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
December 29, 2017 - 12:00 p.m.
Last night was special; I saw Dar Williams with special guest, Anaïs Mitchell. How special was the show? I am not going to write about my commute or what I ate. I'm not going to write about any of the things that annoyed me. This entry begins at Bell House, ends at Bell House, everything that happens in it takes place at Bell House; so, the entry is called, "Albany." Most of you are asking, "Huh?" The jokes aren't always for you.
Dar has been doing a show in Brooklyn in the week between Christmas and New Year's since he first Christmas. The Three Wise Man were her backup singers that first show. It's another one of my holiday traditions, another one I forgot to write about last week. For years they were at Southpaw then the moved to Bell House. I didn't go to all the Southpaw shows, shame on me. I lived in Queens then and that wasn't easy for me. It was still a lot easier than getting to Bell House from City Island. What can I say? I was young and foolish.
I have memories of waiting online in the cold to get in for the show. They might be fake memories of other winter shows at Bell House, but I wasn't going to take any chances and I got there an hour and a quarter before doors. My original plan was to get there two hours early but Chris thought this would be sufficient. I trust his memory more than my own. I was the first one there. Needless to say, the line wasn't out the door, I waited in the nice toasty bar.
I played on my phone and waited for Fred who I expected first. A group of people came in and I thought Fred might be among them. He put my glasses back on and saw he wasn't and went back to my phone. Then I heard, "Hi Gordon!" It was Dar. She was bundled up, I'm blind, and I was looking for Fred; that's why I didn't see her first. Then Fred showed up. We hung out few a few minutes and Glenn entered. We hadn't made plans with him but he's our friend, so he joined us. There was still no need to get there as early as I did. The Chris came, still my group. Someone not sitting with us finally arrived 25 minutes after I did. The line did not get serious till 6:30, a half hour before doors. Will I remember that for next year? Maybe.
There was limited seating, one of the reasons I wanted to be sure to be early. We got front and second row center. Chris was joined by four more friends and they sat behind us. A delightful young woman sat next to Fred. There are many delightful people at Dar shows. That's going to be part of the theme.
Dar is an Olympian in my musical pantheon. Anaïs is also an Olympian. This show was fated to be epic from the moment it was booked. This is not a natural pairing; while they are both at the pinnacle of singing and songwriting they get there by different paths. Dar makes everything look easy. Dar is perpetually a delightful young woman whose company you enjoy. Countless delightful young woman saw her as a role model, picked up guitars, and thought they could be singer songwriters by be delightful, bearing their souls while making it rhyme. What they miss is that Dar is a TARDIS, bigger on the inside than on the outside. Her songs feel simple, but they aren't. She doesn't use polyphony or jazz chord progressions, what she uses is words, lots of words. I wish I had an easy way of measuring word density, hers must be extraordinary. That's just a tool, albeit a difficult one to wield, but it's what she does with it that in inimitable. Dar can tell a little personal story and make it universal; her experience is a metaphor for the universe, and the universe for her experiences. It's why she can write about gods and her babysitter with equal ease; she realizes that the difference between them is not so great.
Anaïs does not make things look easy. Her songwriting is outwardly intellectual and intricate. Dar is a TARDIS and Anaïs is a fractal with infinite detail.
They use different methods but achieve the same goal, their songs are all active ingredients, no filler. There is content; There is so much there, there. They do it while being utterly charming and genuine. You see them on stage and you feel you could sit down and chat. When you do sit down and chat with them they are just as charming and genuine as you'd imagine they'd be.
Anaïs grew up as a fan of Dar. As a teen her friends called her vehicle, "the Dar Car;" as that is what she played on the cassette player. Anaïs's joy, sharing a stage with Dar, was worth the price of admission. Anaïs lived every Dar lister's dream, she alternated singing the verses of The Christians and the Pagans with Dar. Watching and listening to that is when I scrapped all my other plans for this entry. Dar and Anaïs make me introspective, there are dark corners of my psyche, but their joy illuminated them and became the meaning of the evening. Anaïs was just like young Dar, "I can't wait to give her the card/I can't wait to give her the card." "The star was my babysitter!" I felt the truth of the Cabell quote at the top of the page, the one you don't read. I'll repeat it here.
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.This was exquisite wonderfulness.
Dar wrote a book, What I Found in a Thousand Towns: A Traveling Musician's Guide to Rebuilding America's CommunitiesOne Coffee Shop, Dog Run, and Open-Mike Night at a Time ; she read from it. Building communities, building bridges between people, was a leitmotif of the show even when Anaïs sang of building a wall. We knew that's what we should not be building. A friend wrote on Facebook about being an outsider. Do you want to build a bridge to others? It's not so hard as they are outsiders too. When Dar sings;
And so I'm leaving, you can find out how much better things can get,The audience as one follows with,
I am the others!
We are the others!
Magic is loose in the world. Christians find magic in their god and pagans find it everywhere. This atheist, found it in that song, in Anaïs's expression, and the voices of the audience. I shed tears of joy. It doesn't get better than that.
I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.
Memories: Not that Horrid Song - May 29, 2018
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