9-1-13 Getting It Done

spacerDulcimer at night on a rain-wet waterfront

The Simple Story:

Back in the saddle, or perhaps I should say "the harness."

summer roses through the windowI began this entry a long time ago now, as Spring was turning to Summer. Now Summer is turning to Fall, September is here. But that's the story, I've had to let the web journal slide, along with almost everything else, and the story remains the same, and even now. I thought to post this mid-August, but now it is September, and I haven't had time to finish, and I won't finish this now, as I get ready to start playing the Labor Day weekend. But once again, I try to just fill the hole left in the journal, just for continuity.

a ladder leaning against a torn out wallSince I started work on the house, I haven't had time for anything else except playing the street weekends. And I don't see the situation changing for months more, till I finish the house. The clock is ticking, I have to get it done as soon as possible, so I can rent it to cover the mortgage, before I run out of the cash reserve I have to see me through. I still perform every weekend on the street, rain or shine. I have to. The music pays a most of the bills, making my cash reserve last as I work on the house. But the reserve still won't last indefinitely, I lose ground each month. I plan to be done here sometime this winter and leave the house to take care of itself while I go back to my normal pattern and the plans I had a year ago, and head for Florida to work on the boat, still waiting, and "doing more" with the music. But, once again, I am in the position right now where I can't justify "doing more" with the music, or do anything other than working the street and working on the house. I'm actually doing nothing but work, eat, and sleep in a hard routine, and not enough sleep at that. I try to write this as I eat my breakfast, typing while I chew.


The Story

I don't have time for much of a story, and in this hard routine, the story is not very interesting, and in important ways, nothing has changed. While the nature of the situation and the work has changed, I have bought the house, and now I am past that fork in the road, and doing what it takes, repairing the house. I am still involved in resolving ma’s estate, working to get through it so I can get back to my life, and dealing with the frustrations involved in having all my plans, everything that is really important and significant, still on hold. In addition, there is the pressure of a plan that has deadlines, financial realities, and while I would not have attempted it if it wasn't possible, it is still a risk, and a delicate balance that nothing else happens to interfere when the margins are so tight.

So the biggest part of the story is the mental struggle to keep working and focused, despite all the pressures, distractions, and frustrations, natural in the circumstances, and remeber if I can just stay focused, I will put all this behind me and be free again.

Beyond the hard line of dwindling reserves, I want to be free to do other things, free the responsibility of paying for this place, the need to satisfy this big bottom line, so I can't consider doing volunteer shows for schools or senior centers, or taking low-paying gigs at places that can’t afford to pay me even what I can make playnng the street, or just playing at people's parties for whatever they have to give, even just a thank-you, just like I used to do.

photos by Barney Sperlin
Brian playing the street, photo by Barney Sperlin Even if I was breaking even and could stay as long as I wanted, which I could do if I got a housemate or two, I don't want to stay here really. On a practical basis, I never needed a house, by staying on the road I was able to afford to play music, and focus my resources on that, and touring to follow the fests and tourists, playing the tourist towns, small venues and street scenes, has been more effective for me and my music than trying to stay in one place and work an urban scene, especially when my music was not the latest "pop" music which the urban clubs focus on. It just makes practical sense to go back on the road, which has always worked for me, and rent this house, because I don't need it, and it can pay for itself, rather than me compromising my life and music to pay for it myself. Especially when on a practical basis the best thing for the music would be to get back to touring. Though this place could be ok if I was doing significant work on the music somehow, that is something I think about when I am past touring, or if that is where the music led me, to settle someplace for a while. But it would be where the music takes me, not because I am trying to make the music work in a place I have to stay.

spacerphotos by Barney Sperlin
Brian playing the waterfront, photo by Barney Sperlin At the end, I just want to be free of from the pressures and requirements of maintaining a place like this, a place I don't really need. There's the simple proverbial truth I tell people, "you are only as free as your bills". I want to be free from the need for income, the lifestyle I've followed, one that doesn't require a lot of money. Which meant I could focus on the music, and what I could make that way would be enough, and usually, I never even had to think about the money, as long as I played for enough people in enough places, I had more than enough, on average. So I could just travel with the seasons, living on the road,camping in the wild when I wasn't playing somewhere, and it worked. I suppose instead of playing for people on the street I could be working for minimum wage somewhere like most folks, or more likely, have followed my dream and been a beekeeper and organic homestead-farmer. But I chose to follow the music, and the life and role of a Folksinger. I play for the People and the People support me, the Bardic Way, and a truly beautiful thing.

me standing on a mountain top,arms extended, looking out over the rangeEven more, I want to be free, one of the few rewards of the life I chose as a Folksinger. Of course, I am not really free, but I only have the bonds that are really of me, I'm chained to the dulcimer, and the music, and my conscience. But let's not get lost in Philosophy. Still, I do want to be free to go where the music takes me, focus on it entirely, without distraction. Free to live a life as art, the art of life, dancing through a life with great aesthetic value, great vibes, great scenes, a life of depth and terrible beauty. I want to travel again, see old friends, and places I love, and dwell deep in the harmony of natural places, my true home, and to play and talk to people, share my gifts. I long for it.

dulci in Voice of America TV studio, seen from behind the cameraI can't begin to tell the story of these last months. So many scenes, too many stries, and though a few stand out, it is all beginning to blur. In another couple months I'll have spent a year here.

It has been a beautifully summer, oddly cool and wet, and yet I never got outside to enjoy it. I think of so many other things I could be doing, if I had time. I know I am living with the same frustration that has been troubling me so long, and now I have to face it a bit longer. But being conscious of the underlying forces doesn't stop the feelings.I want to learn new songs, and write new ones, and work on the dulcimer, and recording, pursue opportunities, new gigs, and all the things it takes to be an indie artist. I want to be a Folksinger, and play anywhere I am for people I meet, follow those opportunities, jam with other musicians I meet, and contribute to people's lives as I move through the world, without any other need or motivation, whether it takes me on the mainstage at some fest or someone's kitchen.

dulci on the street outside the Paradiso CafeThe street is still filled with great scenes and great people, sometimes the familiar characters, sometimes something that stands out, and odd things happen, and there's the bad vibes and scenes as well. As I play, it seems every weekend someone has a opportunity for me, but nothing pans out, and it doesn’t trouble me. Though I try to remain open, encourage people with my willingness to work with them, but reamain focused and I depend on what is real, and that is still, as it has always been, playing the street. Every weekend a nice girl stops to haunt me, but I know she is a dream, not reality, and enjoy it like a ray of sunshine in my stormy days. So it goes. As it approaches a year here, it all begins to blur and run together. I perform every weekend, 12 hours a day if I can, through sun and rain, heat and snow, and dark of night. Then I pack my gear and roll the wagon back to the rig, head to the house, eat, and try to sleep 6 hrs before it's time to get up and do it again. While the music still fills my head, and scenes echo in my mind as I walk, and later, as I work on the house.

dulci on the street outside the Paradiso Cafespacer
Life is a daily routine of pushing and pushing and getting it done, to get through a huge job, day by day, step by step, trying not to get distracted or think more than I need to. It is endurance and perseverance. And I have to wrap this up and get to it, now, as breakfast is done. Try to finish tonight as I eat dinner about 2 am.

eating early, 11pm, work again later, getting to the end of one job, start to shift to the next, getting it done.

My mind is always full of thoughts. New ideas… Things to do with music. Reactions and reflecting on the things I hear on the radio, my link to the outside, when I can hear it. I try to keep up with the world, though fact is, I don't really want to, though I do anyway, as always. Though they're not listening to folks like me, or maybe they are, these days! I have no time to participate, which is frustrating, as the world and th country continue in crisis, crisis after crisis. Though this is nothing new to me, my life has been spent watching the slow-motion train wreck of an unsustainable world. Significant events happen, large and small, and I cannot participate, the anniversary of the March on Washington, another Labor Day. Yet the fact is, I have never stopped the struggle for real change. I play songs from the March every weekend, it is not a special event, or a rememberance, but a fundimaental part of what I have done and continue to do, a slow, steady, and unremarkable non-violent struggle for peace, love, justice and freedom. There is a great movement, and I am playing my small part, but I am doing that, and have given up all I could have done and been and had to work for a better world. So I still play the songs, keep talking to people, "and if they hear, maybe someday they will see," may understand, the evolution revolution, out where people are, an American Folksinger. I’ll be able to think about what "doing more" means in these terms as well, once the present job is done, and I have time to think, and time to "do more".

clutter of boxes and dulcimer flightcase and other stuff piled inside the houseAnd I have my doubts about this job, of course, of investing in "a secure retirement" I may not have or need. I had my land in Alaska and an old sailboat down south. Music, art, isn't something you retire from. But I had to make a decision, so I did, and I decided to do this, so I'll follow through and get it done, and I go on from there. I won't be free till I get this done, so that is the only priority. Then I can walk away and basically act as if the house doesn't exist, focus on the music, on living my life, and think about what to do with this place in the long run, maybe in 5 or 6 years, when it is paid for. But I am too tired to think right now. Every ounce of energy is focused on getting through this, then I'll have time to think.

A lot of things slide, like this journal, and it's a pain. The deer destroy the garden and no time or money for fencing. Beyond the job at hand and the music, I produce nothing else, go nowhere, do try to keep up the minimum of communication with friends, check email once a week, keep the backlog down. But there's nothing I can do but keep focused, try not to let my wearness with the endless work and sheer tiredness lead me to get distracted, relax my focus. 11:30, dinner done, time to get back to work again for a couple hours.

But it will be done. Without any expectations, I am hoping to head to Florida in January, or March, at least have the house rented, even if I need to stick around and work the street just to have the money to go to Florida, where I need to work on the boat, which will also take money. Get back to Alaska next summer. It is starnge, as I can see myself repeating the retreat I made in 2012, trying to finally close the chapter and make plans for the next chapter, what it really means to "do more" with the music, with all my gifts. On and on.

And that is the story for now, and probably till next year rolls around, at this rate. Finally getting pictures pasted in and this entry ready to upload, at 2:30 am. It is Friday again, need to get some sleep and get up tomorrow and go play for another weekend.

A few final touches as I proofread while eating breakfast, then try to put in a few hours on the house before it is time to pack up the gear and go. I’ll surface from the street and the music on monday, and start on the house again. So it goes.

spacerDulcimer at night on a rain-wet waterfront

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