Its been roughly a week since I’ve returned from a short run of East Coast/Midwest shows, and I’m still readjusting to the stillness of a quiet life at home. Truth is, I’m restless. The tour was not an altogether successful one, either mentally or monetarily, and had to be curtailed when the shattering of my right ankle on a friend’s steps in Pittsburgh resulted in the cancellation of the final two shows and a literal limping homeward. I’m walking again but still quite sore, and there’s only so many films and conversations to catch up on to keep me amused from the sofa.
I’m drawing considerable comforts from the proximity of the cats and Denny, but the early collapse of daylight and the surprisingly frozen days of early November are energy-draining and bittersweet. I’m still adding final touches to the double album but plotting an extended break from live performances in 2020 in order to focus on recording, other forms of art, and physical and mental wellbeing. If nothing else, this recent tour was a keen reminder that I’m long overdue for some rest and reassessment. How does one keep legitimately claiming they’re ‘at a crossroads’ when it seems every intersection is a crossroads? I’d prefer a clear path forward, or at least the promise of one in the offing. Not much else to say at the moment, I’m afraid. Hopefully I’ll return here shortly with sunnier news, despite the gloominess of this abrupt descent into winter. As my ankle heals, hopefully so too will my exhaustion and melancholy.
Living in rural nowhere means a fifteen-minute drive for even the most mundane of activities, and in tonight’s case it was securing a plump and sliceable pumpkin from the nearest Kroger for our annual fall gathering tomorrow evening. I took Denny’s late-model Buick (as my elderly Firebird doesn’t have the most adequate heat and its been chilly nights here lately), and blasted some decidedly-unseasonable Tycho on the drive into Arlington. The sky held eerie twilight that quality I love, of banked furnace embers of orange and pink lingering over the horizon as the sun flees the county. I get excited for this time of year like others get excited for summer, which I mostly loathe, all miserable humidity, the exhaustion of inhabiting an overheated landscape.
On my quest, I was thinking about the nature of touring, as I’m leaving for a brief East Coast run in a couple weeks’ time. This country, even in 2019, bears an unreasonable excess quantity of darkness both physical and figurative, which can be hard on those drunk with the light of living. At night on tour, each freeway interchange offers a streetlight-bathed exit into woods or sprawl, often silent and empty, beneath flickering corporate neon. Down each of those possible routes is some town freighted with its own inner darkness and mystery. This country has never been able to banish the inherent specter of black, blank wilderness coursing in its veins.
My drive is all quiet and cotton-washed fields, save for the occasional yellow/red jewels of other drivers sweeping past, towards the interstate, towards Memphis beyond. Memphis, that city of low-flying planes and barbecue blood-feuds, of shimmering glass pyramids and blocks of bombed-out rust and ruin, all of it unfolding into the gold-hazed west, towards the inevitable Pacific. While the years accrue, so does the sense of being home, and for that I’m grateful.
September ends with midnight, calendar autumn is wrapping up its first week, and still the temperatures grind along in the 90s here in rural west Tennessee, despite the abundance of falling leaves and the earlier encroaching of darkness, despite the hopes of open windows and bittersweet chills among most everybody in and around Memphis. The cats laze in the yard as always, sides heaving in the almost physically-tangible humidity, apathetically watching bugs they’re too lazy to hunt trundle past their grasp. Out on the highways, drivers swelter in older cars without adequate air conditioning, such as my 1980 Firebird, listening with dismay to the forecasted temperatures. Wild speculation abounds regarding whether climate change will mean a milder, or much harsher, winter this year. Our heat’s still not repaired, so I’m pulling for the former. As for me, I’m gathering inner reserves of strength and renewed confidence not just for the spooky gray season, my favorite all-too-fleeting time of the year, but also for a short tour in late October and early November, up to New York and back, with the usual attendant gas station sandwiches and sleeping on sticky floors sure to come. I hope all goes smoothly.
Meanwhile, my stomach aches as if I’ve been gutshot – an ulcer, my first in a decade and significantly more painful than the previous. It comes in strange waves – either I’m feeling mostly normal or I’m on the floor writhing in agony, moaning, unable to process the dull, jagged ache. The cats circle me, concerned and meowing, but I’m trying to maintain focus through the inconvenience, putting finishing touches on a number of projects, steeling myself to begin others. Life continues on relentlessly, regardless of personal pain or triumph. Leaves fall no matter who is there to watch them or comment on their colors. The world will darken and cool, a new year will blossom, and hopefully soon we’ll see this country begin to tidy up the wreckage of the recent wearying years of idiocy and tyranny. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for now, beneath this punishing summer sun, my head filled with cardboard bats and candy pumpkins.
Nearly official fall, more trees shedding early leaves and turning early, brilliant shades of orange and and brown and yellow. The humid haze of summer has lifted from Memphis for another trip around the sun. Still I find myself unable to reset whatever passes for my internal clock – the nature of this disorder is that my body seems determined for me to keep nocturnal hours. Frustration is slowly ebbing towards grim acceptance, which is somehow worse. If this keeps up through winter, I’ll surely go entire days without seeing sunlight. Perhaps I’m a vampire, the only known extant vampire who cringes and retches at the sight of blood.
I’ve been taking short walks late at night, a way to keep myself active and connected to the world outside the house, up Grimes to the cow pasture and turning back at the farmer’s rusted mailbox. The cows hover out there unseen in all that darkness, and a wondrous carpet of stars unfurls over my progress as I walk, carving into the night with a flashlight, hoping and failing to avoid the dog that careless neighbors leave free to roam and growl at passersby. When my car is fixed, hopefully soon, I’ll be able to seek out more stimulating spaces for my wanderings.
Still busting pages as the novel reaches roughly the halfway-finished mark, at least the first draft. Conversely, I’m going through a bit of a cold streak musically, unsatisfied with the end results of anything I’m laboring over, wishing for sonic transcendence only to find my reach exceeding my grasp. I’m not foolish enough to believe this is a permanent state, but it is discouraging. Naturally, it’s hard to keep motivated when your output disappoints you.
No other news for now. I’m awaiting autumn as impatiently as ever. Hopefully, too.
Fall is still slowly creeping in at the edges of things. I’ve done some gear shuffling and penned some notes on tones and settings, and now I’m fully immersed in recording once more. This’ll be the second part of a series of (vaguely) related Nonconnah albums – the first was finished a couple months ago, and it’ll be out in February or March. Now the second volume is in progress. Whereas the first album centered loosely on memory, nostalgia, and time, this one is more focused on bending time, parallel universes, and the possibilities of space and science, all inspired by a recent article I read detailing an experiment in progress just up the road from us at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It seems that particles are oscillating in a way that may suggest brief travel into an alternate dimension/mirror world, and a team at Oak Ridge are testing this theory intensely, using a wide array of technologies. As someone who’s never felt like ‘reality’ is anything but a consensus illusion hiding something much more elemental beneath, this is definitely in my thematic wheelhouse. Hoping to secure a cabin for a night or two near Oak Ridge soon to hash out some new material and soak in the eerie vibes.
Eagerly anticipating autumn, slowly working on getting physically and mentally healthier, if at all possible. Plugging away at the novel, which is really just for me anyways. Still having trouble with sticking to a normal sleep schedule – my body seems intent on keeping me a night owl.
Whatever maladies are currently afflicting me, grey skies and paper pumpkins can’t come soon enough. Maybe by the time spring rolls around I’ll be glad to see the warmer weather again.
Here I am, wailing wall, returning late from an intimate little Midtown show, which provided a deeply enjoyable opportunity to collaborate with a new face (Josh Shaw, from incredible Memphis shoegazers Blvck Hippie), though I am concerned by an undesired crackle I discovered issuing from my amp halfway through the set. Fingers crossed it was interference on the venue’s end rather than my own. Technical issues are always, always with us.
Now I’m at our current housesitting outpost (the suburban wilds of Germantown). The dogs have finally begun to slumber while I curl up on a playroom sofa to finish some odds and ends, i.e. writing this blog that no one reads and to which I don’t devote nearly enough time. Home tomorrow, much work around the homestead awaiting me, autumn gold still gently bleeding in from beyond the frame, colder weather hopefully within a breath or a second of happening. I’ll keep you posted as seasons develop, such as they are in these climate-shifting times.
This is a fallow time around these parts. Not wanting to get too far ahead of the game, I’ve suspended recording work for the time being to focus on other matters, at least until the next full-length is out. This means finishing our film (slowly but surely), working on the novel (the same), and trying to acclimate to several changes, including the presence of a second cat in our home, a step made to save the animal’s life but one that will not be easy for our long-standing feline resident to understand. As summer begins its slow fade, we’re in a period of adjustment here, and I’m keeping my nose to the grindstone in ways that reap a financial benefit, such as housesitting and the occasional column for online music publications. I’ve a new pedal in the mail (a consequence of NAMM and the shimmering new wares it brings yearly), and I’ll be taking the opportunity provided to rebuild my board and focus on a coherent live setup for upcoming out-of-town dates, of which there are plenty remaining in 2019.
As a school-trapped child waits with barely-guarded anticipation for summer, so I wait for summer’s end, straining to see evidence of the golden light and sharper contrast that autumn brings, the bluer skies, the lifting of the ceaseless summer haze. Soon it will be time to bundle up beneath the overcast grey once more, but for now we’re in the fleeting end July, waiting out the heat and melt of the season, eager for a general cooling to settle upon the land once more.