Saturday, July 18, 2015

#466 A Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay

In a yoga class, a block from the Alamo, my hardest position was to remain calm while Coldplay was playing and simply allow the sorrow of Chris Martin's haunting voice to enter my consciousness while not affecting me.  I kept trying to focus on the way my hands squished the green mat, the way my breath sounded in my face, the way the accelerated roar of the tour busses passing outside rattled the pipes of the old lofted studio.  I kept imagining an umbrella over my little rectangle of space like noise cancellation headphones for Coldplay.  And I failed miserably.  You see, I picked this album months ago to write about but for many reasons I couldn't bring myself to express any thoughts on it.  I would play portions of it and put it down because it resonated such pain like the band wasn't playing guitars--they were playing my heart strings instead.

While in downward facing dog, tears began to drop silently on my mat and rather than tuning it out, which was all I wanted in the world, I slowly allowed the inevitable to happen.  I leaned in unwillingly at first and opened up.  Purposefully, I agreed to feel every A minor chord and then the instructor's voice began to fade, the tour busses disappeared, the sound of my breath evaporated and there I was contemplating the death of relationships to the sound of Coldplay playing through my cells and bouncing through every neuron in my head, occupying the space between my fingers and the mat, the space between the touching soles of my feet, the space between my back and the ceiling and then there was something like resignation as I allowed all experiences triggered by my body and the music to bubble up with force and I watched them flash at me and pop as the next one appeared.  puppy breath.  A hair on my pillow in waking sunlight.  Explosions in the Sky Concert.  A Kaleidoscope of Monarch Butterflies.  The frying hair on the back of my neck in a hot air balloon.  Sweating summer leather seats.  Cold Concrete.  Red carpet. A mountain top.  Books.  The comforting smell of a fat grey cat rescued from the Cooke County Courthouse.  The vibration of the sound of the metal trim when the note D was played and knowing it must be tuned if the vibration was absent.  The fluttering of birds with a single step.  Smoke and Coughing and Coughing and Coughing.  Wiping away Fingerprints on a glass table.

I was constantly asked, all the time, what was I thinking.  It made me feel as powerless as the day I listened to Coldplay while practicing yoga.  Maybe thoughts occur differently to everyone.  I wonder if some people only see colors or smells or just perceive general feelings.  Some people can take thoughts and simply acknowledge them without judgment and watch them dissapate to the depths of consciousness.  Others allow thoughts to take control of their physicality and act out with impulsivity.  And some of us turn them into tears to water their yoga mat.

I guess we can all blame it on a rush of blood to the head.

The entire album seems to ask this question: At what point does attraction turn to love and love turn into possession and inevitably to loss?  In one inhale and exhale it is over and we are already looking back at the silent resentments that formed, the hatred created in a night of a perfect storm, the personal concessions, compromises, and sacrifices made for the sake of staying together and after a knock-down, drag-out hurricane one person still wants to "get back to the start."  To maintain the ideal and the fantasy of who each other were when first glances, first hand touches, first smells were appreciated more than breath itself.  But you've already shredded each other to puddles of nothingness to grasp at ghosts of feelings that were there only when you first noticed how beautiful one another was.  Noticed, but not touched.

Perhaps the only love stories are the ones that never happen.

This is the very reason I cannot stand being given flowers as a gesture of love.  Here are beautiful blooming life forms that I've killed and put in a vase for you to enjoy.  And when you've enjoyed all the remaining life out of them they become desiccated and withered and putrid.  And the receiver is left with just an empty vase to be either discarded or placed under the kitchen sink ready to be full of beautiful colorful quiet agony again.  Osho once said about love, "If you love a flower, don't pick it up.  Because if you pick it up, it dies and it ceases to be what you loved.  So if you love a flower, let it be. Love is not about possession.  Love is about appreciation."

When I left the yoga class, certain everyone had noticed my silent suffering - when in fact nobody had - I ran into two very good friends of mine here in San Antonio.  In their separate ways, they both push me to exceed the expectations I have for myself every week.  They have each made me a stronger more confident person.  After this emotional hour that felt like an exorcism, there they were at the foot of the stairs looking up at me not knowing that I appreciated them so much in that moment; not having a clue about the symbolic meaning their presence had to me in my private universe.  How very significant they were.  One of them has an eye for beauty and takes beautiful photographs, and through her free spirit and creativity turns everyone into works of art in photos and creates human sculptures with her students on their yoga mats.  The other is strong enough to hold the weight of the world on his shoulders without wavering and absorb the suffering through humor and light-heartedness and although I have lost my ego in front of him before - in the midst of working out so hard my whole body shakes uncontrollably- he still sees me as I am without judgment.  And I was so dumb-struck by their presence - In that moment I felt something like love and appreciation for them.  And after greetings and small talk were exchanged, I walked passed them and to my car in the same way I would walk by two beautiful flowers on a walking trail that I noticed and appreciated but didn't feel the need to pick.

Some of us make others stronger, some of us take photographs, some of us facilitate moments of quiet reflection on accident, some of us sing haunting music that trigger emotional responses, some of us cook, some of us think alone in a smokey garage...

And some of us write.

Ironically, what was written about this album made me laugh out loud.

Capitol, 2002
Coldplay churn out bighearted British guitar rock on their second album – what Chris Martin aptly called "emotion that can make you feel sad while you're moving your legs."

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

#372 Late for the Sky - Jackson Browne (now #375)

There are two mirrors in my place that face each other and when I stand in front of this domestic concept of infinity, I wonder how many other souls came before me to be vibrated between them like a ball on a never-ending ping pong table.  There I was this morning and tomorrow morning forever reflected, and forever forgotten in the bright moment when I simply step in and out of their battle field visions.

I walked on battle fields and my ancestors' cemetery in breathless fall in the deep south through a labyrinth of forgotten guts.  No music.  No cell phone.  Just the beat of my rapid heart and the thrumming hearts that once ago stopped all around me in another time.  Swirling mist raptured down the streets in cold blasts rolling over beds of crunching golden leaves, encasing the accidental pearls on spiderwebs beneath every rowed mailbox.  But all this was in silence.  It will happen next year, this rolling fog I've never seen before.  It happened decades ago before rowed mailboxes, where men poured out the blood that paved these streets in Civil War.  Some of that blood is mine.

As I stood in a very old family cemetery, I thought about how blood connects us, begins life, stops life, lets us know when new life doesn't exist inside us.  It's hot and sticky and smells like the iron skins of the earth we mine and is layered with carnal knowledge; it knows to return to earth when we die.

I went without music for months.  It is hard to clear one's mind when it is shrouded with distraction and the involuntary downpour of emotional turmoil music tangentially brings.  I had wandered into my own labyrinth encompassed with fog and it never occurred to me how deeply lost I was until I finally faced my largest fear and watched Stanley Kubrick's The Shining as an adult- the only movie that is a labyrinth inside a labyrinth of its own.  Not unlike every breathing individual.  I saw portions of this movie with my brother, accidentally - and without even understanding it, my precocious eight-year-old brain unconsciously understood that we are all incredibly alone, always.  And nobody, not even our parents can save us from the buried past karmically pulsating through our borrowed veins, the layered past in our minds from lifetimes ago, and the unbridled civil wars that rage ever on and on in the minds of the people we love and perceive to know.  And it took almost a decade for me to be able to sleep normally after my first encounter with Kubrick because of the amount of panic and cold sticky terror that hovered over my dark room at night as a child like the stale, incarnadine fog that rolled down Tennessee hills years after a raging war, this unconscious force of past and future, this crimson wave of death that flushed through the hotel in a movie and entered the audience - this ominous symbol begging itself from beyond eternity to imprint in my skulled labyrinth for future reference.  Your premonition.  My premonition.  Wake up.

How long have I been sleeping? 

Because it was the future for which I was afraid; although I couldn't yet know it.  Alas, forgotten.  Like an Indian Burial ground, or the murder of one's family with an ax, or a civil war battlefield where a Panera Bread now stands.  Doomed to be repeated.

We listen to albums, watch movies and read books because we identify with something sleeping just below the surface of us all; something encapsulated that exists within our beings rather than without.  The essential question of who am I and what am I doing here?  We search for guidance from beyond without knowing for which path we are to take, which direction do we turn, are we the hero this time, or the scoundrel?  Are we the child waiting for an abrupt rape of our innocence?  My experience of watching The Shining as an adult awoke something of clarity inside me.  For a movie that probably confuses everybody, it brought the taste of lucid, sweet sanity to my life.  Crisp and clear like the pearly dew-beads on spiders' webs, a life-force of water outlining a trap I should have seen.  I remembered the day I scrambled backwards up the stairs when I watched Wendy do the same as Jack screamed, "Do you have any idea what a moral and ethical principle is?!" I began to notice the ax that marked the exit to the room where mysterious tinkering happened into the night for no various purpose at all- "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."  And in that scene, suddenly the air around me became heavy and I could recognize the feelings of distrust and dislike for me or any new comer or anyone in the vicinity at all.  The paranoia that for some reason deserved reverence began to breathe down my spine.  Suddenly millions of eggshells appeared on cold concrete floors.  I could taste my constant feeling of dread and anxiety metallic like blood, and I remembered the countless dreams I would have about trying to scream but no sound would come out.  And the isolation, the isolation, the fucking isolation oppressive like quicksand.

I felt like Danny, standing in front of a mirror (or two) watching the blood of the past and the future fill up my house awakening in me the time I watched this movie as a child but couldn't yet understand.  Do we disobey and unlock the room 237 of our minds? Yes.  Break every egg shell; unlock every door; pry into the buried past; the burked future; and battle the proverbial minotaur, Jack, in the labyrinth of your archetypal journey.

And closer to Bluebeard's last wife than Browning's "Last Duchess" I left.  And started a new life.

I tried several albums for what I've been through but nothing seemed to fit.  Normally, I just randomly pick an album and allow it to be on in the background all month; but I couldn't do that this time because if I touched too deep a nerve, the volcano of emotion wouldn't be worth this project.  I tried to remember how I felt at the height of my alienation, but so much memory escaped me like water running through my fingertips.  Then I recalled this scene from Taxi Driver.  Where Robert de Niro holds a gun to his head as he watches a couple dance on screen.  I've felt that disconnect before.  What was that song, I thought.  It resonated something deep within my gut- the labyrinth within.  Whatever song that was would be the album for this piece.  When I found it and listened to "Late for the Sky" not a single other album would do.  I just had to wait for the right moment to let it hit me.

The album differs from other break up albums because it is so specific in the idea of feeling completely alienated from the other person.  There doesn't seem to be the same sort of denial, sorrow, anger, one gathers when they listen to Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, or Fleetwood Mac.  It jumps into moments that make you feel that two people are coexisting and yet living two completely different realities.  The individuals cannot comprehend, connect, or truly understand the other no matter how many times they discuss the issues.  The extreme disconnect and alienation resonates well with the Shining.  All these people coexist, yet are going crazy in their own way because of the concept of "pastness in general."

Such an empty surprise, to feel so alone. 

What Rolling Stone thought of Jackson Browne's Late for the Sky:

Asylum, 1974
On his dark third album, Browne explored, in the words of one Rolling Stone reviewer, the "romantic possibility in the shadow of an apocalypse." There's an undercurrent of dread on Late for the Sky, from "Before the Deluge" to "For a Dancer" – not to mention a lot of obvious songwriting genius.

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