good morning ~
(click the link / swarming crows to listen)
today's track is a little bit of a mystery to me, but there's one synth note throughout and a nasty guitar rip in the back half, which I haven't done on one of these in forever.
I have a lot of new york shows coming up next month, would love to see you at one (or all?) of these ~
march 9 - sultan room in brooklyn
march 13 - no fun in troy
march 27 - avalon lounge in catskill
also - - a reminder that paid subscribers of this newsletter are entitled to one annual personal tone zone, among other things - - message me to redeem yours if you're already paying, and start paying if you'd like to get one ~
Take any given moment. At any time you were ever alive you had an uncountable number of choices of how you could spend your time. Really! You could stop reading this right now, throw your computer out the window, and start learning how to build a deck from books at the local library if you wanted to. If you are looking at the Internet, for instance, you could never read every article you'd ever want to read, you could never click on every link, or get to the end of every algorithmically generated feed. There is no end to the music you could listen to, the walks you could go on, the weather you could observe and document with cute little watercolors. At any moment you could tell a friend you're thinking of them, or do as many pushups as possible in the middle of the night, or finally figure out why it's called a "cul de sac." You have some control over what you think about, some control over what media you decide to stream, some control over the kinds of conversations you get yourself into.
There are things that constrain these possibilities, of course. Things that you have to do, places you have to be. Having to work, in all its myriad forms, is one of the biggies - I'd love to go out tonight, or live out of my car for the next two weeks, or spend all day at the local paint-your-own-pottery spot working on beautiful ceramics for my home, but I have to work tomorrow. I have to make money. I have payments due and contractual agreements and a bank account to maintain. There are social obligations, naturally - the needs of a family, the everyday rededication of having and being a partner, the obligatory events and group texts of a healthy friend group. And there are also things like morality, ethics, and laws - the structural, mechanical rules of society that prevent everyone from indulging their own inner libertine all the time. By living with and among others we necessarily must concede a little bit of freedom.
I think of a distant family member of mine who, according to the story I eventually heard, cracked under the pressures of working in an office abroad and ran screaming naked into the street. From what I know, this person's doing fine now, and though they majorly transgressed the local social code by ripping off all their clothes and holding up traffic, the local authorities were sympathetic and got them to a place that could help. I don't wish for mental illness, nor do I envy this family member, but I do think about what it would feel like to run naked through the streets of my town, right this moment - the cold, lightly brined air from the river whipping over my body, my bare feet slapping on the uneven asphalt of the pothole-ridden streets, the shouts of alarm from the dudes posted up on every other corner, the eventual and inevitable harsh treatment of the local PD. And just beyond, deliciously, a deep and psychotic sprint away from the mundane.
Okay, sure, we probably always have at least some level of agency regarding our actions or what we think about. But it doesn't really feel that way all the time, right? I often feel that I am simply lily pad hopping from one obligation to another, and usually I'm pretty happy to do it. I have to get to my shifts at the bar, or I have to finish a recording project for someone, or I have to write an email, or I have to work on this project, which continues to take up a good chunk of my time each week. I enjoy all of these things, despite being compelled for various reasons to do them. One could argue I have chosen this series of compulsions. A lot of what I feel forced into doing is the result of a rigid timetable of my own design - I've arbitrarily decided that I should workout five days a week, and I've also arbitrarily decided to send this out every Thursday. But that's because I like having things I have to do, it rounds off the sharp corners of having a dizzying amount of choice.
Ultimately I think what's going on for me and at least a lot of people I know is that we are profoundly lost in the sauce when it comes to the notion of "getting things done." We simply love to be productive, or to feel like we're using our time well, or that we're inching toward some chaotically assumed benchmark. There's a little hamster pellet of good brain chemicals waiting for us every time we feel like we're achieving something. Notions of productivity and crossing things off of lists makes us feel a sense of safety, a sense of control, and in this absolutely chaotic epoch we find ourselves in, is that not the most intoxicating feeling?
The cruelest part of the slowly-closing cognitive bear trap is that even our time that is unaccounted for is used to aggressively, demonstrably chill out. I think of apps that track how much we meditate, or the enormous yawning maw of social media demanding that we grind the bones of our leisure into the grains of content. Sure, self-care is important, but there's only so much personal reflection you can schedule in a calendar, and true, joyful fun is like a lightning strike - the weather has to be right for it.
I want it to be different! I want to live in that boundless nesting doll of possibilities. I want to be free from the capriciousness of feeds, and to relax luxuriously in satin sheets. I want to think about the things I'm interested in, and to make things that disappear as soon as they're manifested, ice sculptures melting for no one. I want to be the one in the driver's seat, even if the semi jackknifes behind me.
But what about you? Are you doing what you truly want to do in this moment? Are you getting something done? Are you running through the streets?