Monday, December 22, 2003

A Christmas Carol

This Christmas has more than the usual mix of joy and dread. The terror alert is high, and I'm not just talking about the Bush administration and Homeland Security. I'm looking at the next month or so, when it seems likely there will be changes with profound personal impact, perhaps defining the rest of my life. There are one or two good possibilities, and of course there could be the unforeseen bit of luck. But prospects do not appear rosy. What little I have, in health and stability, may be tipped on a steep downward fall.

What seems certain is that I've lost my gamble, and what I believed I should be doing at this point in my life will not be happening, at least not in the way IĆ¢€™ve been working and planning for. The books I felt certain I was meant to be writing are fading into the land of lost possibilities. This could be a quite costly loss for me, in more ways than one.

That of course could turn out to be the overdramatising sometimes described as catastrophizing. Or not. The story of the boy who cried wolf ends with the wolf finally coming.

For awhile now I have worried that at my age, when I am still pretty strong yet have those years of experience and learning to make use of---in other words, when my life should be culminating---that I will instead be eliminated a decade or two too early. It wouldn't be the first time such a thing has happened, of course. And for someone of my birth and background, it's more or less to be expected. "Who do you think you are?" always echoes in the soul of the working class hero. Who do you think you are, not to be coughing in the basement from a lifetime of coal dust. Who do you think you are, to expect a living if you didn't follow the prescribed path, which meant getting a job and staying there forever, or even following the route outlined in the chant of my college days: work, study, get ahead, kill.

Okay, it's Christmas. I spent too much time in the past few weeks working on old audio tapes, some of them from the middle 1960s, the early 70s, etc. every decade till, well, the vocals were finished on a couple of tracks last week. I'd transferred the oldest (originally recorded on reel to reel) to cassettes a few years ago, and this month I used a "cleaning" and enhancing program, and two computers, to transfer the contents to CDs. I put together personalized CDs from the masters for family and friends as Christmas presents. They should be getting them about now.

There's always something strange about giving gifts that are your own work: writing, or in this case, music. It seems egotistical as well as apparently (though not really) economical. And there is something of an ulterior motive. It's all part of my preservation project, as are certain of these blogs. As I began to suspect that the world was no longer interested in sustaining me, I sought to preserve and disseminate as much of my past work as I could. Maybe I'll disappear, but not without a trace.

I don't know, maybe this is all what Buddhists call Attachment. Or maybe it's just natural.

That's why I've been posting old articles with new commentaries on the Kowincidence blog. I had hoped to make a book out of many of these pieces. I had a title and all, and I expected I'd have to publish it myself, through xlibris again. But now I doubt that I'll have the time or money to accomplish this. Cyberspace will have to do.

The music is perhaps more personal, especially since I've never made much of an attempt to make a living by it. Reviewing old tapes, most of them done with a single microphone in one basement or another, some preserving the few but treasured moments when I got to play my songs with other people of terrific musical talent, I realized how important making these songs and making this music was to my internal survival. In some of them, done with great sincerity and seriousness, when no one in the world was listening or probably ever would, I could hear how they were keeping me alive.

So as some phantom alien in a Star Trek episode once said, they are not expressions of my superiority but testaments to my existence. Evidence not only that I did exist, but how I existed.

I also recorded new material, with my old Yamaha keyboard (anything electronic that's more than 2 years old is Old) and its choices of formerly fashionable beats and accompaniments, using two of the four tracks on a simple four track cassette recorder. (I actually wish I still had the old boom box that unaccountably had a sound-on-sound recording feature, which allowed me to do multiple tracks that didn't have to be re-mixed.) By the time I did the last vocal tracks I was finally producing music that met or exceeded what I heard in my head.

Then I used the computer program that doesn't quite live up to its claims but is better than nothing. I haven't figured it all out yet, so there are some floating fragments and so on, but all in all I'm pleased. Even when the music or the sound isn't great, there's usually something for me to be fond of.

I couldn't make and send CDs for everyone I wanted to, but maybe I'll get the chance to do more. I do intend to post more on Kowincidence and the other blogs of record in the next month or so. I don't intend to go quietly.

This Christmas I'll be caroling with Quakers at a hospital and a nursing home. That should be as least as interesting, and as novel, as having Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Native Americans who are also Quakers.

Otherwise I'll keep up my morale with Jumbalones (the confection I make from my grandmother's recipe), rented Beatles and Star Trek DVDs, coffee and chocolate. Meditating with Margaret, hanging out with Tess the cat. The good things in life.

May your holidays be happy and safe.

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