30 Days At The Crossroads – Part 10

Such a strange morning. Another day heavy with grey clouds, the full breasted blush of Autumn now stick figures stretching into the void .  Sipping hot coffee to still the shudders. I feel off planet, an alien hologram of myself. I cannot shake it.

 I have no recall of writing that sentence last night.

Wrapped in an assembly of weather warm fabrics, the chill was bearable. I busied myself with a running list of the things I would buy when the money comes. I must have passed out during the travel section as I remember the image of blue water and black sand. Then nothingness.

I heard music.  A melody. Repeating and beating louder between my ears. I assumed in my sleep I hit something on my phone.  My phone was off and still resting on the seat. I knew it wasn’t the radio as the keys sat next to the phone. And a assembly of melodies converged in my head, growing impatient.

I tried to focus but it was all surreal. There was something familiar within it. Eventually I recognized was that all the melodies, converging, crossing, swelling, were all sung in my voice. Falsetto and low gravel, every instrument was my instrument. My voice doing things I could never imagine.

Then oblivion. And I woke up in my car.

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Is a caterpillar aware of what it is becoming, the wings it will grow, the colors it will bring?  Is a bug aware of what it will become right before it hits the windshield?

For better or far worse, change comes to every creature on the planet.

Which is as reasonable a way to describe the last two days.

The melody. It slithers in the back of my head until I sleep, and then it struts. Incessant. With a strong hook.  A good beat you can dance too.

When I awoke with the melody beaming in my brain, I was compelled to grab my guitar and make something out of it. It was intimidating. Like being given a live check for millions but having a fake ID.

I found my way to a friend’s house who was sweet enough to let me shower and get myself together. Being flush with real indoors and genuine heat, I put myself on the couch, broke out my pad, my pen and my digital recorder. And started to play.

It was the strangest feeling. My fingers worked their way around the tune and added swerves and curves. It wasn’t  conscious. The less I thought about it, the more I noticed that I was playing guitar in a way I have never been able to play.

I hack at my guitar, beat it into submission while screaming out my precious words. This was different. A near genius level of altering and repeating the notes , repetition, repetition, repetition.  Hypnotic notes flowed from my guitar while I barely considered where this skill came from.

It was said that Robert Johnson disappeared that day on the Crossroads only to appear a few years later with an ability to play that shocked folks who knew him. Some said it was the work of The Devil. Some said it was the work of hard and focused learning.  I had not practiced in weeks.

I was not thinking this at the time. I was not thinking at all.

I felt myself breathing, lungs inhale and exhale. I felt the weight of the guitar on my knee, the scent of candles burned down days ago. Everything within my physical body became acute. Detailed. I felt the sun shine on my back, the deafening drip of a faucet somewhere.

My fingers worked and my voice worked with it. The more I played, the more distant I became from playing. It was instinct. It was flexing  knowledge I never learned.

It was a gift.

ROBERT JOHNSON (1911-1938). American blues musician. Dime store photo from the 1930s.

30 Days At The Crossroads – Part 10

30 Days At The Crossroads – Part 9

Dusk comes to the crossroads. A decided chill in the air as we press through November, and not having the finance to run the heater, I am layered in most of the clothes I brought.

Such a strange place. I feel invisible here. I expected that some local cop would eventually pull up and check my purpose. I thought that the folks who travel this route would be gawking at me, wondering what exactly I was up too. I have not seen a single person even look in my direction. It is solitude. And it should not be.

Things like this make me wonder. Is it this place, so often driven that it becomes automatic reflex to focus on the road? Is it my purpose here that allows a spectral anonymity?

It is a strange feeling to be in a wilderness while being about a 8 minute ride from a WalMart.

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Beyond the half way point of November and no signs of progress. No nightly visitors, no pens of flame or blood. Just waiting causing me to question whether this is my residency in Hell. If that is the case I could do worse.

It is sunny today. Most of the leaves have left. The lovely burnished red of the foliage replaced daily with naked branch and blue sky blooming. The grass going from summer green to earthen tones.

I know the rhythms of the seasons. I have lived here all my life. This land of Devils.

That is not said as an opinion. New England born and raised.And always driving distance to some place with ‘Devil’ or ‘Hell’ in the title. As far as I recall, this was Puritan lands back in the beginning, and anything that was considered unusual was named unnatural. And a place where mysteries let loose. Devils were always about according to the Puritans. And names such as Devils Den, Devils Hopyard, Satans Kingdom, Hell Hole were given to the places that pricked at the cosmological conscience were warned away from. 

The country, the USA, started on this side (meaning East)and so the oldest and more arcane history comes from here. It gets in your blood here, the dirty ground of real history. It redeems your daylight and electric candles as weapons against the cold Yankee nights.

There is blood in the ground here. Older blood sunk deeper into the soil. We have attached to our homeland witch hunts and Native American massacres, famous murder and forgetful grounds. As a kid, I ate this up. The book I would always own was the collection of Yankee Magazine Myths and Legends. There are vampires in Jewett City, mysterious ‘BOOMS’ out of Moodus, bodies buried beneath New Haven Green, the Melon heads stalk Dracula Drive in Yourtown, USA. Every part of the country reflects its age in its fears, whether it is roving gangs of homicidal hippies in the California hills or dead shot long dead gunslingers in the west.

Here, our history is longer and fears more traditional, rooted in mystical depths. And that brings us to Hell.

We use the tools we have available to review any threat. In these modern days, mysteries are knocked down with regularity. Science tracks the phenomena, action and reaction and creates a hypothesis. The concept gets debated, back and forth, sometimes for centuries.

Without the science, we are left with faith. What someone wants to believe, someone will believe. If you believe your suffering will allow you a better view in Heaven,you cannot be dissuaded. If someone avoids the simple carnal pleasures for fear of dropping down into Hell, you will not be convinced. Even using plain science, where facts are not negotiable, people will see what they want to in the results and base their opinions on this flawed logic. And will not be unconvinced.

The Northeaster woods crawl with witches and boil with entrances to the abyss. The shore speaks of ghosts of pirates and haunted lighthouses. The cities whisper with murders and long held grudges coming to boil. We are cold people, in a cold place. As cold as the stones that sit in our multitude of cemeteries. As cold as the bodies that lay beneath.

 And we will not be unconvinced.

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Cloudy night with a glow of the Moon distant. Deeper shadows round the crossroads tonight.

What will it be like when I am rich and famous? What will it be like knowing what waits when I eventually flame out completely. Is having nothing an audition for losing everything?

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I have a song in my head. It shook me from a dead sleep. That has never happened before.

30 Days At The Crossroads – Part 9

30 Days At The Crossroads Part 8

The benefit of being wholly alone has it’s upsides. The ridiculous things you do are shared privately and there is no Greek Chorus warming up in the pit.

Someone who was aware of what I was doing out here, what I wanted and what I was prepared to pay, was perhaps a loss. I live so much in my own head that I doubt if someone offered advice, I would even be able to make sense of the sentence.  My inner dialog has gone native

The positive is that when you do something embarrassing, you can get up the next day no worse for wear. That last night, recalled here, was embarrassing. A bad dream mixed with random nature had me running like a kid though a graveyard. The first sign of something scary had me sleeping in the swampy green light of a Target. Bad form.

I had long thoughts about what I would do next that morning, after the morning sun shook the night off. I had no place else to go. Death or Glory, right?

What if Death was not Death at all, but a quick blip before you wake up elsewhere? I did not believe in Heaven even a bit. I did not believe our good deeds were calculated and fed through a formula that decide the resting place of your soul. I absolutely believed in Hell.

It is a contradiction. I l know that. I have never been able to apply a working logic to it. I believe life is fundamentally bad. And as workers of these dirt driven fields, we turn bad right along with it. There is joy in moments and these times need keep us steely against another bad spin of fortune.

Life is not fair, but it was never advertised as such.

I drank coffee until I started to feel whole again. I knew I would go back to the crossroads that night. And every night following. Because I had nothing else.

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When I returned in the bright 3 o’clock sunlight, I felt foolish all over again. This was practically the fucking suburbs. This was not Mississippi and the only thing haunting these fields was me. I settled in, slid my seat back and waited.

As noted, waiting is my sport. I was made for this, though I kept on having thoughts creeping into my head about whether waiting was enough.

Sacrifice was the word that kept coming in unannounced. Tap, tap, tapping.

What if there was missing text in the accumulated legends?What if every single person who successfully made this pact brought something to show how serious they were? What if a bird was simply an offering? I pondered this as the sun slid away and night came to the crossroads.

11/14/18__________________________________________________________________________

As  I got older, my writing changed. It was almost a return to my 9 year old form. It was confessional where before it was clever. This wasn’t  a decision. I came to recognize that the writing was therapy. It was my nurse and it was my weapon. And I needed both in those days.

I cannot chart the exact age that my ego eclipsed my sweeter nature. I think it was a byproduct of living so deeply in my own head, I made a kingdom in there. And to the king go the spoils.

It came with a small measure of success, getting recognized,getting heard, my songs at last touch the radio airwaves. I took it too far, as was my nature.

I started to become cooler, not only in attitude but in empathy. And since my esteem couldn’t balance the small size of the aforementioned success, I started crafting a new persona. Less geeky chat(which is me) and more cool long looks. It was cheap but it was effective. I attracted attention. And the attention I craved wasn’t press or prestige. It was women.

And I became callous. To the king go the spoils. Even the most spoiled ones.

The songs became my rationalization for every deed and misdeed done. If I wanted a heartbreak song, I went out and got my heart broke.If I needed a redemption song, I found someone silly enough to redeem me and out it to paper. I did not write love songs . Too revealing.

I stepped out using the patter of a stranger, a sick ego and clever tongue. It goes a long way in the world.

I felt a darkness. Within. And I liked it. My songs became the E Ticket reason for everything I did to myself. And to others. Every unhealthy habit was a grand tradition in the life of an artist. I drank deeply.

No friends ever mentioned the change in me. No one longed for the better version of me. I was more successful with this character I decided to become than all the love lorn years leading up to it. And so I pressed on.

I hurt people. For the songs. I pushed the edges of decent behavior. For the songs. I dine out on fabricated stories of my life as a rogue. And songs came from that too.

I felt myself draining away from the world leaving my imposter to take my place. And he flourished.

It was not like the 80’s style comeback story movies I grew up on. The record was played, and played again all over the country. I received sweet words and sales were not great. The time spent working to the lower middle took its toll on everyone involved. And it was gone.

No one was asking what I would do next. No one missed what I brought to the banquet.

People went the way of the World and spun away. I did not take it personally. I was barely a person at that point.

That was not long ago now.  It lead me right to this dirty cross of blacktop.

30 Days At The Crossroads Part 8

30 Days At The Crossroads – Part 7

Saturday Night and I just got paid. Not accurate, but still a heady line. I will not see folding money again till this is over. I have been thrifty banking on the gas I use each day to get here versus 30 days. If it takes that long. And if it doesn’t, I simply don’t know.

My landscape is changing around me ushering in the cold, dead season ahead. The leaves that reached over my parking spot, which glowed dying fire as the chlorophyll blanched out are now skeletal limbs that shimmer and crack. The dead leaves carpet the roots of the tree where my black bird friend watched after me. The grass is slowing down and going brown.

I have not had any further astral visitors. I am no longer sure if I expect any. I am zealous. 20 days to go.

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Fuck.  I have never been so afraid in my life.

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The sun is coming up over the Target parking lot. Another gray day in a series. And I am still shivering badly.

I knew I was going to spend the night at the crossroads. I gathered whatever winter wear I had remaining. November gets cold at night and I could not afford to use my heat.

I sat in layers and listened.  Wind teased the highest branches and flicked rain on my windshield. It was peaceful.  This was my home, my native land. There was not a whip snap of a branch or cry of an animal new to me.  I lived round hear all my life.

I had a dream, which itself was peculiar. I do not dream. I have not dreamed in years.

I was in a hotel room, but not the type I have stayed in much. As opposed to the modern version of lodging with its single serve coffee maker and fire exit maps on the door, this was clearly an older style hotel, something akin to city life. The windows were open and I heard sounds of life being lived many down below. Car brakes and horns, industrial sounds of steam and distant voices.

I was fully dressed, the lights on, the windows open. Big band music churned out of a radio on the bedside table, adding to the time out of time feeling. And beneath , the sound of running water. I looked around the room and saw a door with light leaking from below. Small shadows of movement buzz in the refracted light.

I stared at the door.  Nervous. I had no reason to be nervous. It was palpable within.

I heard a sigh, decidedly feminine behind the door. Then the lights went out beneath the door. And the sound, all those city sounds, went dead in a blink. The only sound was of the Big Band music slowly devolving into static and scratch.

I sat frozen in place as the lights in the room shut off. And the bathroom door opens.

What was strange, even within the dream, was that the windows that were letting the sound in, seemingly open and brimming with life, were pure black spaces now.There was no light at all.

‘tap…..tap….tap’

My breath caught in my throat. I was terrified. ‘tap….tap….tap’. It was distinct and it was getting closer. ‘tap….tap…tap’. I could not move a muscle.It was blackness and increasing tension. True mortal fear. I felt as alone as I ever had in life.

‘tap…tap…tap.’

I could not see it. I did not want t see it. I crushed my palms to my eyes.

My eyes opened and I was at the crossroads, in the driver’s seat. The dream spun away from me. It felt like it was evaporating all around me. I started to calm down,relief like a physical rush.

‘tap…tap…tap’.

On the passenger side window, on the back windshield. ‘tap…tap…tap’

Light scratching sounds on the roof. ‘tap…tap…tap’ Though I could not see anything, I knew what it was.

My brain was a block of ice. Pure Instinct started the car and floored it, fishtailing wildly away from the crossroads.

30 Days At The Crossroads – Part 7

30 Days At The Crossroads – Part 6

I felt a prickling on my skin like electrical charges right as it happened. It was a flicker but a flicker that seemed to last far past flickering. And looked upon the biggest black bird I had ever seen perch 15 feet away.

I felt uneasy. It was not the proximity. It was the focus. The bird perched and turned to me and froze. Black eyes focused. Not on the car, but on me. I could not forget that static charge that hit me in the moment. It felt…significant.

Was this it? Did ‘it’ even exist? Am I slowly losing my shit, as has been mentioned?

It sat still. Still as ancient things. It reminded me of a woodcut found in one of those dusty library books I favored about omens and monsters of yore. And it stared. Not that the car, not into the field looking for dinner. Stock still staring directly at me. Into me.

It made me uncomfortable. I had to consider if I was letting my nerves get the best of me. Then was struck with the single thought ‘What did you expect?’.

Was this an overture? Was there a step I needed to learn in this dance? The bird sat mute and frozen; no guidance would come from that direction. Should I approach? Was this the invitation?

My car and pulled away slowly. It’s eyes followed me as far as I can see.

I took comfort that night in a dear friends flesh and a lot of liquor. It was gone the next morning when I returned.

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I am used to waiting. I have a long habit of always arriving early, so waiting became a skill. I note the same ruts on the road, the same jeep tracks, heading off road that I have gazed at for days, which kicks my mind into questioning ‘where were they going? Did they get there? The same road trash that comes and go with the wind. The same shade from the same trees, now less shady with the leaves coming down. I sit and I collect my thoughts and I print them here, for reasons still unknown.

I wait and I wonder. What happens if I am successful? Would I suddenly have the secret song in my pocket that will allow my ascension? Will the chords come together naturally, or perhaps unnatural? Would  I receive a letter that says ‘Congrats Kid. Your gonna be a Starrrrr.?

Or would I simply disappear, not being legal or bright enough to know the full extent of the contract?

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And so my life as a performer began. Not in klieg lights and limousines, but in late night gigs at dingy bars playing the white trash American Songbook. It would not last long. As a writer, I wanted to make hits, not play the hits. So I started to learn the guitar and picked up a 4 Track Cassette Recorder.

If I can chart the specifics of when I became a day trader in this life, when I began a lifelong preoccupation with profane ways to call ordinary actions, or the necessary extra syllable that would make that chorus bulletproof, this was that day.

I knew the accepted way to become a figure in that early 90’s music business economy:  start local, work local, build a following,make a record, get radio, perhaps a video, get press, get fans….repeat until you’re driving sold gold Cadillac’s. There is a simplicity to that metric,makes creative thought and the sharing of it into a Wikipedia page of how to farm.

I could not go that route, always thinking of myself as the creative engineer of better mousetraps.

How correct I was can likely be summarized in where I write this from. A beat up car on a beat up road, seeking higher guidance from lower associations. Desperation was a concept until I got desperate.

I started to let go of the world. I started to forget what was required of me to be a well thought, likable adult. I started to obsess on the ways I would flaunt my wealth and success among those many who did not believe in me. Belief is a drug and that and no one was selling it. I daydreamed conversations with the magazine clippings I kept as friends. The advice they would offer, and what I would offer back.

The ‘Myself’that brought me to the party seemed to leave with someone else, and what I had left was the Myth. I was pleased.

While others planned a future, I plotted a course for International stardom on my own terms.I remember the sloganeering that became my reasoning: This is all I can do. I cannot fix cars, cannot do math, can barely spell, much less punctuate. It is Death or Glory.

That was years ago now. Death keeps coming into the foreground. Day by day. Glory is still ethereal.

I worked at jobs, always considered ‘Joe Jobs’ to me, cause my work was what I did after hours. Honestly, I have no clue how I was hired at all. I did not have the resume, but I think my inner workings of global domination gave the outer appearance of confident. My ‘Devil May Care’ attitude and decent diction hid the lack of care I truly owned.  Every job I had was a static place held together by what my next move was artistically.

I hid it well. At some jobs.

I allowed myself any number of behaviors I would never have suggested to anyone else. My particular version of ‘Death or Glory’ did not invite passengers. I was a wide ranging experiment on the power of self involvement and ego. I was the subject and I did the research. I excused this self lechery and leering by reminding myself that what I was doing was aiming higher than most.

I was willing to bet it all. I did bet it all. I never even got the see the wheel spin.

Are these thoughts insane? I ask you as I have no one left to ask. Whoever you may be and however you will come across this confession / transcript. Does everyone consider themselves a God of their own world? Is that a bad thing? I was told something in passing that I keep as armor: There is no such thing as a false sense of well being. If you feel well,you are well.

My logic was flawed. And I would do it all again the same way.

30 Days At The Crossroads – Part 6

30 Days At The Crossroads – Part 5

And while other kids were picking up the guitar and drums, I picked up the pen.

My songwriting habits solidified as I opened up to new sounds. My heroes were always the singers, as I was naïve enough to believe that s they sang the words, they wrote the words.

I grew my internal world by moving beyond the sad boy songs into something more gothic and suggestive. I wrote horror movie scripts with kickin’ choruses. I wrote in cheap rock and roll clichés, practically the traditional folk of white suburban boys.

So when a gang of friends started to take it more seriously , they needed a singer, I said ‘I’m a singer.’

To me, singing was always an act of courage more than a skill. Considering the quality of voice that littered modern music, not everyone who sings should sing. The goal was to get them into writing original compositions as I had pads of material ready to go.

Off to the practice room, like our fathers and forefathers before us. 

My first live gig was a personal revelation. I was fat, morbidly so. As wide as anyone was tall. Decked out in denim vest with patches and spikes, we played a Battle of The Bands against kids far more popular than we were. That suited us. We were filled with rage. We played covers from obscure bands no one ever heard of.  Every other band had at least one Van Halen cover.

Impossible to say whether we were good or bad but we were assuredly loud and ugly. So we lost. Of course. This isn’t a movie.

Right after the cool kids were crowned, I stood back a grimy sweaty massive mess. A girl approached me. Maybe the first.

And time slowed as she intentionally walked toward me. She was a vision. Thin, blonde, smiling at me…looking at me. Everything dropped to a slow motion crawl as I noted the stage lights glinting off her silver choker…

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Something is happening. I think something is happening.

I was lost in the tapping of half recovered memory when I saw a black shadow cross my hood.

30 Days At The Crossroads – Part 5

30 Days at The Crossroads – Part 4

I slept in my car last night. That wasn’t the plan. I am not sure if there is a plan. Is there a process to offering up your eternal self for worldly gain? Is there a registry I should have signed onto? In blood? Is that what Linked In actually is?

I park and I wait. In lieu of soundtrack and chatter, it is just the tapping of this phone. The phone doesn’t ring, the message indicator doesn’t blink.  When I say I do not know what I am doing here, that question needs be answered in tiers.

Is this a fanciful suicide note?  What am I trying to say by walking back through these drug mangled memories? Is my story a ‘teachable moment’?

It is habitual this creating to keep a order. I am parked and watching the world spin at the apex of these two roads. Chosen not by providence but by convenience. If the will is willing and the flesh is leaning into it, does that trip the Devils red line?

Worse still…I am an atheist. Though clearly not zealous on the subject. I do not believe there is anything beyond this earthen tomb. We born, we pass, we food for worms. Until the going gets rough. Then I am praying to God for luck and banging on the Devils door for validation.

Cause that is what this is about. Validation. I won’t let my life go unacknowledged. That has grown from a notion into a threat.

Going to Hell for eternity is awesome…as long as you do not believe in Hell. What if I misjudged?

The negative would be that I wasted sometime, changed my life, cut down the safety nets and need to figure out what is next. And keep figuring that out until I reach a natural ending.

The positive is I would rise. Rise above this body, my peers, tempt the clouds with my sheer freedom and conquer this world as it’s equal. Admiration and throngs of well wishers. Poverty properly banished forever more.

Then Damnation. Eternal.

Or worse yet….nothing.

30 Days at The Crossroads – Part 4