life developed in the spaces between the stations and between the grooves.

Something was always playing, in the house or the car, on the radio or on the turntable.

My parent’s record collection was vast and varied: Sinatra, Torme, Judy Collins, Simon & Garfunkle, The Beach Boys, Bach, Barry Manilow, The Carpenters, Elvis, The Monkees. It seems they were always listening to a record, and nearly every childhood memory I have comes with a sonic association.

I set up my record player in my room, and with that my room became a neighborhood bar. I made a neon sign by shining a flashlight through a straw, and the house special was water in Dixie cups. My parents were regulars, and they were treated to regular doses of Bill Haley and the Comets.

The Oldies obsession stuck, because I was a regular listener of WJTO Brunswick. I used to call my favorite DJ, Candy, and ask her to play Mark Dinning’s 1959 hit “Teen Angel.” I love the fact that at five and six years old I was obsessed with a song about a girl being hit by a train. Years of neurosis and couch time would follow, likely due, in part, to this grim special dedication I gave myself.

The first record I bought myself, at the long lost DeOrsey’s Records, was AC/DC: “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You).” It was 1982, and this record nicely supplemented the 45s I was obsessively collecting: Anita Ward “Ring My Bell”, Paul Davis “65 Love Affair”, Greg Khin “The Breakup Song.” My father was kind of pissed at me blowing my money on such trash, but that shimmering copper cover held sway, and my AC/DC obsession was born. Next stop: Ozzy.

The early 80s are a wash of sonic emotion caused by big creamy guitars. This is when I first started noticing guitar players and what they were playing. Elliot Easton’s massive sounding solo on The Cars’ “Since You’re Gone” and the emotive melody of Steve Clark’s solo on Def Leppard’s “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” just hooked me in: the tone, the feel. I started reading about, and dreaming of playing, Gibson Les Paul’s through a wall of Marshall amps.

And then I started doing…

I have made many suspect life choices, but never a bad sonic choice. I had a good, solid aural foundation, and from that I became an obsessed
listener: a deconstructionist, constantly tearing down songs to hear how and why they work – the composition, the instrumentation, the mix – and a reconstructionist, constantly rebuilding songs into my own interpretations. And it all started in those magical childhood spaces between the stations and the grooves.

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Pickwick // Practice Space
Photo Source: Eleanor Lonardo http://www.flickr.com/photos/elonardo/

06/21/01
Ragged Glory

We practice at The Sound Museum in the South End. Our building is a former warehouse/industrial complex-type building located in a triangle between South Boston, Bay Village and Chinatown. It’s an interesting melting pot of winos, hookers, drag queens, Chinese Laundromats across the street from Irish pubs, working warehouses, gourmet pastry shops, alleys and vacant lots strewn with trash, piss and used condoms, and townhouses carefully sandblasted by young elitist corpromaggots and Starbucks glitterati (30 years ago the first wave of idealistic young professionals bought up these crumbling townhouses in droves, displacing the “low-income”, i.e. “ethnic” tenants, and then declared the South End to be happily “integrated”. They were wrong).

The road leading to our building always makes me think of post-war Berlin. Inside, it’s not much more glamorous.

Our space is a brick room, with one wall covered with silver lined insulation. No climate control. In the dead of winter, we can only use a space heater for ten minutes or so before playing, lest we blow a fuse. In the dead of summer, it’s a total blast furnace, even with a fan.

Our space carries the stench of starving musicians; stale beer, smoke, sweat, hell knows what else. Sharing the space with two other bands doesn’t help matters, as tidiness isn’t quite a priority in their world. It’s a melee of unwrapped cables, wah-wah pedals, coffee cups, empties, overturned ashtrays, dirt, grime and destitution.

There is nary a hint of glamour involved, at least tangible glamour. We go in, we play very loudly, we sweat off a few pounds, we go home, we come back, break down and hump out the gear, drive many miles, set up, play the gig, break down and hump out the gear, drive many miles back, dump it off back at the space, go to bed at ungodly hours, drag-ass into day jobs, miss loved ones, and deal with aches and pains. We do this frequently. This is the cost of love, and the price we pay for those 45 sustaining minutes on a stage.

This is what we live for. We’re an American band.

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Image Source: Ramonesworld

It feels like a math equation where one of the figures is off somewhere. I run the numbers in my head, and it doesn’t add up. Does not compute. Joey Ramone has been dead for eleven years? Impossible!

Singer Joey Ramone, real name Jeff Hyman, died of lymphoma eleven years ago on Sunday. Bassist Dee Dee Ramone (Doug Colvin) OD’d in 2002 and guitarist Johnnny Ramone (John Cummings) died of prostate cancer in 2004. 75% of one of the most influential bands in my life and lifetime is deceased. Not possible, not for a band that was such a life force for so many outsiders such as myself. Does. Not. Compute.

Memory lies, but mine tells me that I first saw The Ramones play “Rock & Roll High School” on Sha Na Na in 1978, when I was five or six. I have seen film of this show since, so I know it’s plausible. I definitely remember knowing that they played “Blitzkrieg Bop” on the National Lampoon’s Vacation soundtrack. And by the early to mid ‘80s I was obsessed, soaking up whatever I could about this band of punk rock Beatles from Forest Hills, Queens.

I was first attracted to the look. Four mean-looking New Yorkers, all named Ramone (even though they weren’t related and actually hated each other’s guts), with Joey’s Anglo-Queens bleat in the middle. This wasn’t Glen Campbell or David Cassidy! The Ramones weren’t nice. They weren’t clean and polished and safe for mama. They were rebellious antimatter, and I was immediately hooked.

Next I started laughing. Hysterically. The lyrics! Sure, at eight or nine I couldn’t quite grasp a line like “now I guess I’ll have to tell ‘em, that I got no cerebellum.” But I sure as hell got “Beat on the brat with a base – ball bat,” and the image of Joey – 6’ 6” and maybe 120 lbs, most of that hair and rose colored granny glasses – beating the crap out of a crying kid with a Louisville Slugger appealed to my nascent sense of gallows humor. Later on I could plug my own life into song titles like “Outsider,” “I Wanna Be Well” and, of course, “I Wanna Be Sedated.”

But really, it’s the music. Raw, fast, aggressive punk, yes, but few bands wore their influences so obviously on their collective sleeves. Take a listen to “I Remember You” and tell me that it couldn’t have been The Who or Herman’s Hermits. “Oh Oh, I Love Her So” is straight-up Jan and Dean/Beach Boys homage, as is “Rockaway Beach.” And was there ever a greater lyrical ode to teenage puppy love than “I met her at the Burger King, we fell in love by the soda machine?” Swoon.

The Ramones were there for me during my pre-teen years. They were there all through high school. They were there all through my college years. They were one of the great constants my life has ever known, even though the quality of their records was maddeningly inconsistent. And a little piece of me still expects a new album and tour every two years.

I don’t normally get all meepy choked up over celebrity death. Not that I don’t care, but in most cases the celeb in question is just too remote from my own world. Too foreign for me to connect with. The Ramones were different. They weren’t beautiful, they were fucked up! They were a bunch of glue-sniffing, mentally shaky outcasts, and they taught me that it was okay to be a less-than-beautiful, fucked up outcast myself, and to write about it.

The Ramones were ME. How can the figurehead of that life force be dead? For eleven years now? Does not compute.

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Image Source: Baeble Music

I cannot let go of the song. I hear off-beats and syncopation in the metronomic click of the turn signal, and fill the spaces tapping on the steering wheel. An air-conditioner unit thrums on the street and I hear harmonies and counterpoint. The bells of the church ring and the overtones are out of tune and I cringe. I have studied and lived the music my whole life through listening and playing. I am conduit and grateful receiver.

The cloth of my childhood is patchwork record covers. Simon & Garfunkle, Barry Manilow, Joan Baez, Elvis, The Monkees, The Beach Boys, The Crew Cuts, Beethoven, The Carpenters, The Bee Gees, Star Wars, Saturday Night Fever, John Denver and The Muppets, K*Tel disco compilations, AC/DC, Ozzy, Van Halen, all obsessed over and absorbed like nutrients.

Grade school added a layer of metal and punk rock: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, The Dead Kennedys, The Ramones. My first guitar at age 11, and hours and hours playing records and learning how to play. Passion charging from my soul to my fingertips. Big, rich, melodic sounds on the radio: The Cars, Journey, Madonna.

High school brought CD covers and a return to the underground: Smithereens, The Smiths, The Cure, Hoodoo Gurus, The Replacements. College found me studying jazz: Bird & Diz, Coltrane, Miles, Hawk and Newk. Every day since has found me loving all of the above.

“Logic” dictates that when one grows up and discovers classical, jazz, talk radio or Adult Contemporary, one puts aside the music of youth. I’ve never bought that, and I’ve never practiced it. I have changed tremendously, but the Alvin & The Chipmunks or Gordon Lightfoot or Black Flag record I loved when I was a kid has NOT changed. And it remains as critical and influential as it once was. So why not add Adult Contemporary to my repertoire, rather than abandoning aural pleasure?

I can’t let go of my past, nor do I want to. And I am better for it.

I cannot let go of the song. The records of my youth, the CDs of my developmental years, the MP3s of my adult years all weave a sonic narrative through my life. Every note is still there, informing my every move. Every memory has a soundtrack.

I walk down the hall at work to the beat of a song I heard when I was five. I drive toward sunsets that trigger sunsets and songs from when I was ten. My studies allow me to recognize the 12 notes used by (insert modern star here) as the same 12 notes used by The Beatles and the same 12 notes used by Woodie Guthrie and the same 12 notes used by Louis Armstrong and the same 12 notes used by Bach.

Trace the lineage, count the rings on the stump. It’s all there in my mind and heart. I have studied and lived the music my whole life through listening and playing. I am conduit, receiver and giver of the eternal song.

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