I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
October 24, 2012 - 8:26 p.m.
I have been looking forward since yesterday to writing today's edition of Wise Madness yet when the time came that I had the chance I kept putting it off. I think I was just too tired to do it justice. Now I've napped and had a cup of coffee, I'm working on my second and off to the races.
Narrating yesterday's events reveals a lot about me. It is very much like my next therapy session. Welcome to my mind and my neuroses. What's odd about it is that it is centered around a very good thing, Barnaby Bright's CD release party for their new album The Longest Day.
I usually sell the merch for Barnaby Bright when they do their shows. This show was unusual as it was at Joe's Pub. I have not done merch there since they revamped the place. I didn't know how the mechanics would work, in particular seating since it is now reserved seating. I was a bit torn as I wanted to do the merch but I also wanted to sit with the many friends I knew would be there. I decided to try and do both. If I couldn't sit with them I'd see them before and after the show. I wrote to Nathan and Becky and told them that I'd like to merch. This is usually autopilot for me. I do this all the time. It's how some of My Gentle Readers know me. But now I was homeless and my life in turmoil. When Nathan wrote me back I went into anxiety mode. I saw in the preview that he didn't know how things would work either and I couldn't bring myself to read the actual email. I kept telling myself I'd do it tomorrow. As soon as I did that the anxiety would subside. That's the nature of the beast and why it is so hard to fight. Doing the wrong thing makes me feel better immediately. It's just like smoking crack. It's very hard to resist something that gives an instantaneous reward. It's how addiction works and very much how anxiety works. Technically it is negative reinforcement, the reward is the cessation of an unpleasant stimulus. Not responding to the email is of course also the exact opposite of what I needed to do. I know intellectually it is going to make things worse but that isn't enough to overcome the anxiety. So finally came yesterday, the day of the show. I said I'd read the email in the morning and work things out. I didn't even know if I'd be on the guest list. I was afraid that the show might be sold out and I wouldn't be able to get in. If I could I'd have bad seats and certainly wouldn't be sitting with my friends. And of course I'd have to pay and I am trying to not spend too much money.
Come the morning I didn't read the email. Instead I dithered. The anxiety built. I thought of calling or texting them but then found I didn't have their number in my new phone. I lost a lot of numbers when I switched phones in July. At that point I was in a lot of emotional pain. One irony is that it involved not being able to write to Nathan and Becky two of the most comfortable people for me to talk to. They are the opposite of anxiety producing, On an anxiety scale of 0 to 100 where zero is your puppy dog and 100 is your boss when layoffs are going to be announced and you are sleeping with his wife ... and his daughter, Becky and Nathan are a 2. Yet I couldn't bring myself to email them.
I decided to try something. I posted on Facebook that I was paralyzed by anxiety and needed a push. I got some quick encouragement from friends. One was from Fred who said I should go see Barnaby Bright to relax. I was honest again and said that that was the source of my anxiety. After some more enlightened pushing I went to Joe's Pub and decided to face things in person, not on the internet. I got there early so I would have time to work things out and buy a ticket if I needed to and if any were available. When I got myself to go in I was able to slip into my usual self-confident public mode. I didn't know if I was on the guest list; I didn't know if I was doing the merch, but I marched in and said, "I'm doing the merch for Barnaby Bright" and walked back stage. Nobody stopped or even questioned me. Chutzpah goes a long way. So yes I was simultaneously filled with anxiety and filled with nerve at the same time. I never said I was easy to understand. The nerve was done out of habit. It's how I always handle these situations. I didn't have to think about it.
I went in and heard them getting ready for sound check. I walked around to the front of the stage and stood there while they took care of business. When they spotted me they smiled, which took a weight off my shoulders. I knew they weren't going to say, "Get out of here you bum" but I thought they might give me a puzzled, "What are you doing here so early? Didn't you get our message that you aren't doing the merch?" Instead Becky told me where the merch was and that she'd set me up after the sound check. That's what happened. So at that point I was fine with just some residual anxiety. I took care of the mechanics of moving the CDS and t-shirts to where I was going to sell them and set up shop. Doing chores you are used to does wonders for your peace of mind.
My only issue at that point was that I didn't have the bank. I went looking for Becky but didn't want to bother her if she was busy getting ready for the show. I ran into Chris who was playing with Sierra Noble the opener. I told him why I was looking for Becky and he said he'd pass the message on to her. I then ran into Sierra. While I was talking to her someone from Joe's pub walked right up to me and said he was looking for me to check over the guest list. I guess he knew I was with Barnaby Bright. Sierra looked at it first. I asked if I were on it. I wasn't. This is when it was good that I've done this kind of thing before. I just added myself to the list. I knew I was supposed to be on it. Amazing that that didn't trigger any anxiety. I'm used to slip ups like that. I make them all the time. I always tell my students not to worry when I do it. I know that these kinds of things are fine as long as you don't have to go through a bureaucracy.
A total aside, I am listening to WQXR and they are playing a selection from Magic Flute. I don't know it well enough to know the name but it's the part where they keep singing "Papagano." It's pretty hard to not feel happy listening to that. Maybe I need to get a recording of it and listen whenever I get anxious. That is the epitome of music that has charms to sooth the savage breast.
Then I went over to the box office to get my ticket. When I got to the door who did I see? Fred, he was the first person on the line. Then I saw Chris and Seth in the lobby. I went over to talk to them. When I got to the will call I knew my name was on the list as I put it there. Well actually Sierra did but I was there and I could be far more confident of them reading her writing than mine.
When I went back in I talked to Fred and found that by total coincidence he was sitting with Howard. Now that's not really a total coincidence. Though they don't know each other and bought their tickets independently I know both of them from going to shows and having them sit where I sit, front row center. That is where I found them. Then stopped to talk to Chris K, then walked back to talk to Chris and Seth who had been joined by Gene and Isabel. So yes I got to see all my friends. Now this was a total coincidence, they were sitting directly behind me. I was in the comp table section. I was afraid I'd be somewhere in a corner. instead I had a great seat. If I had a bad seat I was going to be really nervy and ask to sit in the sound booth. I have never done that there or anyplace where I didn't know anyone. But I know it is really roomy and a friend of mine did that at show I was at. Of course she is a cute girl and they have magic powers.
I missed one friend, Bill. He was the only one not sitting on or near the direct line from center stage. He was near the door to where I had set up the merch.
I had my table all to myself at first then I was joined by somebody. I shouldn't have been surprised but I was to see that it was Craig. I knew he was on the list and I knew that he often plays with Barnaby Bright but I knew he wasn't playing last night as he wasn't at sound check.
I had never seen Sierra before but she was great. Most of the time she didn't but when she wasn't singing actual words she sounded like Becky. If you ever need someone to sing "ahhhhs" in a song and Becky isn't available ask Sierra and she'll fit right in. Sierra can sing, she can write, she has stage presence. I'm seeing her again.
This was the most elaborate Barnaby Bright show I ever saw. I usually see just the two of them. I've seen them with a cello and Craig on bass. I've seen them with other strings. I never saw them as a seven piece band with not one but two drummers. Yet they didn't rock out. That isn't where their music lives. It was still ethereal and eerie. They orchestration didn't make them change the sound, it just made it richer.
As for the new album, it is the best music they've recorded yet. It's brilliant. I had just finished listening to it before I started writing this. There isn't a throwaway track on the disc.
Craig and I were joined at the table by Mark, BB's manager. I had never met him before and thought that odd till he told me he lives in deepest darkest Maine. He isn't going to just pop up at shows. I started taking about Mainiacs and found that he also represented one of my Maine friends, Connor Garvey. I'll be seeing him at NERFA.
After the show I made a quick exit to do the merch. I was joined by Becky and Nathan's friend whose name almost totally escapes me. It begins with an A. Sorry Becky and Nathan's friend
When I got back there I realized that I never gotten the bank. I had to tell people I needed exact change. I also found that Sierra's CDs were set up but there was no one there to sell them. That actually helped me. Someone wanted one BB CD and one of hers and had the exact change for two CDs but not one. I was able to vamp for a few more sales and was joined by A. She had the bank so for then on I could make change.
Everyone at the show got a copy of the new CD so I didn't expect heavy sales. We did pretty well considering After the audience had cleared out we cleared out of the merch area to make room for the people from the next event. We took it backstage to BB and were soon joined by Chris and Seth and I got more time to hang out with them. Have I mentioned that I love my friends? Craig was there too and proved himself honest. I had to leave before I got my change from my food check. I asked Craig to get it for me. Then true to form forgot all about it. he gave me the $2 instead of using it to finance a trip to Tijuana.
I hung out for quite some time. You know I can't resist fun people. I met Becky's parents who came in for the show. They were just as lovely and fun as you'd expect them to be. They were actually at the table next to mine during the show. I suspected as much. I knew they were there and Craig talked to them and obviously knew them. I could see the family resemblance between Becky and her mom. Her mom has a name. I remembered that name for several whole minutes. It's gone now. It isn't easy not having a brain. I know her dad's name. Do I get a prize?
I got out of there quite a bit latter than I had planned. I hadn't eaten dinner, just desert and coffee. I ended up eating at Lucky Burger a couple of blocks from where I live.
One final piece of therapy talk. I was planning this entry at school as I walked up to the steps to my office. When I was thinking about the anxiety and how physically painful it is I had my old breathing problem when climbing steps. As soon as I realized it was just me recreating it by thinking about it, it went away and I made it up the last flight. I'm on the fourth floor but when my emotions are right that's no challenge for me.
Should I just print this out and give it to my shrink on Monday? Did you enjoy the format, half therapy talk and half show review? Am I totally nuts for being so open about things? The answer to the last is no. I know that my issues are nothing to be ashamed of any more than I'm ashamed of my Crohn's Disease. I talk about that in as much details as I think won't make you queasy and I made a decision to treat the anxiety the same way. It's like coming out of the closet. Not being ashamed and being public about it makes the world a better place. It helps other people see that it is nothing to be ashamed of.
How did it get so late? I was supposed to go shopping then make dinner but now it is 8:22. Oh right, I wrote 2,534 words. That's enough for three entries. It takes a lot of time. Now I'll end up cheating and eating out at this barbecue place I spotted on 6th avenue earlier.
OK just one more thing. I made my most basic breakfast yesterday morning, bacon and eggs. This was the first time in over a month. It is amazing how good it is. I have it regularly when I'm not homeless but never take it for granted. It's a good life when you aren't homeless and appreciate the marvels around you every day.
Oh yes, I should explain the title. Barnaby Bright is a medieval name for the summer solstice.
Peace with Honor or May the Schwartz be with You - October 23, 2017
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