Sunday, June 1, 2008

Room with a view

I'm settling in to the new place... it's been 2 weeks now and there's still a lot of boxes around, but slowly I'm getting things unpacked, put up, organized. I walked in tonight and thought ahhhh, MY house, and felt a really genuine sense of happiness that I was here. I've started referring to this as my Sanctuary... a place to sort things out, to create, to deconstruct and reconstruct my somewhat busted-up identity. A half hour after getting home, I took the picture above from my living room window. Nice, eh?

A lot has happened lately... most of it not blog-worthy. My former roommate is now back in her home country of Iceland, which greeted her warmly with a 6.4 earthquake within a half hour of her landing in Reykjavik. Blessedly, no one died, but the town at the epicenter is pretty much destroyed. Hell of a way to start after 9 years away from her homeland.

Cindi and I did our first open mics together a couple of weeks ago. Well, SHE did the open mics and let me sing with her, including one of the songs she helped me write. She was fantastic, just like always, and I got a decent reception. People can be so unbelievably wonderful sometimes... so encouraging and complimentary. Cary, the organizer of the SAW open mic, asked me to wrap up that open mic with "Amazing Grace" acappella (he'd heard me do it at the State of Convergence thingamabobby) and I was struck by the amazing grace of these folks sitting around, politely listening to the fruit of one another's efforts, dreams, hopes... I was pretty much struck by the same thing at Bangkok Blues (the not-so-great pic of Cindi and I above is from BB). There's this lovely community of musicians in this area who are really just kind to one another. I don't know if any of these folks will become more than locally known, but that's kinda the point... the community. Playing with friends and enjoying that experience without a lot of the extraneous expectations that make you crazy with what-ifs and the sense of inadequacy.

Of course, I have a day job, and this is all really new to me... so I'm not trying to condescend to folks who are working hard to pursue their art full-time and make it pay the bills. It's just that the feeling of community at these open mics is really nice... and as usual, that's what I'm really looking for... and you know since art is really just another language (right?), another way of communicating, it's nice to be able to see and know the people I'm talking to. I'm on this massive Radiohead kick right now (my internal 14 year old boy bubbling to the surface) and I just keep thinking how cynical would it make you to sing these incredibly intense, emotional songs to thousands upon thousands of people who all feel like they KNOW you? Gives me a little chill.

Kinda like the conversation I had the other night with an Indian guy who grew up all over the world, speaks multiple languages, etc. I was talking to him about my preoccupation with home and with a sense of place and identity, yadda yadda. and he said "Don't you think the concept of "home" is becoming outdated?" My skin crawled. How could someone possibly say that, how could they MEAN that? Later on, he and I were talking in Spanish about this other guy at the table whom I thought was... err... attractive... and this Indian guy was passionately trying to convince me that I should let the other guy know that and see where it took me (despite the other guy having a girlfriend)... because NOW was what was important... felicidad, happiness, was the only important thing. I struggled with my limited Spanish to try to communicate that this isn't felicidad for me. I finally came up with "Paz en mi alma es felicidad para mi, muchacho" ... Peace in my soul is happiness for me, boy. He got it then... got that he and I were different. and man, HOW different.

I can't help but tie this strange romantic ideal of homelessness, wandering, with a lack of values, of centeredness. I know they don't necessarily go together, but I think that's what I'm meaning by home. I'm meaning a reference point, a point where I can feel comfortable in my own skin, not having to explain myself at every turn. But not only that... also a place where I can turn when I've lost my way. I suppose, in addition to the longing for a specific geographic point outside the nearsighted frantic busyness of DC, I'm looking for an internal reference point, a place of ontological belonging, where my soul can dwell in safety and turn for comfort and a sense of wholeness.

and you know, I find that space from time to time. I find it with Cindi. I find it with certain people at my churches. I find it when I'm singing something I really feel in my soul reflects me and how I view things. I feel it here, feeling mildly gooey in the summer evening heat, with my cat draped over my lap, listening to k.d. lang sing "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, and putting my thoughts online to a small family of folks who care enough about community to support what I'm doing here by reading this.

and I feel sad, truly sad, for folks who don't think that's important, or who live like it isn't, like the Indian dude I met. I admit that I don't understand their background and perspective and that there's lots of different ways to live... but damn, how does a person hold it together without that sense of community, of centeredness, of a self that survives through all the changes?


Mike Croghan said...

Wow, good questions, Moff. I think that sense of home and community is one of the things the dominant global culture (for which, I fear, we Yanks are largely to blame) is trying to beat out of us. In the immortal words of Crowded House, "Don't let them win." Also, "Hey now, hey now."

(OK, maybe not so immortal, but I really like that song. I like Cohen's "Hallelujah" a lot too.) :-)

Moff said...

Crowded House is one of my Favorite Bands of All Time. and as usual, you made me laugh out loud. Thanks for being part of my community, Mike.