There are days when I am blessed to be present for life. Present to be able to see just a little bit past the machinations of my grasping ego and the broad palette of my desire. Today was one of those days. But, the precursor to this is that I have been very tired lately, because life is, in a good way, kicking my butt. Three music projects are going on simultaneously, Genre Peak, which is Martin Birke and I doing the electro-pop thing, Poet’s Cabaret with Jack Perla, crazy beautiful music and very accessible (look out Buble!), and Meridiem is back in the saddle with Me, Haroun, Trey Gunn, Vernon Reid, and Brain. All this and a new, very demanding job, which, after three weeks I love, as well as home, marriage, baby, family, trying to keep a modicum of fitness and not turn into a fat boy…..Also, this blog.
All this aside, I was able to breathe a bit while on a flight to Los Angeles for (actual paying job) business. I sat in the window seat, next to a handsome, silver-haired black woman in her mid 70’s who was traveling to Louisiana, via Los Angeles, to gather her children together and prepare her family home for her final retirement. Her husband had passed away five years ago, and she saw no need to continue in California without him. As she told me this story, she pulled a worn, very small bible from her purse which had obviously experienced a lot of use. The micro-bible was like an extension of her fingers as she leafed through the pages to familiar places that have served as shelter, guidance and asylum for her throughout the course of a life quite obviously lived. The last page she turned to, literally the back cover, was an archive for something I never would have imagined. On the blank pages following the last words in the book of Revelations were autographs of LA Lakers, NY Knicks, and other players from the classic era of the NBA; Jabbar, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley and many others. When I asked her why she chose this way of collecting the autographs, she replied she “wanted to keep them in a place that she knows she will always return to and never lose”.
To digress a bit, Lisa and I bought a Prius the other night, and of course had to go through the requisite experience of “the finance guy.” This FG was late 40’s, sort of lounge-lizardy and frat-boyish, with a youthful, pudgy jowly thing going on. He had the gift of gab. He definitely knew his stuff. His spiel had muscle, and verve, and he could anticipate every question. He was a FG Shaolin friggin Master. Anyway, FG, beyond all that was on the surface, was very kind, and related stories of clumsy, tough-love attempts at teaching his teenage sons life-lessons. These lessons radiated with his imperfect love for them. Of course he did this while positioning himself as the good parent, and their mother as the lenient one who allows them to get away with murder while they are her house. When they are with him, they “toe the line”. Anyway, he told us that this was what we would have to look forward to with Zoe, and Lisa and I both exclaimed at the same time to the contrary. What he did not understand that what we said was not going to be happening was the divorce and separate parenting, not the push-back from teens, which we expect. His answer to us was “you just wait”.
As I was riding the shuttle to the hotel where my conference was being held in LA, I shared a bench seat with a woman in her late 40’s that was vey unconsciously picking at varicose veins in her upper arm in a way that communicated a fairly profound lack of physical vanity, of acceptance of deterioration and change. She seemed content, quiet, and focused on God knows what.
The end of things. The beginning of things. As I waited in LAX for my fight back to Sacramento, I sat across from a young married couple in their early 20’s. They were both eco-grunge hippies, possessing an air of invincibility that comes from not worrying about anything and not attaching too much. She was reading silently and he was sitting sideways with his feet in her lap, sketching her. The young man quietly withdrew for about 20 minutes, and returned with a small box of See’s candy, as it was her birthday, and he told her it was just the first of three gifts. This guy will, in my fantasy for them, never break her heart, never forget who he is and make a hash of things, keep his air of dirty little grace intact and realize that In addition to food light and shelter, it’s what he and any future progeny need more than anything…..
What holds all this together? All of these folks were so gracefully handling the disintegration, and not polluting, at least in the moments of my observation, the real with the imagined, not being 1000 light year s away from their circumstances and their truth. Being who we all are most of the time….ourselves.