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
April 28, 2016 - 2:21 p.m.
I'm off to a late start writing, it's almost noon and I have a lot to write about. Let's see if I can write with the quality the subject matter deserves.
Last night I had a musical doubleheader. I was not planning that when the day started but it's how it ended. The first stop was Rockwood Music Hall for Cover II Cover: Spuyten Duyvil and friends perform the music of Linda Ronstadt to raise money for Parkinson's Disease research. I was never a big fan of Linda Ronstadt's music. I of course had a total crush on her, you couldn't avoid that if were a straight teenage boy who turned 13 in 1970, but her music was too pop for my taste. It was one of those things, there were quite a few in the 70s, where I learned there was more there than met my eyes. I'm still not a huge fan of the songs but her musicianship cannot be denied. She could sing with the best of them. She is also a cool person. She made one of the great observations on religion. She was a guest on a talk show, probably Dick Cavett, and was asked about the behavior and dress of punk music fans. She said, something to the effect, "It's not nearly as strange as nuns, women wearing medieval clothing and abstaining from sex." Perfect! She saw how strange something was that people just take for granted.
But still I don't usually listen to her music so why was I at the show? Because I knew most of the performs and a huge number of people in the audience. It was a gathering of my tribe and I love my tribe. Spuyten Duyvil put it together and you know they are in my very short list of bands. And damn, I didn't put them on my radio station yesterday. They were near the end of the alphabet and I was getting tired but they should have represented big string bands. Oh well. John Platt was the host. Carter Smith help promote it. That's appropriate as Carter has Parkinson's disease. I have not mentioned it before but he talked about it from the stage last night so now I can. If I think about Carter PD is not one of the top 100 things I think about; I think about music and the Mets and the things I can talk about with him that I can't talk about with others, but if I think about Parkinson's he's the first thing I think about. The performers included good friends Milton, Bobtown, No Fuss and Feathers, and Andrea Asprelli. Jeremy Aaron sat in with Spuyten Duyvil.
I got there early and the earlier act was running late. I actually thought it was Spuyten Duyvil doing sound check at first because the singer had the same hair as Beth. I chatted a bit with Mel, the, what the hell is Mel? Some people call him the bouncer and that's part of his job but I've never seen him bounce anyone. He's the guy at the front door that gets the people to line up and tells them which stage to go to. I used to call him the door guy. Now I call him Mel. I talked to him then went to the woman who gets to sit inside who has the ticket holder and guests lists. She gave me a wrist band to let me in when the band that was running late was over but when I asked if I could go in to talk to the band she said yes. So I went in with the thought of going to the Green Room but then figured they might be in the back room on top of Rockwood 3 and that's where everybody was. I had just seen Carolann in the afternoon but I talked to her about the lack of progress on my phone. I talked to Beth, Kirk, Karyn, Karen, Katherine, and people's whose names don’t begin with a K. Oh right, Jeremy, John, and Jay. I somehow didn't talk to Catherine. My friends need more name diversity.
When the first band cleared out we went in. On the way I saw John, I'll give you a break and add Platt, I had to leave early so I didn't take a seat. Who did I see in Rockwood 2? Coco, Shelley, Allison, Joe, and Brian. I know I'm missing people, there's no easy way for me to organize them. Like I said this was a gathering of the tribe.
I saw about two thirds of the show. The only one I knew that I missed was Andrea. I checked on Google Maps and it told me that I had to leave a bit before 9:30 to arrive on time for the second show on my agenda. At 9:20 Bobtown came on and joined No Fuss and Feathers at a song that was of course directed at me, You're No Good. I took that as my cue and when it was done I bid adieu to Brian. I made it out of there a bit ahead of schedule. I had to find my way to a venue I've never been to National Sawdust in Williamsburg. Google's suggested route was the bus up 1st Ave to 14th Street where I could catch the . That didn't work out. I missed the bus by seconds. If I had run on I could have made it but it was a select bus and I had to buy a ticket from the machine and while I was doing that the door closed. I should have just gotten on. Nobody has ever checked if I had my ticket on the select bus and I have an unlimited MetroCard so there's no reason for me to cheat about this. Well OK there is. I could have sold a ticket to somebody else then gotten on the bus. But still I'm sure I could have gotten away with it and time was tight. The next bus was not for eight minutes so I walked back to the to take that to 14th Street though several stops further than 1st Ave. I of course just missed the train. I was now nervous about being late. But I wasn't I made it with a few minutes to spare.
So where was I going? To see Jean Rohe's Songs from "The Odysseus Project". At first I thought I couldn't see it but someone couldn't use their tickets and Jean wrote me and asked if I wanted them. I of course said, "yes." Jean has been talking about this for a while but not giving many details. I thought it was going to be a retelling of the Odyssey in modern times and in a sense it is but it is far more personal than that. It is in essence a one-woman show; Jean does all the talking but has her amazing band with her.
The show it deeply personal. It's about Jean's quest to discover what happened to her paternal grandmother who committed suicide at the age of 33, long before Jean was born. It starts with Jean as a child writing in her diary. So where does the Odyssey fit in? The Odyssey is one of the archetypal stories. I'm sure you had some teacher that told you that there are only seven plots in all of literature. I think about half of literature can be encompassed by just two, Cinderella and the Odyssey. All quest stories are the Odyssey and aren't we all on a quest? Jean talks about being on the line going from where she was to where she will be. Her quest was to find what happened to her Grandmother who was also Jean S. Rohe. Along the way she compared her adventures to episodes of the Odyssey, the parts she likes, the monsters and magic. She visits the Cyclops, the land of the lotus eaters, Scylla and Charybdis, and the Sirens. Jean faced her father's reluctance to discuss what happened, bureaucracy, relatives, fire, and as in all quests to discover the past, time.
The title comes from the Sirens; their song was irresistible and lured sailors to crash their ships on the rocks. Odysseus stuffed his crew's ears with wax but wanted to hear the song himself so he had them lash him to the mast and to vow to not release him till they were clear of the Sirens. This was the Odysseus agreement. In the program notes Jean wrote:
An Odysseus Agreement is a document written by a person that has survived a suicide episode and is no longer contemplating suicide. It expresses her wish for intervention in the event she experiences such a crisis again. The agreement may specify that a person's requested treatments, such has hospitalization or medication, be forcibly administered, if necessary, in order to prevent her death.So now it sounds depressing but the show isn't. It is the story of Jean's quest for the truth not of suicide. It's often funny as when she deals with her evangelical relatives trying to convert her or the New Jersey mental health bureaucracy. Her song about that was genius, perfect comic relief. It was in a style unlike anything I have heard from Jean, I'd call it bouncy Broadway. It reminds the audience this is a play, a musical. Most of the music is unlike what Jean has written before. Some is more avant gard. It is all so personal These are songs about Jean, not a character, not an archetype. But she is Jean and can't be a sensitive singer/songwriter even when that's what's going on at the surface. She can write about herself and still make it universal.
From almost the beginning I have compared Jean to Anaïs Mitchell. I told this to someone recently and they were surprised. I can see that, their musical styles and voices couldn't be more different. But that's not what I mean. What they share is the depth and breadth of their vision. They achieve it by different means but their goals are what are similar. They are artistically ambitious. They have ideas in their head that they want to share. They are the antithesis of nice people singing nice songs nicely. Now cut that out. I didn't mean they aren't nice. They are both unusually nice.
I would have thought all that under any circumstances but I had to think them last night as Anaïs was the only person in the audience that I knew. I talked to her for a bit but she was with friends and couldn't tell her everything I just wrote. I have told Jean. I wasn't surprised that Anaïs was there, Liam Robinson, Jean's partner in many things is the musical director of Anaïs's Hadestown. Oh yes I forgot to mention the obvious. They both wrote long form musical dramas based on Greek mythology set in the modern times. But I saw the connection between them before I heard a whisper about The Odysseus Agreement.
I have to learn to take notes at a show. My mind was racing the entire time. I also needed more time to write this. There was so much there there. I loved to hear about her childhood, the ways it was like and unlike my own. I found myself wanting to interview her. She's a friend but I had no idea about her grandmother? Is this all true? I think so but it doesn't have to be. It's art. Things can come purely from the imagination. I would like to ask her. I want to know when all this happened.
This is a work in progress. I could have waited to see it whole but I couldn't wait. I want to see how things evolve. I have taken possession; this is now one of my things. It's part of me
The venue, National Sawdust was nice. I was tempted to talk to the guy who runs it who was at the next table. Yeah as usual I ended up front row center. It's a small place with a large stage set up with tables. I am pretty sure the setup is flexible and they could set it up in theater rows when appropriate. Is it all theater? Can people do concerts there? If so, look into it as a new venue to play. It's only three blocks from the .
OK now it's after two and I haven't eaten. I've written 2104 words but that's not enough. There was more I wanted to say.
Oh hell. I guess I have to write one more thing. I posted this on Facebook but it doesn't look like anyone saw it. I have to get out of where I am staying on Monday. I have no place to go. Any help would be appreciated. Yeah a bit jarring right? Oh and don't call as my phone is still broken. Paul Simon had his books and his poetry to protect him. I have my blog. While I'm writing I'm master of my fate. Not so much the rest of the time.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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