Living On the Blighted Page

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Limelighted. Author image.

Meanwhile, it’s been more than a few days since my last post. Not that I don’t compose a journal entry almost every day. So why not post them all? I’ve talked about how some journal entries are just too confessional and rambling and mostly just me writing out my tortured thoughts in a manner that, to me, in the context of that inner reader that I’ve mentioned – the ineffable, intangible other reader that somehow isn’t me – is unpublishable autotherapeutic crap. Crap writing has its value in that way, so be it.

Oh, you say, all this stuff you take the time and effort to post is what you’ve somehow deemed worthy of publication? In a word, yes. Well, what’s the criteria, merely your own personal ego-centric predilections? I mean, you indie so-called authors and you bloggers, it’s just hubris and self-flattery to be dumping all your lousy bloviations on us all, isn’t it?

Yes. It is. Such is the nature of the internet. Such is the experience of living on the blighted page. It’s the volcano of shit, as I’ve heard it referred to, all this unedited, unvetted, unevaluated, mostly unread and unwanted writing and writing and more writing that previous to blogs and newsletters and the like remained, as perhaps it ought to, within the deep space nowheresville of oblivion. In a box. In a desk drawer. In a landfill. Pulped and recycled into lower quality paper. As ash in the fireplace. But I’ve already written about how I hate blogs as much as anyone somewhere, I don’t recall exactly, in the journal, perhaps back in 2011 or thereabouts. Who cares? Things change. And here we are, if we are, skateboarding or skating or tripping over the cosmic underground pool rim or across the razor’s edge of the void, what have you, pick your metaphor, together. Hello, out there.

How do I choose what to post and what not to? I have standards, yes. I critique the stuff and pass judgement. I adjudicate as best I can. What are my criteria? It’s intuitive to a large extent – the subject matter has to resonant in mythological terms, first of all, whatever that entails. Which is to say it entails at a minimum a sense of possessing a beginning, middle and end. It has to present at least the intimation of a narrative. It has to be a story. Akin to any myth. That’s what I want to read and I assume it’s all that anyone else really wants to read, too. Stories. Tales. Adventures. It can’t just be a rant. Or a complaint. Or the expression of a neurosis. That would qualify it as nothing but an editorial. Or a diary. Ho hum. No. An acceptable post will inevitably contain elements of all these things to be sure, but I’ve discussed before the difference in my opinion between a journal and a diary: the journal writes for a public and the diary is merely a running internal commentary that mostly feeds on itself. Journals reveal a person’s inner life like diaries and they both can function as self-work, as autotherapy, but with a diary you’re always and very specifically talking to yourself – there is a refuge quality in both formats but the diary’s sacrosanct privacy means that it’s better to burn even a dead person’s diary without ever opening it than violate that pact of secrecy.

Whereas a journal? Hell, if it’s somebody famous or otherwise noteworthy and you think people might get something out of it, publish the f*cking thing. Which is to say, dump it onto the web and see what happens, if anything. Because all the while that guy was writing away in his journal, he had that other reader in his head or on his shoulder or the muse was in his lap and he otherwise had some modicum of ambition or aspiration for the thing. He was writing to be read. Believe me.

All this time this week that I haven’t been posting, then, I’ve been journaling. And ever since I started this blog I’ve felt a pang of obligation and accompanying anxiety when I don’t manage to write anything that I deem worthy of reading. When I don’t post, it’s like so-called dead air on the radio, isn’t it? I have a sense that people are thinking, hey, what the f*ck? – is anybody in there? Did this guy die or something? As if anyone out there would ever go to the trouble to wonder whether I died or not. But allow me my little fantasy, dear reader, please.

Otherwise, I’ve been dutifully editing TC2, giving it my all, putting my new reservoir of time to good use in spite of enduring a heightened sense of futility and nagging intuition that I’m wasting my time and money and everybody else’s too. Life on the blighted page, again. Categorically unglamorous. It’s a struggle. Nonetheless, this morning, I’m compelled to haul this out of yesterday’s mess of an unpublishable journal entry:

Funnily enough, because it somehow didn’t seem at all like a coincidence, a Red Hand Files arrived this morning. The topic? Not even a question. Something utterly not me; rather, one of Nick’s spacier fans riffing on something from one of Nick’s books. Obscure, hyper-intuitive, playfully silly stuff – essentially a demonstration of everything anti-intellectual – with an overt nod to the innocently miraculous imagination of children. Essentially all the things that, say, my question to him was not.

It’s as if (and I know this is crazy talk) Nick himself was trying to tell me, dude, you’re not on the same page as me so stop clogging up the Red Hand Files because it’s never going to happen that I respond because I don’t know what the f*ck you’re talking about and meanwhile you’re wasting my time, thanks but no thanks.

What was my question? What did I submit to the Red Hand Files? Well, it would be rude to discuss it and then not show it. I’m neither fond of it nor embarrassed by it, after all. It just is. In my humble opinion it works as a question. It’s not just me vying for attention. At least I don’t think it is. I worked on it not being merely that. I really am curious about how Nick might respond. Hell, I don’t even use my pen name when I query the Nickster. Anyway:

Greetings, Nick. I was cruising around thevampireswife.com for the first time – “opulent intelligence” may do something to describe the vibe – and I couldn’t help noticing the reference to Falconetti. Then, within “Stuff” I was pleased to discover that Susie digs The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and of course besides the silent film aesthetic it’s a difficult experience to endure in psychological terms – I read somewhere that when it was first screened in New York City a couple of folks died in their seats watching it. Frankly, I can believe this. And if it weren’t based on a true story and therefore tragic and heroic beyond words and a heartbreaking lesson against righteousness it might instead be a great horror flick. Seriously. With all due respect to Joan herself. Otherwise, it contains all that is fine and unsettling about myth, both personal and cultural.

Anyway, film being more or less one of your mediums, I was curious about your take on so-called mystical realism. And the film Ordet, in particular, another Dreyer masterwork. Or perhaps it’s more Susie’s thing. Meanwhile, I’m the guy always going on about advancing mythology, hence, I would rather classify the work of these two films as mythological realism and examples of modern mythology and it strikes me that you may get what I mean. And that your own stuff communicates, likewise, this perspective. That is, if we agree that myth => metaphor (a mostly unidirectional congruence) then mythological realism expresses the experience or encounter of metaphor. Hence, the experience or encounter of myth. In your life. As a tangible intangibility, so to say, versus merely on the page. I would argue that it differs from transcendentalism or mystical realism or even the experience of the Divine because within mythological realism there remains a narrative. Certain songs accomplish this. Hell, I suppose a dress can accomplish it, too.

You’ve no interest, as you say, in making art, nor perhaps intellectualizing your work or anybody else’s for that matter – in being confronted by things in that way (as Susie might put it), in other words. If so, I get it. And categorization never helped anybody in the end. But do you think you may indeed have a thing for mythological realism?

I know. Who in their right mind would respond to this? But people, me included, behave strangely in relation to their guides and inspirations. I read somewhere that Ian Hunter traveled to Graceland once when Elvis was alive and walked up to the front door and knocked on it. And Elvis answered. Hello? What can I do for you? That kind of thing. It seems miraculous that anybody could get past what one would assume was a gated Graceland compound but then maybe it wasn’t gated or guarded at all and perhaps Elvis didn’t feel threatened by fans? Maybe he just hung out at home sometimes and answered the front door? Maybe, too, Ian was just pulling everybody’s chain.

Point being, most of us, whether we’re “stars” in our own right or not, have our fandom moments. Or, perhaps more accurately, our fandom requirements. John Wetton of King Crimson and Asia fame told a story somewhere of his attending a James Taylor show, Taylor (of all people) being one of his heroes and he remembered going backstage and introducing himself and complimenting Taylor on his work and telling him how much it meant to him and all that and that Taylor was gracious enough not knowing who the f*ck he was. Funny and strange to imagine it. And then I just read the other day on Susie Cave’s website her story of meeting Stevie Nicks who she loves and that she had a total “fandom” moment, getting her picture taken with her and all that and so be it, this is how it works. Ex-international model, appeared in an Elton John video, sells her own dress designs to superstar actresses like Kate Blanchett. All goofy over meeting Stevie Nicks. I can’t explain it, fandom, nor exactly the value of it but nevertheless, there it is.

Of course you get a little older and mostly you realize that actually meeting your heroes isn’t the best result because, well, they can’t possibly live up to or even in any sensible way respond to the encounter that, from their perspective involves a complete f*cking stranger. Well, this is the way some folks with fans experience it while others assume a more in-the-context type of perspective, that fans aren’t imbeciles and are rather experiencing something important to them and it has to with your persona which is real versus anything to do with your private personality and personhood and life. You’re an image. You’re a symbol. They are identifying with a part of you, only a part, because that’s how it works. It’s not an invasion or confrontation let alone an insult or a threat to have someone walk up to you in a state of being more or less beside themselves – star struck – and inevitably say something stupid like “I love your work” and even more stupidly ask for an autograph.

Bob Fripp famously and infamously has a kind of second career excoriating and, to his credit, also attempting to explain himself, regarding the insensitivity of such folks, fans (or not) of the music. It is the weird case sometimes, of course, that the star factor makes certain people who aren’t even interested in a particular art-crafter’s or race car driver’s or actor’s work behave ridiculously. I remember, for instance, being in a Tower Records sometime in 1990 or so, when I worked in Manhattan at a Sam Goody and lived in Queens, and somehow word spread in a flash that Ozzy Osbourne was coming into the store. (Back then a big record/CD store in New York City was still occasionally a place to be). The vibe was a little nuts all of a sudden – “Ozzy Osbourne!” – whether he was indeed outside the store or some security force had called ahead, I don’t know – what did I care, I fucking had no interest whatever in Ozzy. I left, mostly relieved that nothing appeared to be going on but nevertheless intrigued in spite of myself regarding what might have been a so-called brush-with-greatness. And for all my self-proclaimed indifference, here I am writing it about it goddamn thirty-one years later. What, indeed, is happening during these brushes with greatness? Or celebrity?

One of two things. The first is simply our natural tendency to attribute unique value to the otherwise famous among us. Fame is fleeting, yes, but then again it isn’t for everybody. Madonna, for example, could probably still waltz into a (I was going to say record store but frankly I don’t think they exist anymore) shopping mall, let’s say, and cause a stir. Perhaps not. But I’m betting yes. Anyway, we attribute a special intensity of existence to these folks. Their proximity is rare, and rarity is compelling, but lots of rare things we encounter don’t affect us at all. But it’s as if the limelight, so-called, that follows the famous around is so bright or somehow so bountiful as to spill over a bit onto us, to bathe us in overflowing rocket sauce (mixing metaphors, sorry) and to endow us with special virtue for a moment. We momentarily become more relevant ourselves, more alive within the presence of celebrity, somehow, I don’t know. I do know some folks seem to seek this experience for its own sake; they follow the limelight anyway or anyhow.

Me? I like to think I respect the phenomenon of the limelight for all its suitably mythologically potent unsettling-ness all around. I’m not in it. It’s not to be sought. But it’s out there, doing its thing all over, and for better or for worse always seeking, it seems, to direct its brilliant beam upon the next victim, as it were. Otherwise, to help explain it, I can only reference Neil Peart’s famous lyric[1] as probably the most concisely wise interpretation out there:

Living on a lighted stage

Approaches the unreal

For those who think and feel

In touch with some reality

Beyond the gilded cage

Cast in this unlikely role

Ill-equipped to act

With insufficient tact

One must put up barriers

To keep oneself intact

Living in the Limelight

The universal dream

For those who wish to seem

For those who wish to be

Must put aside the alienation

Get on with the fascination

The real relation

The underlying theme

Living in a fisheye lens

Caught in the camera eye

I have no heart to lie

I can’t pretend a stranger

Is a long-awaited friend

All the world’s indeed a stage

And we are merely players

Performers and portrayers

Each another’s audience

Outside the gilded cage

***

The words never get old and neither does the music. Here’s to Neil. As it happens, I came across something on the web entitled, “Rush Music Taught Me That I Could Grow, That I Could Change,” on a site that posts worthy posts, I don’t know anything more about it other than it appears to be based in Canada, go figure, hey we know Rush is Canadian. But, clearly, reading the thing, this guy got much more out of Rush music than the idea, worthy as it is on its own, that he could change. Which is to say I could’ve helped him with the title. Rush Changed My Life would’ve worked if nothing else. Nevertheless, I wish this guy would’ve posted the letter.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/first-person/article-rushs-music-taught-me-that-i-could-grow-that-i-could-change/

Guides within guides. To wrap this up, last week or so I was enjoying the thirty minutes of Distant Sky that is the only portion available to those who missed the Bad Seeds show in Copenhagen in 2018 and the release of the concert film. Five or six songs. One of which is the amazing version of the title track with an appearance by Else Torp – it’s breathtaking and if you can’t do that, listen to it on your favorite streaming service (I use Qobuz because I must have my hi-res!).

Anyway, a guides-within-guides experience isn’t anything I ever expected and frankly it’s nothing I’ve ever even read about. As such, I’ve been struggling with the idea of communicating this or not because it’s intensely personal. The kind of thing that perhaps belongs in a diary or an exclusively private journal. But since I don’t write a diary, and somehow it’s my mission to evaluate the mythological effectiveness of this journal, to let it do its work such as it is, in the world, and what I encountered probably can be said to fall within the topic of mystical realism and definitely mythological realism, well, I think it’s apt and so be it.

Nick Cave was singing, it was a closeup of sorts, him at the edge of the stage as he likes to be, and I suddenly saw not Nick’s face but that of Joe Campbell. Joseph Campbell, that is, of The Hero with a Thousand Faces fame. The guy I’ve spent the last eleven or twelve years referencing more or less regularly in this damn journal. First Nick, then this subtle transformation that became unsubtle and unmistakable and there I was seeing one guide shining or rather projecting from within another. It’s really the best way I can attempt to describe it. And the moment passed and it was Nick again. And I know better than to ask what it means. Because it rather just is. An affecting image. Crazy. Unsettling. In its way sustaining. I don’t know, otherwise. Except that the images are here to do their work on us, come what may. And I’ll never forget it.

Thanks for reading.


[1] Lee, Lifeson, Peart, “Limelight,” from the album Moving Pictures, 1981, rush.com.