This is a weekly newsletter where I send out a new “nice sounding” track, some writing, and a picture of something I saw. It’s also one way I let people know what I’m up to otherwise. Thank you for reading. You can hear every single My Big Break track in one playlist right here.
Good morning ~
Perhaps my fascination with the grand piano comes from the fact that I know that one day - and rather soon - I will no loner have access to it. Playing it will be only a memory, something I can relive and savor every time I listen to one of the recordings I made on it. I can remember that weird time in our lives when my girlfriend and I were were sheltering in place on a prestigious college campus in the middle of the country. I can remember how the tall, old, stately liberal arts trees cast shadows on the empty seats of the recital hall as the sun set over the 1700s graveyard. But access to all things - even zoom conference calls and bad, thirsty art made in isolation - is temporary. Should we not, then, be fascinated by all things? Regardless, I’ve made something for you this week which I would truly consider “nice sounding.” A classic My Big Break type track, shorter than they’ve been lately. Enjoy it. No radio this week either because, well, I frankly just don’t have the time. I’m starting to develop a theory that 40 hour remote work weeks are actually the emotional equivalent of 80 hour work weeks.
I’ve included a shot of my beloved exercise bicycle as the track art. It has come to mean so much to me.
My label Whatever’s Clever just announced today that it’s releasing the second installment of Clara Warnaar’s excellent compilation series A New Age for New Age. Volume II just went up for pre-order and the first track by Omaha’s Thick Paint is out now. It’s a rad series - contemporary musicians reimagining the the paradoxical nature of New Age music - how do you create something mystical, something that aligns your chakras, with synthesizers made of plastic? I contributed a track to the first installment back in December 2019 and I’m glad we could help put this next one out.
Also, next Wednesday I am doing a livestream I am genuinely extremely excited about. My buddy VV Lightbody recently put out an insanely good record and we had made plans to play a kickass show together in NYC as part of her album release tour. Well, naturally, the tour isn’t happening, but thank god we have the album, and we’re doing a bonafide live stream with noted NYC institution Baby’s All Right next week. The ticket links aren’t live yet, but keep an eye out - - I’ll be sharing all that info this week. You do have to buy a ticket, though! They’re treating it like a real deal show, which I think helps make it feel “real.” There’s a very cute flyer, too - here, let me show you:
My list of personal enemies does not contain all that many entries but each line item on the spreadsheet is incredibly detailed, the data paints a complete and photorealistic rendering of the various crimes and offenses committed by each damned soul. I can watch them on a loop, like personal mythology Zapruder films. There is the person who incorrectly considers themselves my peer, often indicating this with hand gestures and awkwardly interjected sentences. They believe that our experiences as artists and human beings are equivocal, but they are not. This same person once told me that astrology was to account for a string of recent accomplishments and good fortune. Though I don’t outright reject the influence of astrology on my world - particularly as it exists in the worldviews of people I love and respect - I found this asinine comment incredibly dismissive of the hard work and sweat that went into making those accomplishments a reality. I felt that I was to blame for my own good fortune, that I had made my life what I wanted in that moment in spite of the stars. They are on the list, and I am sure they are unaware of this fact. They probably consider us as friends. This list does not include the larger evils in the world - the money hoarding, the vile, the absent-of-soul. This list is personal. Recently there is the authority figure who asked me to be flexible and generous in a professional setting, condescendingly implying that I have not been either of those things lately. I assure you that I have been nothing but flexible and generous in my recent business dealings and, coupled with many other slights, this final passive aggressive email secured this person’s place on the list. This has been noted. There’s one person who many years ago refused to stop smoking in the hallway adjacent to my bedroom which, being in a crazy old loft building, had cinderblock walls. I hated the smell, and felt that this person - who I might have called a buddy - would be receptive to my complaint. But they told me that “hey man, shit happens” and I have never forgotten it, though I am certain they have, and when my peers have found this person to be conniving and kind of mean, I can’t help but smile. There is the faceless NY Post reporter who, buzzard like, posted up outside of my friend’s apartment the day after we lost her - my two friends and I more or less threatened to kill him and more or less meant it, however preposterous the threat of us three wimps might have been. I was filled with rage and grief at the time and, in his callousness, he became the perfect target, a pristine funnel in which to pour my anger and heartbreak. We told him to leave or else and I think I might hate him forever, though I recognize he was, as he said, just trying to do his job. That was a potent time for making enemies, heartless others came out of the woodwork. There are five or so former coworkers who remained warmthless bureaucrats in the face of me being dealt an incredibly shitty hand - I was once offered a salary at twice what I was making at the time, a promotion that included actual usable healthcare as a benefit. I felt that I needed this very badly. I accepted the job and changed plans, even bought a new guitar thinking that more money was to come in, only to have the job suddenly pulled away, a rug out from under me. There is no salvation to be found in a salary, of course, but I was paying two halves of the rent back then under the hard-to-believe but repeated assurance that my partner at the time would pay me back. To have the opportunity removed was devastating, and in return for the world weariness it caused me I was bestowed one (1) day off. The people who conspired in this bungling will remain on the list in perpetuity, particularly the one miserable shit I once considered a friend (he was mugged at knife point once…someone held a kitchen cleaver to his throat while he went to light a hand rolled…I let him sleep on the couch in my living room for days until he felt safe…to be thrown to the wolves by someone such as this, pure, cold malice in their eyes behind their 70s oversized frames…). Ironically the person who has been - by far - most cruel to me in my life I do not consider an enemy, per se. I see their actions - many calls for my demise, drunk driving, fits of rage, reckless credit card usage, etc - not so much as personal attacks but rather as deep and anguished cries for help. And I wasn’t big enough of heart or spirit to actually hear those cries, to reckon with the agony contained. At times I see their continued cruelty as evidence of my having been small of spirit at the time. In this instance it is my own old self that is my enemy, the person I can’t stand to be around, the sight of whom causes me to recoil - the person I palpably fear becoming these days, particularly as my weight drifts back upward to what it was back then. This most cruel person is not on the list, but the person by whose hand they used to get stumbledown drunk many an afternoon certainly is. I confronted them about it once, as a matter of fact, I walked into their bar in the late afternoon and spoke to them sternly outside, berating them on the sidewalk and making them cry. At the time it felt good. I feel less good about it now, but I would do it again.
Once someone makes the list it is nearly impossible to expunge the record, but it can be done. One time immediately after therapy I ran into someone I considered my enemy on the subway platform. They had inadvertently thrown my life into shambles - though they were blissfully unaware of my circumstances at the time, their last-minute reversal of a decision was very much like sticking an iron rod in the spokes of my bike. I went tumbling forward and, though my then total financial ruin required me to keep working with this person, I turned my shoulder as cold as I could. About a year later, while I was Doing the Work, I sent an email explaining why that particular tumble on the asphalt was so excruciating. I detailed the other acts of other enemies, how I needed things so desperately to break a certain way in that moment, and how this person I was addressing had made it so much worse. Knowing a bit of their personal background - having been friends at one point - I knew that they might be able to sympathize with how terrible it is to live with someone who bores holes into you, reduces you to ash. I didn’t apologize for my behavior but I did provide painful-to-recite context - an olive branch, in my mind. And when I received no word in reply for months I assumed this person had enshrined themselves permanently on the list of enemies. But then I saw them on the subway platform, and they burst into tears. I said hi and before I could get out “how are you” a string of words and apologies rushed forth, one long run-on sentence punctuated by sobs. We hugged tightly for a moment before my train pulled in. I got on, all business, straight ahead, not wanting to look back, wanting to hang on for just a moment more to the enmity that had been a driving, animate force in my life for some time. If I looked back I might have seen this person’s continued movements, their hands to their face and their shoulders juggling up and down. I might have been forced to reckon with the fact that there are people and other people’s circumstances behind every act, behind every betrayal. I might have been forced to reckon with the fact that I am more than likely on someone else’s list, many people’s even, that anger toward me might be an animate force in someone else’s life for my having once (or on many occasions) been an insensitive dumbass. It’s more than likely. But I looked straight ahead, the doors closed behind me, and that loop of film burned up in the harsh heat of the projector.
What about you? Are you fascinated by all things? Are you keeping a list? Are you looking back?