Monday, August 20, 2012

ROW 80 DAY 40 – MARY AT THE CROSSROADS


I find myself at a juncture artistically, but not ethically, (I hope) as it were. I hesitate to even include mention “artistic” and “myself” in the same sentence. I don’t feel that what I do is artistic in any sense of the word. Not in the sense as I applied it to viola playing. That was true artistry for me. A combination of skill and black arts at times. One never truly masters a non-fretted instrument and I daresay that artists of Clapton’s and Buddy Guy’s stature would argue the same. What we do is exploit our virtues and learn to mask, or better yet, exploit our flaws.

The fact that I can play disgustingly long phrases brings raptures to folks who love Rachmaninoff and Barber. The Katchaturian amphetamine crowd thinks that shit in 1 could be a bit brisker; I’ve learned to think ahead of the beat, at great cost to my sanity. I revel in the robustness of Richard Strauss, and could really do without the anemia of Wolfgang Amadeus, thank you very much. I am a rock and roll, electric  and blues violist. For years, I yearned to be Robert Johnson at the crossroads, then realized I didn’t need to; I had already given my soul to my art.

For anyone who doesn’t know the story, Robert Johnson was a 27 year-old man in 1930’s Louisiana. He played guitar with Son House and some others in these old Juke Joints. He played pretty badly. The story goes that he went off for 6 months and came back and played very well. Supposedly, he made a deal with the Devil at the Crossroads; he sold his soul. He also got poisoned for messing around with some Juke Joint owner’s woman, and died about 2 days later; badly, it’s assumed. I don’t think one dies goodly from poison.

Anyway, I think he just went off and practiced guitar like mad for 6 months and Clarence “Gatemouth”Brown thought so, too. I loved ol’ “Gatemouth.” For those who haven’t heard this gem, he was a Blues guitarist, violinist, and violist from Louisiana. He was also generous with his time, and kind to me. One night, he was playing at Skipper’s Smokehouse out here on Skipper Road in Tampa. I was drunk and got very enthusiastic when he picked up his viola; he got ready to rip into a blues tune. I jumped up on a table and yelled “VIOLAS RULE!” He yelled back, “DON’T HURT YOURSELF!”

I am a middling writer. I yearn to be more. To write as I read. I read Seanan McGuire’s short story, “Sparrow Hill Road” over the weekend and came away slack-jawed. The wedding of her ideas with her prose is nothing less than artful to the point of pain. Her idea of the “daylight” America and the “midnight” Americas that “outnumber them a thousand-fold” is so compelling and simple. It turns back on itself in such an elegant way towards the end of the story. I give nothing away by saying that what starts as a horror story, ends as a profoundly moving and loving tribute to time and the journey itself. Beautiful stuff.

Where I’m going with all of this is I am going to have to do the gut-work. All the shit I did when I first learned to play the viola and when I got my Computer Science degree. Work and write and write and write and sometimes I wonder if I have the patience and fortitude for that. I don’t even know what direction I want to take or what I want to write about half the time. I need to go back and do all the scut work and go to writing classes and network with writers and I have to figure out how to do that. I know I can; am I willing. I think it’s worth it. I just don’t know if I have a worthy voice or something to say.

All I really have is clarity and honesty, and on that note, I have to make an amend. When I wrote
REQUIESCATIN PACE, WADE” I mentioned that Wade and Ray were alone, and that it was possible that Ray left Wade unattended, when Wade fell. Ray came to our house which was odd by itself, to ask us to a wake for Wade. He mentioned at the time that his (Ray’s) girlfriend Jackie had administered CPR to Wade when he fell. So, I accept this. As I have said before and let me be clear, my mother raised me, and it took me many years to learn to be, as scrupulously honest as I can. I have to be as clear and fair as I wish everyone around me to be. If we all tried, it might be a happier world.



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