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
July 30, 2017 - 10:39 a.m.
I woke up this morning with an unhappy tummy followed by an idiot story. Once a month I pick up my meds when I have therapy. Once a week I lay out my meds for the week in my pill box. This morning I went to lay out my meds and found I have only a two-day supply of one of them. I don't even have therapy next week because Falcon Ridge; now I have to make a special trip tomorrow to pick up my meds. I hate being an idiot. At least I don't suffer from delusions; I enjoy them.
I enjoyed yesterday too; I went to see Jean Rohe's new project, The Odysseus Agreement at Joe's Pub. It's a music theater piece; the story of her quest to discover the details and reasons for her grandmother's suicide told in analogy to the archetype quest, the Odyssey. This is the embodiment of all that is Jean; music, storytelling, charm, erudition, curiosity, and perseverance.
I it is still a work in progress and I could see the advancement since the first iteration. As you can tell from the description it's an ambitious piece and the natural comparison is Anaïs Mitchell's Hadestown. Over almost a decade I saw that develop from one song to an acclaimed off-Broadway production. I'm not the only one that sees the analogy, Anaïs was at the first performance of Odysseus. The folk world is small and close.
Unsurprisingly I did the merch, there's no Odysseus Agreement merch, just older music by Jean and Robinson & Rohe. I love doing the merch. I got there early, saw Jean, and talked to people before they went in. She had a lot of relatives there. The first non-relatives to arrive were Fred and Linda. Fred and I are part of Jean's meta-family which makes Linda an in-law.
This was special. I was not at the same table as Fred and Linda but I was with fun friends of Jean's. There was Devon, John, Damon, and the lovely woman whose name I'm forgetting. John had played Orpheus in a workshopping of Hadestown; Devon went to Kristin Andreassen's Miles of Music Camp with Jean this year. He was also at Andrew Bird/Esperanza Spalding last night. I told you it was a small world. The total strangers I sat might just as well have been friends.
I have many friends at the Newport Folk Festival I've been seeing their excited posts on social media. I am not at all jealous, I would not have missed this performance for anyone playing Newport or everyone playing Newport. There are not many musical pieces not by Wagner that are literally epic, but The Odysseus Agreement is. Don't start thinking of it a Wagnerian heavy; there are parts that are light, parts that are funny. What I call the bureaucracy song has echoes of Mozart comedy, Gilbert and Sullivan, and funny Broadway. Anything with Jean no matter how mythological in content will be divorced from humanity. It's fun. It's moving. Its scope is frightening; How many people are in Jean's head? It works as a personal story and it works as myth.
One difference from the first production is the addition of other singers as Athena, and Scylla/siren. They formed fittingly enough a Greek chorus. On some songs Jean was joined by a band and in others it was just her voice and her guitar.
I loved hearing the gasps, laughs, and ooos, of the audience. People could not keep their appreciation to themselves. We were seeing something special and people knew it.
After the show, we retired to the library, the bar upstairs at the Public Theater. I don't know how they snuck in without me seeing them, I was stationed by the door, but Stephanie, Hannah, and Maeve were there, two of my favorite fiddlers and two of my favorite Scots. A little math shows that one of them was both. I hung out with them, Liam's mother, and Jean's father and brother. Many of the people that are mentioned in the show were in the audience. That could have been awkward but it wasn't. Everything Jean said was with love. I got to find out more about her background.
Liam's parents retired to Duluth. Who retires to Duluth? Fun people that's who. This lead to a discussion of Rachael Kilgore and Bob Dylan. Jane, Liam's mother, is that right? Jane wanted to know how I knew Rachael. It's because it's that small world. I don't just know Rachael I love her. I don't know Dylan or Roger Maris, he also came up. I bet you didn't know he was born in Hibbing Minnesota. My head is filled with useless information like that.
After I left the afterparty I didn't hop on the subway. It was a beautiful night so I walked one stop to Union Square. I often like to do that after live music. It's time to be out in the fresh air by myself to gather my thoughts and decompress. I love the music. I love the conversation, but to fully appreciate all the mental stimulation I need time for reflection and savoring.
I did not do an adequate job of promoting last night's show. You weren't there. I feel guilty, you were denied a great pleasure. Next time you'll come and see that I'm not exaggerating. You'll agree with me about Odysseus.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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