February 9 1998 4:41 PM
at Chatfield Manor
Me, sitting here stewing in self-satisfaction. I've been furiously house-hunting here in San Diego for the last four days. The wife is good and sick of Los Angeles and I don't blame her for a second, so she said "go to San Diego and find us a house." Did it! It's a beautiful place, we'll be relocated by late February. Today was good. Now I'm just waiting out the traffic, then I'll head up the coast and start packing up all my crap. Anyone want to buy about 7,000 albums? I always hate my record collection whenever it's time to move.
OK, do I have the energy to get into this? How can I even find the words to explain the way I've been feeling the past few weeks...put it this way, even my closest friends are somewhat baffled by what's happening to me. I'm frequently baffled as well, but then there comes a clear moment where I get completely in touch with what's going on inside me, and I start rocking back and forth and nodding and understanding. It's a, it's a...ARRRGGHHH...it's an absolute profound comprehension of what I'm supposed to be doing. It's a vision which arrives complete in my heart and dares me to aim my life and actions at it and achieve it. It's an intimate realization of what are the good and valuable things I have accomplished, and what are the ephemeral things which were of use to me for a time but now, having done that, having squeezed the juice from that and fortified myself adequately, it's time to turn around and do THIS. So what is THIS? Well, maybe it's a secret, or maybe "they" haven't invented words to describe it, or maybe I don't know and I only feel. I sure damn do feel everything these days, big huge waves of feeling which can sometimes crush me like a bug in the ground, but oh, do the good moments ever compensate for it. Why do I sometimes get so down then? Because I'm not an idiot, I know how the world works and that everyone needs and deserves to be compensated for their creative energy, and the things I need to do require heavy subsidization (a topic broached in the last MTTY, no need to continue down that alley now). And I'm impatient. I feel a sound in my soul and it sometimes drags me that it's not instantly on tape for you to hear, or I think of a new thing to do for the live show and realize there's a million steps to take to get from here to there. But when I'm strong I take that negativity, I grab it all up in my arms and push it away, roll down the window of my van and drop it on the freeway and turn up "OK Computer" and sing my heart out and feel complete joy.
This may sound wack but I can't underestimate the role which Radiohead have played in this, my creative renaissance. They're so unflinchingly masterful, so intrinsically knowledgable about what is essential and what is chaff, and they're helping me learn how to sing (see last MTTY again for more on singing). How do people so young arrive at such insight? It's annoying! What about "Good Will Hunting"?? Have you seen this thing? HOW, how on EARTH could Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, the screenwriters and starts of the film, these utterly young, affectless guys, arrive at such insight at their ages? That first scene with Damon and Robin Williams? Arrgghhh! But in honesty I can now see it all over the place, I see many people who instinctively know what's profound and real and loving in the world, and I just haven't been seeing them through the right eyes for most of my cynical life. I got the right eyes now.
Sincere thanks to Rich Pike for constantly forcing The Tragically Hip on me until I finally understood what was happening there. They've had the right eyes for a long time.
(Also I would be remiss if I didn't mention the ferocious, take-no-prisoners Ping-Pong tournaments which Karen Chatfield [the "Mo" of "Mo and Mo"] and I have undertaken during the last three days. It says volumes about how ridiculously open to input I am these days that I'm learning as much about myself, about my tenacity and my potential, from Ping-Pong as from any other source. Um, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH ME.)
(Speaking of people named Chatfield, perhaps Scott has a word or two about my recent transformation, as seen from his perspective. SCAHHTTT?)
Subject is usually enjoyable company, but when in this state, association borders on seriously delightful. I am reminded of two parallel concepts: 1) The vicarious thrill of rediscovering the universe through a child's experiences and 2) Aldous Huxley's "The Doors of Perception," in which he asserts that if it weren't for the filters we install between ourselves and reality, we could "see all the way to infinity." Subject revels in art, food, fellowship and ping pong; recounting the latter in near-sexual terms.
Outwardly, the difference is not dramatic. Most behavioral characteristics remain intact; for instance, he still laughs at most of my jokes. However, if this quantum leap in Subject's evolution enables him to further transcend mere technique and manifest himself as a pure beam of musical/spiritual intention, I'll be first in line to plunk down $15 for that CD.
It was fun and instructive to read the Life Of Bryan installment about the NAMM experience just past. Poor Bryan is a little puzzled about what's happening to me, I think, although I hope this MTTY installment helps a bit, my beloved BB. You see, where Bryan felt great discrepancies between the different performances we did at NAMM, I was in the exact same ecstasy bubble for every one of them, which maybe means I'm a deluded fool who's rapidly leaving the real world behind, but oh well; I felt strength and confidence like never before, and complete focus whenever I approached the microphone to sing, and deep satisfaction when each performance was completed, even the one with the broken strings galore. And playing/singing with Ike Willis again was a real pleasure, our version of "Outside Now" moved me and it was a lovely, lovely moment.
But that leads me to another thing which I felt reluctant to tell you about, because I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea, and things have a way of getting misquoted or taken out of context and dribbled onto newsgroups where other people take it even wronger and feelings may get hurt. But in the spirit of the new, honest-to-a-fault Mike, I'm going to tell you anyway and implore you to try to understand what I'm saying. I'll further preface this by saying that I feel tremendous affection toward everyone who was in the 1988 Zappa band; that was an incredible milestone in my life and I love everyone who intimately shared that experience with me. OK.
After the last interview I did at NAMM (I did four long, involved interviews over NAMM weekend, all bubbling with the same manic creative energy I now feel as I type this) I got in the van and drove over to the Baked Potato on Cahuenga with the intention of seeing the Banned From Utopia show (Banned From Utopia is a group of Zappa veterans playing Zappa songs, from all accounts absolutely brilliantly; many of them were in the '88 band). I got there kind of early because I knew that there was great demand for tickets; what I didn't know was that the show had already been sold out and all the people in the line were already holding, so I stood there for about ten minutes until a couple of guys showed up with "need tickets" signs. Oh. I asked the guy in front of me, "does everyone on this line have tickets?" He said "yep." I said, "I guess I won't be getting in then." He said "I guess not," semi-snidely. So I walked around to the back of the club, and started to feel this nagging pull at my stomach, a feeling I normally associate with dread but I tried to ignore it. At the back door I spoke to a waitress and asked if there were any band members on the premises. She said Walt was in there (I love Walt Fowler; he's one of the funniest and most talented people I know) but added that I didn't need to sneak in the back door, all I had to do was tell the doorman in front who I was and he'd let me in, no problem. A slight inconvenience for me, no big deal. So I started walking around to the front and the feeling in my stomach grew stronger, and it was now unmistakably dread. Why? Admittedly, pulling the celebrity trick and walking into a club, without paying, in full view of a long line of paying customers is not one of the nobler things of which I'm capable, but I've done it many times in the past and survived without scars. Clearly there was something else happening. I started to approach the front door of the club and felt absolute panic. I quickly walked away from the club, increasing in speed as I approached my van. Slid into the driver's seat, cranked Radiohead hard, pulled into the street and drove away fast. And then my normal breathing resumed and I felt relieved and happy and I drove home and played with my daughter.
I have been a hopeless nostalgia addict for as long as I can remember. It's the easiest thing in the world for me to get all wistful about bygone days. When I first made plans to attend the Banned From Utopia show it was to wallow in nostalgia, perhaps even to wrangle an invitation onto the stage and try to feel that feeling the way I felt it exactly ten years ago. And when Ike came up on stage in the Dean Markley booth at NAMM and we did "Outside Now" together, I felt something of that feeling, but I felt something else more strongly: the confident knowledge that I have come so very, very far since those days, not in any commercial or public sense, but in my heart and soul. (Alert! This in no way is an indictment of the members of Banned From Utopia and their present activities! I'm talking about MY OWN HEART and it's nothing to do with anyone else! I love and respect the members of Banned From Utopia [what an amazing band name, by the way]!) I am nothing like the callow youth who played in Frank Zappa's band, the green young doofus whose diary entries you've been reading, that guy amuses me and I'm taken with some of his exploits and impressed by some of his accomplishments, but he is not me and I am not him and I say goodbye to him. I am laser-focused on the future. Playing "Outside Now" with Ike gave me just enough of a taste of the old stuff to satisfy my nostalgia jones, and demanding more of it would have been greedy, childish, backward-looking, counter-productive and perhaps damaging. Why not have a little wallow, Keneally? Is it really such a big deal? At the time, yes, it was; remember, I'm feeling everything these days with 1000 times the normal intensity for some reason. I am a raw nerve. I know that if I'd seen them that night I'd have had a wonderful time, and if they'd been kind enough to invite me to play with them it might have been profoundly good. But I had to make a sacrifice, and perhaps it was just a gesture, perhaps it was purely symbolic and so what if it was. As I drove away I knew I'd done the right thing. It was the proper action for that moment, it clarified who I've become and made me feel stronger. Maybe soon I'll become confident enough in that strength to loosen up, I won't feel there's so much at stake; and you may well see me in the audience of a Banned From Utopia show sometime, drinking up a storm, grinning hugely and mistily recalling wonderful, unrepeatable bygone days.
But not right now. Got work to do.