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 ~
Trying something a little different this week, something I’ve been meaning to try for a while - - I’ve read aloud the bit of writing included below and included it as part of the weekly track, which is nice because the bit of writing below describes everything that led to the making of the field recording you hear in the audio. So basically you’ll hear me talking in the soundcloud embed up above! I’ve done something like this before - there’s an audiobook version of my book of travel writing - but I still feel very fresh to, well, what is essentially making radio. Or, uh, maybe it’s a podcast, I don’t know. But I hope you find the audio as soothing as I found making it, and I hope you can get a little lost in that world. And I know I read it back too fast, you don’t have to tell me, the field recording was only so long!
If you prefer to hear the instrumental version, it’s in this playlist.
Let me know…how you find this / if you like being read to. I’m excited by the change in format, maybe it’ll stick ~
(Alex - if you’re reading this, I would love to talk to you about how I’ve finally dipped a toe into this audio making world)
This is a nice, fun thing - - the band I play guitar in, Adeline Hotel, has a new song and a delightful music video out today. Please enjoy this footage of Dan rollerblading in slo mo in an empty beach parking lot. You can pre-order SOLID LOVE, our new record out May 8th, on bandcamp.
This Saturday, my buddy Matt Evans and I are going to be doing an improvised drone set as our duo Thee Obsidian Gong as part of the web version of the Hudson Basilica 24-hour drone - - there is truly a wildly overabundant lineup for this weekend which you can check out here, and we’ll be on the Whatever’s Clever twitch channel at 2pm (and holding an “open rehearsal” Friday evening).
Still haven’t gotten over how weird digital gigs are, but we said we’re going to try and make each other laugh which is the exact kind of levity I need, maybe you need it, too.
It is Saturday, in the early afternoon, and you are in the middle of a state in the middle of the country. You do not live here but you are now living here temporarily, no one really knows for how long. You rented what seemed to be the last rental car available near your apartment in New York and drove straight down 80, out from under the shadow of a modern day plague. You have left behind an upright piano that you have come to love very much - the creaking bench full of fakebooks is maybe the one place you don’t feel an urge to look at your phone, and the just-so out-of-tune chords that tumble out from it are as inviting as a warm breeze. You have left behind other comforts, as well - roommates with whom you’ve formed an odd but kind of wonderful bond, particularly over video games and takeout (you talked often about how you would remember this time together in the future), a guitar amp that is much louder than it needs to be, your records and your record player, your preferred coffee making device.
But what you have gained in flight is wonderful - quietude, for one thing, in fact it is too quiet in the apartment you’re staying in so you and your sweetie put on a dangerous-seeming vintage desk fan when you go to bed at night. It hums you to sleep. And you are close together, no longer needing to FaceTime for hours a day - though you and your roommates would agree to hug a couple of times a week, now there is someone here who will casually rub the back of your freshly shaved head while you sit reading, someone to peer over your shoulder on their tiptoes while you stir something on the stove. There are very few other people around, and when you see them they are mostly in their cars, amicably lifting two fingers off of their steering wheel to signal hello. So you are no longer scared to go outside, and the rural academic village you find yourself in is starting to warm up, and the trees are blooming, so there is real, actual joy in walking around. You do so often, as often as your somehow more grueling than usual now-remote job will allow.
You are now outside. You walked your sweetie to her studio space on the other edge of campus and took an unexpected left down a path in the woods. You pass an informative sign that tells you to look out for cerulean warblers, a type of bird that’s notably threatened around here. You pass another informative sign that tells you that the view from this point has not changed much in two hundred years and to demonstrate, the sign includes a picture. You compare the view and the picture and find, indeed, that not much has changed. An enormous red truck drives by. You continue walking through the woods with the vague notion of heading toward the river. Almost immediately you lose the loosely defined path through the woods, so you find yourself ducking under branches and lightly scrambling over rocks and finally emerging at a perfectly manicured expanse of grass along the side of the major road. Cars speed by and you laugh to yourself imagining what the people in those cars must think of this ungainly person emerging from the woods. You sort of recognize where you are - starting to get your bearings - and you jaywalk across the highway when there’s a break in traffic. You take the road over the river and notice a father and a very young son tentatively dipping fishing nets into the water, the long knotted strands undulating elegantly. They are both crouched in puffy vests and you wonder if this is a habit or something they’ve taken up recently, something to fill the long days up.
You walk toward a path you have really started to love - a paved over freight line that is extremely flat and straight. One of these days you hope to steal a student’s bike and ride it, but in the meantime aimlessly walking along it is soothing. You think you’ll walk the rail trail for a while, come up on the other side of campus, and see if you can’t pick up a few supplies at the local deli. But before you get to the path you notice an entranced to a large field, filled with still winter-dead tall grass. You passed it before and wondered what it was, and from this angle you can see that it is in fact an enormous labyrinth.
You’ve always enjoyed walking them - there was a period in your late teens when you and some friends would drive around looking for them in southern California - but this is the largest one you have ever seen. You walk towards the entrance - entranced - following signs with a graphic rendering of a traditional labyrinth and an arrow and no other text. You are shocked to see two blue birds perched on the sign marking the entrance - the cerulean warblers promised up in the woods on the other side of the road. You snap a picture and send it to your bird friend, he says yes, wow, male and female, I can see them. You continue on, entering a grass path that winds elegantly around and around between the bent-over stalks of tall grass. Observing the ceremony of the moment, you move your phone from your front left pocket to your back left pocket, were you will be less tempted to check it. You imagine a reality without a phone, you imagine walking further and further out into the unobserved present with every step that winds around. You imagine being somewhere with no one knowing your whereabouts. You notice how recent this phenomenon is, and you remember how when you were young, before you could drive, you would wander the surrounding neighborhood. There were many hours a day where no one could say for certain where you were and what you were doing. You feel yourself walking deeper into your past, how cul de sacs and suburban housing communities are their own form of labyrinth, although more like a maze. You hear birds singing and you think about how birds - their songs and their absence or presence - are such a defining feature of any place you have ever been to. You zone out completely. You think about someone like you - with legs and a heartbeat - walking this same shape many hundreds of years ago. This person had anxieties, this person had longing, this person lived through plagues, this person did not have the Internet but lived well enough to have a descendent walking in ever-smaller arcs of grass on an early spring day in Ohio.
Finally you come to the center. There is a bench and, inexplicably, a power line pole with nothing attached. You sit down.
A few quiet moments pass, you watch the clouds crawl by a bright red crane in the distance, and then you finally pull out your phone. You place it in the grass next to inexplicable power line pole and begin recording. Later you download this recording to your computer and play along to it with the tiny synthesizer you brought in your rental car. Then you write all this down and read it back.
Okay - - that’s it for today. Have you wandered to the center of anything recently? Have you noticed the threatened birds in your area? Does someone or something know where you are at all times?