At work, I happened to look out into the dining room and saw a little girl, about seven, round face, sleepy eyes, shoulder-length blond hair tucked behind her ears, picking her nose with her thumb. It hit me that I was seeing my own daughter, two years older.
I don’t remember right now where I encountered the idea of the Long Body. It’s a Native American concept, but that’s a big group of different peoples with different life ways and ideologies. At any rate though, the Long Body is the body you will occupy all through your life, your body in four dimensions –the fourth being time. It was Einstein, of course, who had the idea that time was a dimension or something like a dimension, an idea which was pretty radical for the scientific community. The Long Body concept takes that as a given.
People tend to associate with people their own age when they can. That’s probably always been true – we like people who are like ourselves. Those who are close to us in age are generally at the same stage in life, generally have the same interests and tastes. That’s perfectly normal and natural.
In the past, everyone was regularly exposed to people of all ages. Before the Industrial Revolution, things changed very slowly. Certainly there were “generation gaps”, but they were not as extreme as what we know now. The Baby Boom after WWII and the social upheaval that happened when the Baby Boomers (aka “the Worst Generation”) reached their teens and caught the attention of marketers created the Generation Gap, capitalized. Youth culture became a thing. People stopped associating with their elders whenever they could, advertisers realized they could cash in big on selling fabricated youthfulness, age became awful and eternal youth became the obviously unattainable goal. The phrase “midlife crisis” appeared as aging Boomers pathetically scrambled to return to their glory days, listening to Beach Boys boxsets in their PT Cruisers. Viagra made it possible for old farts to get boners so they could fuck their kids’ friends. Fucking disgusting.
(The peak year of the post-war Baby Boom was 1947. Allowing a life expectancy of eighty-three years, we can expect to be rid of the vast majority of Baby Boomers by 2030 and then we’ll never have to hear “Octopus’ Garden” again.)
Friends, we’re all gonna die. Some of us will be lucky enough to get old first. I, personally, intend to live to 100. Beyond that, I have no aspirations. I am not afraid of old age. I expect to be able to work at a job well into my seventies, after which I’ll retire to just make music and art and be a burden on my daughter. I’ve begun to see some signs of aging – I’m sorer after much physical labor and I’m losing my close-up vision. I recently found a pair of reading glasses, but my arms are long enough that I don’t really need to use them yet.
Getting old is a good thing. Ideally, age brings wisdom, but in any case it brings the knowledge of experience. I thoroughly advocate aging. I also thoroughly advocate finding old people who are the kind of old people one wants to become and looking to them for example. I haven’t really dug much of Tom Waits’ music since 2000, but I do respect him as an old guy who has stayed true to himself, avoided any attempt to fake youth and has continued to follow his muse. Johnny Cash was another old guy who stayed his course, exploring artistically without selling out right up to the end. Cash’s version of “personal Jesus” is a remarkable adaptation, a cover that transcended the limited cheese appeal of the original to become something no one could have foreseen. Joseph Campbell grew old the right way: letting go of the forms and follies of youth and middle age without ever giving up or giving in. All three established a degree of stately dignity that I find entirely appropriate to age. There are a few individuals in my own life who stand out as examples of the right way to get old, but you don’t know them.
I should point out that being cool is not something to aspire to. Campbell was never cool. Waits and Cash are cool now, but they became cool by never giving a shit about being cool. Try not to be cool. Also, banging chicks and horking blow are not things one should hold in high esteem. Jack Nicholson may be a hero to the Worst Generation, but he’s a scumbag and never was much of an actor.
So, the Long Body. The body you were born with is the one they’ll bury. It’s a good body and deserving of care, but it is only a meat carriage. Don’t be too upset when the parts start to wear out. Find some old people who have the kind of qualities you want to have when you’re old – if you’re lucky enough to get old – and follow their example.
And enjoy children. You’ll never be one again, but you can enjoy childhood through them.
‘S been a while since I did anything here – life, in all its glorious permutations, got in the way somewhat. Amongst the activities was a move out to Singers Glen, self-proclaimed “Birthplace Of Sacred Music In The South”. I haven’t seen the birth certificate on that and don’t know how that claim can be justified, but I am not going to kick up a fuss. BDSR makes sacred music in the South. It’s entirely apropos that we should come to the source.
This really is a dream come true. I grew up in small towns around Rockingham County – when we went to town, Harrisonburg was the town we went to. We lived just across the line in Augusta for a few years, but Rockingham is my home county. My great-great-great-grandfather served his country in an infantry unit called the Rockingham Rifles, under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. In the rural South, you can’t get much more local than that.
I moved to Harrisonburg when I moved out of my parents’ houses, left H’burg a number of times, but always returned. H’burg has a way of pulling back – a fact I used to curse when I was trying to escape. A few years back, about the same time the Spotted Opossum came out of her ma, I had a major shift in consciousness about all that. I realized – understood the “realness” – that I am rooted deep in this specific place, surrounded by these holy mountains and that any energy I spent trying to leave was wasted. I will live and die in Rockingham County, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, and I am Earthmotherfucking fine with that.
A year or so ago, a guy I knew when I was a teenage pothead moved back to town. We met up and he started participating in BDSR under the nom de guerre Black X. He stumbled onto a house for rent about the time I was looking for my next digs and it all fell together. We moved out here last week. I still got shit in beer boxes all over. The landlady told me the original owner was a character named Ray Hollar which immediately gave the house a name, the Hollar House. We’ve got a basement we can jam in, a yard where we can shoot guns, an overgrown area where the little grrrl can pick berries and get poison ivy. All the comforts, joys and bugs of a country home. We can actually see constellations here. Last night I stood beside the mailbox and pissed in the road. We sit on the porch, burning sticks in a bucket, listening to the crickets and owls and Gods knows what’s making those sounds. It’s unfuckinbelievable.
Other than that it’s been the usual summertime stuff – painting houses, cooking in the little restaurant, sitting around picnic tables or leaning on the truck talking with friends ‘til late at night, taking little girls to the woods to splash in creeks, catch crawdads and tadpoles, all that wonderful shite. The restaurant is closed for our annual maintenance week. I’ve been ripping out rotten footers, pouring concrete, cutting out useless pipe, really enjoying using power tools to tear shit up before fixing shit up. A couple friends are starting on-line retail businesses, both of which will allow me an opportunity to peddle wares without having to set up my own eshop. I got a big tattoo, a piece of traditional American flash that I’ve been wanting for a while.
On the BDSR front, not much in the way of shows. Less happens locally when the college students are away. Drummer Boy was gone for a bit, visiting kin, but he’s back and chomping at the bit to play somewhere. There’s a new house setting up the basement, so we’ll be there making hellacious noise soon enough. There’s a bunch of releases coming out as soon as the various labels put ‘em out – a split with Medicine Calf, a split with Garage Olimpo, the “Crazy Bush” compilation. Somebody somewhere is sitting on a full-length cd that will drop eventually. I’ve got material in the can that I’ll get around to finishing up and put out from here. Lots of stuff going up on Bandcamp all the time – that’s been a really great outlet for short blurts and scattershot. My natural desire is always to go for the longest possible jam, but the time-limited format of Bandcamp has proven extremely fertile. All the individual tracks there are free, but you can pay for them if you really wanna. I dunno why you’d wanna do that.
Today I’m driving down to the other end of the county for a family reunion. I expect there’ll be forty feet of rock-solid good Southern food made by women of German descent, some of which won’t contain dead animal. My rotten kid will get to play with cousins she seldom sees. (The family reunions of my childhood took place at the old farm way back in the mountains of West Virginia and involved a lot of playing in the immediate vicinity of rattlesnakes and black widow spiders. The WVA branch of the family died out, shifting the center to Bridgewater, VA, which is easier for me and safer for the grrrl, but also means a certain amount of loss. I assure you, I’m making sure she gets the proper exposure to the hazards and harms of a rural childhood.)(Remind me to tell you about the WVA branch sometime. The patriarch of that clan was on “medicinal marijuana” and a helluva fiddler.)
So that’s where we are and how we are. I hope you’re doing well, and if you’re not, we’ve got a bedroom we’re interested in letting out. Maybe a move to the country is what you need.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.