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Jun112006

« If You Had Asked Me 15 Years Ago »

ed in 1990 with his chrome premeier snare drum, posing for the senior portraitsPretty handsome if you excuse the glassesIf you had asked me 15 years ago what I would be doing in 15 years, I would not have answered that I would be helping to lay down organic soil, chicken manure, and worm castings in a backyard garden. Nor would I have said that I would be making dinner (tri-tip steak, "broccis with garlickys," and mash-taters) for my wife and friends. I wouldn't have thought that I'd be ignoring my precious drums in the garage. No, would not have said any of that. But really, back 15 years ago when I was standing out on the football stadium lawn at James Madison High School for the last official time, I didn't really know what I'd be doing at the end of the summer! It's been fifteen years now since I graduated. Damn. Tuesday, June 11, 1991 was a million years ago. It's hard to process it. There are the very tangible things I've done, and I don't know how much of it measures up against my peers, but then again, I hardly ever cared. Some of them probably wish they could live up to my experience.

I've recorded a few CDs. I've gotten married. I've been to Europe twice. I've traveled to Hawaii, Alaska, and toured the states for a few weeks at a time. I've been clinically depressed. I've been unemployed. I've worked too hard for one day, several days in a row. I've constructed fictitious relationships and watched them fall. I've owned two vehicles. I've lost grandparents. I've sort of lost parents too. I've gained a few parent figures in the process. I reconnected with my step mom. I've lusted for music and recording gear to fill massive voids in my life. I've patched up the voids in places and sold the gear. I've ignored the world. I've wanted to change the world. I've lived in six places now. I've had no love and then had conflicted love, then no love again, then great love. I've hated men and machines, and sometimes women too. I've kissed and made up. I've played drums under bridges and freeways, and in the middle of the night. I have no degree but I haven't let my lack of education get in the way of my intelligence which is at an all time high and climbing. I've killed my TV (maybe that's why I am smarter now?) I've killed a drum set. I have been on both sides of the law. I've worked shitty jobs for lots of money, but usually shitty jobs for not enough money. I've done great work that I demand to remain unpaid for. I've taken advantage of people. I've lied. I've stolen. I've used long words strung together in long paragraphs yet succeeded in saying nothing of use. I've bent notes. I've broken chords. I've raged. I've forgotten how to sign my name. I've been a trustee at my church. I've learned web design enough to hate it. I've had roommates enough to hate it. I've had more bass guitars than fingers on my hands. I've had a guitar I never paid for except to remodel it so extensively it's not the same as when I got it. I bought a green set of drums. I have lost some hearing because of it. I have used many different digital recording formats, being most productive and artistic on one of the most limited ones. I've smashed furniture. I've shoveled doggie lawn sausages. I've delivered pizza. I delivered tape stock. I've delivered meals for seniors. I've delivered impromptu speeches. I've moved furniture. I've lost my house. I've done almost three years of solo counseling, and that much couples' work too. I bought a suit for a gig and wore it about two times. I got fat. I've receded and gotten a little gray. I've never purchased a Grateful Dead record. I use soap instead. I've migrated politically from "yeah whatever" to something else that is hopefully more relevant. I smashed a cell phone on the street once. I've used porn. I've been "lucky" enough to be born in an age of madness-as-civilizational-progress. I've overseen the fall of Argentina. I've lost money in the stock market. I've endured one Bush presidency, and two Bush fascist regimes. I've smashed all my plastic models that once brought me great joy and adolescent fame. Drums and guitars are next. I've ridden my bike naked down the street. I've lost gigabytes after gigabytes of recording and computer data. I was briefly "father" for about five weeks but at least it was during the presidency of Bill Clinton. I have eaten a few cows worth of meat, but even more cows worth of cookies. I've worn both boxers and briefs, but not at the same time, and sometimes neither at the same time (!) I've thrown drumsticks at the wall in disgust and utter existential angst. I've smashed printers in disgust and existential angst. I hate Macromedia Flash. I have never smoked, but I do like my craft beers, or the old standby, Karl Strauss. I have mooched much alcohol in days of poverty. I have had "artistic differences" with heroes. I've bought some Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Rush, or Yes recordings three or more times. I've had long conversations. I've eaten sushi. I've worn the pants in the family (but prefer shorts if I must wear anything at all). I've lost friends to misplaced nationalistic comments which even I didn't really believe in. I've trolled on online forums. I've had under-the-gum deep scaling done and found it preferable to regular dentistry which still uses medieval tools of torture. I've worked on the sabbath. (But maybe it's okay since some weeks go by when I don't work at all.) I've lost God. I've found Kelli. (She led me back to the former.) I've smashed a bike onto the concrete. I've lived in sin. I once dressed as a woman to freak out my girlfriend at her high school band practice when I came to pick her up. You shoulda seen my tits! I ignored my grandmother when she fell. I've been greedy but never gambled. I've shaven my head a few times. I was reviewed in a couple music papers. I've pirated music and software and soft drinks. I've been a bad businessman. I've never recouped my investment on gear, and now just want to heave it off a cliff into the ocean but refrain because that might be environmentally unfriendly. I've had friends die of cancer and drug deal murders. I've had family members sacrifice me for monetary gain or write me off as dead. I've blown inheritances but did some better than others. I've listened to more than one side of some stories but will probably never "get it" because I was born a white Christian male in America, ca. late 20th century. Robert Fripp once tapped me on the shoulder and whispered sweet nothings in my ear. I've collected pigs. I've said really ignorant things about people who carry on like pigs. I've damaged vehicles due to carelessness. I've worked at Subway on two occasions, and have been robbed at gunpoint a few times. I took "a couple years off from school" that turned into ten years away. I've painted lots of rooms in my house, a few times. I did a telemarketing job for two days. I have cried. I have lost myself in utter joy. I get verklempt. I like movies about nuclear war. I love The Deer Hunter, Babe, American Beauty, To Kill a Mockingbird, Office Space, Forrest Gump, and Shawshank Redemption. I rip off Robert Fripp in an act called a "Frippoff." I don't believe in the virgin birth but I believe it was the most magnificent thing ever. I was investigated by police once for approximating the physical description of a streaker who shocked some womenfolk at my apartment complex. I've had food fights. I've watched more Rockola, Steve Vai, and top-40/dance band shows than is healthy. I've written songs about the meat processing industry, suburban failure, abortion, anachronistic disco lovers, and one about "when pigs spoke rhyme." I've moved house in two hours, under extreme stress. I've played guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, percussion, vocals, electronic gizmotchies of all sorts, and most of all, COWBELL! I've worked for charity. I've used eBay, but never bought anything off Amazon. I've stayed up all night. Or all day. Or all day and night. I've written page after page of tortured artist journals, and would like to burn them, but the EPA would get on my case for it. I've eaten many a burrito, sometimes two in one day. Burrito consumption might be rivaled by burger consumption. Now it's leveling off with broccoli consumption. I've taken the bus, bike, and have walked, but mostly I stay home now. I've worked for the man, but have also worked for the woman, and found that she wasn't much better. I walked off three jobs in eight months. I've smashed my finger in a car door. Then I painted my nails for the rest of the summer. I never drink coffee. I never use drugs. I've boycotted McDonalds since 1989, Wal Mart since 1996, and other places get my "treatment" too. I have consistently raised my GPA since starting high school. I watched Pink Floyd's The Wall just yesterday, for the first time.

I'm sure there is more, but I wouldn't want to bore you. Nor do I want to provoke the fascists. All this I've done since I graduated fifteen years ago. I don't know if I learned all this in high school. Some of it I did. Some I learned in kindergarten (like how to be mean to people, and to expect my way). I certainly didn't learn to eat my broccoli in kindergarten. A lot of this they don't teach in school. I won't badmouth the school experience like some, though I can understand the sentiments in things like The Wall. Oh, I've been damaged by the system too, but whenever I can, I stay clear of it. I'm finding my way out of debt (school debt—the consumer stuff was nuked earlier), and I am trying to stay minimally employed so I can retain the rightful use of my soul for more productive purposes. Maybe I relate to Forrest Gump because my life has sort of been like the feather on the breeze, but somehow, it's got some purpose. I've come to find the purpose of life is just to live it. Rises, falls—it's all part of the pageant. Pain is a reminder that I'm alive. It happens. Today, (chicken) shit happened. So did peeling potatoes and cooking my broccoli. So did missing my alarm before church. So did sitting at a boring ass church trustee meeting. But then so did talking to Tara at church for an hour in the parking lot. Arguments happen. But so does love, if you let it. I guess I fell out of love with forcing myself to be something I can't be. I think about it—the same question gets posed to me now as then when I graduated. So, what do you want to be when you grow up?

After I get done crossing off the list of things I've tried to do but never really did well—web designer, multi-instrumental musician/composer, pizza delivery man, sound man, sandwich jock, etc. —I sort of have to settle with my simple answer: "Me. I want to be me." They don't teach that in any classroom. Only facets of that can be learned.

My moniker is The Artist Presently Known As Ed. I've used it for ten years now, this summer. It came about while I was wearing my musician hat. I sort of kept it along while I turned to visual computer based art and websites. Now, it seems a little misplaced being that I don't really do much of either now, if at all. But life itself is art, and I gotta make my composition, my collage somehow. What else could I possibly be if not for me? I guess I could carry on being a Dilbert, but why? Why did I find my bliss in making 25 wheelbarrow trips of dirt from front yard to back yesterday when the day before I was ready to throw not one but two computers off the cliff? Is it any wonder? Some things draw the life out of a person. Some put it back in. Right now, situated where I am, how I am, I don't wonder about money and "stuff" except to wonder how I can finally get rid of my albatross. In fact, it's corrupting influence in my life is not welcome now. Been there, done that. Alienation. Not cool anymore. The world will not work that way any longer. That isn't to say it ever really did. But now that I have watched my family collapse in a fit of zero-sum greed and loathing, and all sorts of dysfunction, I want something different. If I don't do that, I may as well curl up and die. Been there, done that too.

Finding one's self is sort of like sculpting from rock. Somehow, Michaelangelo had to know or believe there was a David in the rock. Similarly, I guess I have to know there is an Ed in the rock which I was dealt, and piece by piece, chiselstroke by chiselstroke, I will find that Ed. I just hope that when I find that Ed, I don't find that that Ed is made of rock. If that was the case, I would really have found my father instead. And that would be unacceptable. But maybe that big rock contains an Ed with some soft nougaty core.

Sometimes I lament the lack of a degree because to the outside world, I have not played the game, but often I do allow myself to marvel at how I have dodged some of the terrors of my time—getting locked into an endless cycle of working to consume, working to be in debt, working to destroy one's life while calling it progress. I get drawn into it sometimes, but more times than not, I can cite my short term jobs and declare that most of them never really made me a career slave to the system. There are pitfalls for not playing the game, but because somehow I never bought into the whole bourgeois American Dream of house and cars, I don't need to push myself through all that shit. And it is shit, but not fertile shit. It's my hope that while some of my peers are clamoring to get ahead and using others as ladder rungs, but facing divorce and other life disasters, I might be quietly making my marriage better, and perhaps learning things I would never take the time to learn if all I had to do was work then take my work home with me. Marriage to me is the cornerstone of my world view now. It's not an adjunct that is added onto my career. It's the proving ground for bigger and better things. It's the place where growth can take place. It's the place where healing can take place. (Fixing dinner tonight for wife and friends and working on a shared garden is a far cry from Thanksgiving 1999 when me and my family met total collapse.)

So what do I want to be when I grow up? A human. A real life human with feelings, a conscience, and consciousness of things around me. In some ways, that makes me different. And that's not all so bad. I guess I want to be different like all the other different people out there. But I'm not so hip to being dysfunctional. That I could do without. Been there. Done that.

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