10.13.2003

Sitting waiting out the digestive consequences of a McDonald’s burger and fries, Thai food and a shot of Bailey’s. Mix, stir lightly by walking a few blocks through Times Square, add a gig and simmer for a couple hours. Ugh. I don’t even think I need to make a rule against this concoction. I am CERTAIN I will never put all those things together ever again.

So I am productive while I wait and have decided to write my first journal entry in some time. I haven’t been writing lately for a lot of reasons. I think it started after the car accident we saw on our way to New York.

While we were driving, and rob was typing his journal entry – including my commentary and a chronological and detailed breakdown of events – I figured, why bother writing about MY perceptions of the same event when rob will do it better, more entertainingly, AND is including what amusing observations and semi-profound thoughts I had in the car while driving and unable to write them down myself? Besides, wouldn’t the repetition get boring for those reading up on the lives of their favorite traveling rock stars?

What’s funny is how I try to tell my own mother about things from the trip only to have this conversation repeated every time:

“So, Mom, insert-some-trivial-detail-about-my-misadventures-here-but-get-cut-off-right-about-here ….”

“Oh, yeah, I saw pictures.”

“Huh?”

“Oh, yeah, read the journal this morning.”

“Roight.”

And then there are some other reasons for my silence … residual hang-ups that are coming alive anew hanging out with Jayson and being surrounded by talented writers all confined in one apartment.

I feel like I’m losing my touch.

I was a good journalistic writer. I am an observer. A collector of details. I can make connections. These are characteristics that served me well in my journalism career, in my songwriting, and in my life. But suddenly I’m struggling and while I struggle I get frustrated that I don’t write with rob’s humor and world-wonder, but I don’t want to emulate him.

However, if he is the more entertaining writer and I am the fact-checker, shouldn’t I just let him tell the story while I make sure he doesn’t stray too far into wonderland? Isn’t that my better-suited purpose? I don’t think I bring enough new to the table to repeat the same coverage of the same events. What is my role?

So while I ponder the future of my literary life in melodramatic and self-pitying fashion, I will do what I do (best?) and give you my observations from the week:

I found myself looking at an appallingly massive housing project in the distance. Its tiny windows and faded brown-gray exterior had the visual effect of thousands of cubicles. I looked at the structure and it was a “project,” otherwise faceless, nameless and meaningless in my life. I did not see its denizens in my mind’s eye any more clearly than a minority blur. I thought of dark skin, of children, of the dim elevators and hallways of the building …

Of the absolute anonymity that building stood for. My understanding of it as a “project” obliterated all humanity from it.

And I started wondering if that wasn’t some sort of sub-intent of the architecture, of putting all those people together in such a way. There is the architectural necessity of building up to conserve space in a city, so of course it’s going to be tall. You need to house a large number of economically suffering people … so why not together and why not in relatively small apartments? But I wonder if an architect or a politician who helped the project into being also knew, counted on even, how dehumanizing the building would be. How its size would discourage people thinking they could master the problem of poverty or even make a dent, maintaining a class in servitude. If they saw those people as a faceless mass and erected a building as a monument to convey the same thing to countless generations of inhabitants and better-off onlookers because it’s just more convenient to house people that way, or because they were just that racist and classist.

I love people – from a distance, when I can make up lives for them after a limited encounter and the clues yielded from a shared subway train ride. There were three older black men who got onto the subway the other day. One limped in slowly with the help of a cane, flanked by the others. They seemed so slow and so tired. Their movements made them old.

The man with a cane turned to his left and quietly said, “Ready on the left?” The man to his left responded affirmative. It went down the same with the man to his right.

And then, with a spontaneity that was shocking, the three burst into a barbershop trio. The cane became a kick drum on the train floor, and hands, snares. They were really very good. When they were done, the man with the cane graciously requested donations from the crowd, saying they had lost their jobs and were doing what they could to make ends meet. Rob and I each handed over a dollar. They blended their “thank yous” into their song, in perfect timing and harmony, never missing a beat every time someone handed them a bill.

I imagined them friends since grade school. They fought playfully over girls in their youth and now their wives are all friends. The trio had gone to work together in one of those city industry jobs that always seems to disappear when the economy gets tight – they had even been laid off together. They sang in church together, on street corners for fun – why not in the subways for money?

And then I think of the woman in the subway weeks ago who looked like the painting. I spend weeks trying to remember the name of the artist, but I never even say hello to the subway woman. Hmmm.

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