Excerpts from A Letter to A Friend

I’ve pretty much decided to give up the fight for the house. Hell, I’ve wondered all along when I would reach the tipping point; that one moment when I realized that I was kidding myself. I suppose this is it. I know this all sounds like back-end justification, but I feel good about this. As much as I would like to stay here, I’m very much aware that if I keep the house, that’s all I will ever have. A house. No life, no interest, outside of making money to keep the house. It’s nice to have a nest, but it’s beginning to feel like a cave.
You know, I sat down and played my bass some this morning. I was stiff as hell because I haven’t really “had at it” for a while, but I limbered up pretty quickly. While playing I realized … well, maybe “reaffirmed” would be a better word … that I’m one of the best bass players I know (note I said “know” and not “know of”). Now, I realize that sounds incredibly arrogant, but I hope you would know me well enough by now to realize that this was not an egotistical observation but a realistic one. It’s just matter-of-fact. And with that realization comes an uncomfortable truth. All artists have a moral and spiritual obligation to create art. It’s why they’re put here, to say things in music, art, writing, whatever, that the average person cannot find the voice to say himself. Birds will fly. Fish will swim. Or as Les Claypool would say, dogs will hunt. An artists’s reason for being is to stand as an advocate for other people.
I’ve fought against this my whole life. All I’ve ever wanted was to be free of these sounds and images that torment my every waking moment. Gods, that sounds melodramatic. But I hope you know what I mean. These ideas. These aspirations. Caldwell whispering in my ear. Neima rampaging around in my head while I’m staring down that highway. But in my family (remember, my mom was one of eleven), I really have no one I can relate to. We have a few poets, a good many musicians, lots of singers, and a few Baptist preachers. But to my knowledge I’m the only artist and the only writer. So in a way, I’ve always been set apart from everyone else. Not on a pedastal or anything. Just … different. And I’ve heard most of my life that I should get my head out of the clouds, get my feet on the ground, or whatever variation you can imagine. In our family, the most a singer can aspire to is singing in the church choir. That’s as lofty a goal as they can imagine. But somehow I’ve always felt like I would be not be able to fulfill my purpose on Earth by limiting myself to some small church is some small town. I guess that’s the arrogance talking; the belief that I was meant for greater things. But really, I think we’re all meant for greater things than we will commit to.
I’m getting off-track here. What I’m trying to say is that all I ever wanted was to be normal like the rest of my family. They’re all talented in some way, shape or form, but they limit themselves from looking beyond the area around them.
I keep thinking about my Mama. She’s told herself her entire life that she was just a simple country girl. But a few months back she found a picture online that she thought would be great to put on a shirt. Her printer wasn’t working and she couldn’t remember how to save something to her computer. So she got a pen and a piece of paper and drew it. And it was a good drawing. This is a woman with no art training whatsoever, who never once in her life regarded herself as an artist, and never drew to any great extent. So at age 73, with no other resources at hand, she picks up a pen and draws off this little pattern that could have passed as being drawn by any professionally trained artist. That sums up my family very well.
In regard to the house, the most immediate idea that came to mind was a recollection of that guy who got his hand pinned under a boulder. He waited and hoped for rescue, but none ever came. In the end, he realized that he was going to have to save himself. So he cut off his hand and walked to safety. In a way, that’s how I’m now viewing this house. If I am to survive and be what I was always meant to be, I have to let this go. The house, I mean. It’s hard for me, because I’ve never really believed. I’ve spent my whole life coming across people who were surprised and even amazed by my “talents.” Mara even listed being intimidated by my talents as one of the reasons she left, that now she can be herself and not feel overshadowed. But myself, I’ve never believed. Oh, I’ve always believed that I had the potential. I just never believed it would ever go anywhere.
It has seemed like every step that I have taken to try to keep this house has only gotten me in deeper. I’ve been bailing water like mad. I cut off the cable to save $90 a month. I changed the way my company pays me to bring in an extra $200 a month. I’ve been working weekends to make extra money. Dozens of other little changes. I’ve been bailing that water like mad, but the ship is still going down. And even if I manage to keep it afloat, it’s still going to be a derelict. This house needs all kinds of work that I’ll never be able to afford. And I’m not talking about affording getting someone else to do it. I’ll most likely never be able to afford even to buy the materials to do the work myself. Hell, my front yard if overrun with ants, and I can’t afford to go pick up some pest controller.
I guess I’m trying to say that I have defiantly looked at this situation and have seen what I wanted to see. But it’s been a lost cause all along. I actually feel like the Goddess has pushed me in this direction, bringing me to a point where I would have no choice but to cut off my proverbial hand and, at long last, get to the business for which I was put here in the first place. This isn’t to say that it won’t be painful or traumatic. But it’s time to be.
Back in the 90’s when I was working on M.E. Caldwell, I posted signs all around my apartment that read “Wicasta – be alive.” They were intended as constant reminders that it’s far too easy to be complacent and comfortable in familiar surroundings. Maybe it’s time I took my own advice.

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