Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Scraps and Unused ends #2: An Open Letter to the Bouncing Souls

I believe music is fundamental to the human experience.  I put on headphones when I write; it helps block out the world, helps me to better hear the voices in my head and to see their faces.

The piece that follows is a reflection of that influence.  I set parts of my life to a soundtrack by my favorite band of all time, The Bouncing Souls.  Words in italics are lyrics from their songs, and belong to them; I just borrowed them to push the piece forward.  It is not my intention to take any credit for their collective brilliance and passion.  I'm just a fan that wrote a love letter to a group of guys that moved me with their songs.

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An Open Letter to The Bouncing Souls

You were there, but it’s not your story, it’s mine; it’s my life, my mistakes, my regrets, my laughter, my pain.  It was never about you; you just played the background music.  It was there as my heart swelled with young love and there when my heart got broken and there as I scraped up the pieces of my shattered life with bleeding and shaking hands. 

It was there, as we crested the hill, and the town and its lazy river laid below us lit gold and red, on fire with the setting  sun and I had nothing to do but what I wanted to do, and I had no one to answer to but my own selfish desires, and I was so young and fast and in a band, I had a young heart, intact still, a beautiful girl that loved me, and the song so silly on a tape that a friend made: I like your mom, and Its no fad, I want to marry her and be your dad… And we drove down that hill into the golden town and I remember this thought arriving in my head: “Jesus man, it’s never going to be this good again…” and I looked over at the beautiful girl, and maybe I knew it even then, a little; maybe it was inevitable…  But the silly song and the sunset and the young beating heart in my chest fell away a little to make way for an ancient sadness that I was too dumb to heed:  “you’re right, you know, it will never be this good again…” but for now in this warm golden moment, I’m fucking free… 

And you were there too while I was blind drunk clutching the grass screaming in anger and pain at this heartless world and I am jagged and shattered, all sharp edges, cutting, shredding everyone around me, desperately wanting some warm body next to mine and actively shoving all away, screaming into the earth punching the ground smashing my head fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you… and I’m broken glass shiny and beautiful and dangerous, and I’m flayed wide open to everything and it hurts so bad, the girl is gone, shoved out the door, and I’m left alone in the grass screaming my pain into the uncaring earth, while in a fan of light back in the house, comes the song…. I’m a hopeless romantic, You’re just hopeless…

It was there in my kitchen in Oceanside drunk as hell singing with my friends at the top of my lungs, from my tainted soul, even as the neighbors were screaming for us to just shut the hell up they were going to call the cops, even as my voice cracked and broke, I sang along… Forget about the things I said, I make no excuse for them, I want to start again, I want to start again, and there we were, a handful of lost souls on the western beaches of this broken country, a handful of ghosts singing into the night sky the lament of escaped words, this great release praying to God’s empty throne please, please let me have just one more try at this, I swear I won’t fuck it up so badly this time, not this time, just give me another chance, but the words bounce and echo back and the only answer we get is our own desperate voices, I want to start again, start again, start again…

And you were there, too as I look down the road watching taillights recede into the dark, the last remnants of who I was, the last pieces of my shattered heart driving away, the last vestiges of my young fast soul, and I watch as the two taillights get closer and closer together in the dark, then merge, then disappear entirely.  And I’m left alone in the dark, breathing, growing a new heart, smaller, more dense, less beautiful, but less easily broken.  I stand alone in the dark, and I’m afraid to try, I’m afraid that if I try to sing I’ll find that all the music has left, that I’m used up, that I’m empty, but I open my mouth and I sing: 

Goodbye to me and you. Goodbye to the life we knew.
One last long embrace. Let go and walk on through.
I'm leaving everything behind for a peace that I can't find.
The ghosts that roam this house like winter air right through our souls.
And it feels like dying. It just feels like time to go.

Sometimes on the beach as you walk you will find glass and you bend to pick it up careful not to cut yourself and you find that the sand and the waves have ground down the edges, softened them and you didn’t have to worry about being cut, time has passed, waves have come and gone, tides have ebbed and flowed, and all the jagged sharpness was worn away, and the glass is no longer as beautiful and dangerous as it was, but it’s safe to pick up, it’s safe to put in your pocket and take home, but you have to be careful not to break it again, or all the work that Time had put in will be lost.

And yeah, you are here too as I find my way, as I move on, as I grow up.  You’re here now as I sit in my warm safe life, a little slower and greyer, as I take thankful stock of all that I have, as I wrap my new life around me, soft and beautiful.  You’re here still in the background and there’s a beautiful girl, and I am making new music…I am still chasing it, that freedom, trying to find that feeling of golden descent  into a fiery town with its lazy river, and maybe it’s gone for good, maybe that’s all we get is moments, maybe in the end all we have are our own fallible memories to remind us that we have lived, maybe, maybe… but for now, I am breathing and alive and well, and you’re still there and you always will be and I still sing from somewhere deep inside, somewhere that remains untouched by all this madness… it was a darkness all my own, a song played on the radio, I carried it with me, until the darkness was gone.

8-28-12



I think as an independent creator, you often don't get a chance to hear the influence that your work has on others.  The least interesting part of this story is that I got a chance to meet them at a show a few years back, and I was so excited (and not a little intoxicated) that I made an embarrassing silly little fanboy of myself.  But the truth is, I don't need to know them as people, The Bouncing Souls as an entity outside the individuals that comprise the band have been with me as a soundtrack to my life.  this is just a thank you note for them.

I believe in music and I believe in words.  I believe that these things can move people, can accompany them through this difficult and impossibly beautiful life.

I have no stake here, but you should check out their records and stuff at chunksaah.com. 
DIY since 1993.

I am a True Believer.

Still Writing, 

RP

      

Friday, January 16, 2015

Writing What You Don't Know

"Any story, no matter how wild and seemingly removed from any writer's life, is autobiographical, since it comes from the writer's observations and attitudes about the world.  A book is an MRI of the writer's brain, revealing all its strengths and weaknesses."

-Richard Kadrey


I have said before that Antiartists is not about me.  This is true, in that the events depicted in the book never happened to me.  I am not an artist, I have never been to rehab, I have never been expelled from school, I have never worked at a gas station, I have never engaged in cutting, or vandalism, I have never liked prescription drugs as a form of recreation.  So it is clearly not about me, right?

Except friends that have read the book have said that they hear my voice in it, can tell that I wrote it, can see my ideals reflected there.  Honestly, I don't know if this book is about me or not. 

I did realize, somewhat too late, that all of the male characters represent me or a part of me in some way:  The Father, The Addict, The Outsider, The Zealot, The Simpleton, The Sage, The Lost Son, The Artist, The Failure, The Orphan, The Destroyer.

So the book is true, in a way, a completely non-factual truth.

I sit here at my desk wondering if all I have done is written a mirror so I can see myself from the outside.  Maybe this book isn't for other people at all.

The cliche is to write what you know, but what ended up happening for me is I wrote, and learned things I didn't know, exposed gaping holes in my understanding of events and choices in my own life.

I don't know anything, so I write.

There is a certain measure of catharsis that comes with the act.  It becomes a way to express things without having to take responsibility for them.  You can always say, that's not me, don't you know what the word fiction means?  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  You can explore everything you are afraid of, everything that you hate about yourself, everything that you fear to be true.  You get to control everything and make the world make sense.  You can make yourself a villain and a hero, and you get to decide who wins.

The book is not about me, but really it is.

I don't know why I do this, and, God's honest truth, today I am struggling to find a reason to keep on going with it.

I am sitting here thinking about myself, and my generation of friends growing up, and wondering if we, any of us, had a real shot at being anything other that what we were born to be, what we were made to be.  Did any of us have a goddamn chance at all?

And again I find myself with my head thrown back, my jaw clenched, my eyes blasted wide open reminding myself to breathe deeply and slowly, reminding myself to hide behind my plastic smile and clever banter so no one will see me feeling anything.

I don't know anything.

Still Writing,

RP



  

 


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Scraps and unused ends #1

Scraps and Unused Ends:

I write little things down often, smallish ideas or rhymes or whatever.  I thought I would post some things up here that I wrote and like, but that do not make a lot of sense to attempt to have published for whatever reason.  Sometimes things get in my head and refuse to leave unless I write them down, and it is worth it to me to take the time to attempt to capture them if for nothing but the momentary peace until something else jumps in and starts squawking for attention.  Most of this stuff is silly or stupid or just plain nonsense, but sometimes something cool comes out of it.  Since these things do not and will never have a home, I thought I would make a place for them here.  Its warm, and there's a fire.

I do not consider myself a poet by any means, but sometimes I write things that can only be described as poems.  So.

Ahem.



Rags and Wings


I am carrying the heaviest load and a friend arrives. 
I’ll help he says, I’ll get this end
We share the weight for a while trudging through the endless sand
Heavy he says
Not so much since you got here.  Thanks
Yeah he says simply.  I’m a friend.
Our footsteps trail behind us to the horizon
Ahead, endless dunes
Let’s rest a moment he says
We put the load down on the sand
Listen, he says, do you even need any of this?
I’ve been carrying it since forever, I need it
But we were born with wings, he says, We were meant to fly
He unfolds his wings, stretches under the white sun
You’ve got them too, you just forgot
And he’s right
They are there behind me, dirty and weak, folded up under my rags
You just have to leave all this behind he says
You just have to remember what it was like to fly he says
Watch
He jumps into the sky and it is beautiful. 
I stand and watch until he disappears into the sun
I shoulder my heavy burden, alone now,
Trudge through the endless sand
Underneath my rags, my wings hide, dirty and forgotten.

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 I always like when a writer takes a moment to explain where that came from.  Neil Gaiman in particular does that for most of his shorter pieces and I always love it.

This is a little obvious, I know, but I was at work wishing I could just walk away from everything that I didn't like in my life, my uninspiring job and my unfulfilled dreams, and it seemed to me that tomorrow for me will be nearly exactly like today.  I remember the distinct thought arriving that we are not meant to do this, to sell our lives away doing things we dislike to grow older and die without ever knowing what we could be...  I texted my wife and she texted back and suddenly things didn't seem so heavy and dark.  She is a friend that helps share the weight of this life.  And so I took a moment to try and capture this.  It is not perfect, and may even be a little trite, but I like it. 

Anyway.

Feel free to comment and contact me via the usual methods.  I would love to know who you are.

Oh and if you are a writer on Twitter, make sure to check out the saints @LitRejections.  I have no idea who they are but I'm glad I ran across the account.  Just super encouraging and awesome.

Still Writing, 

RP