This isn’t my first blog post of the new year, but it may as well be.
Roughly this time last year, I was rediscovering music: its past importance to me, its significance in The Turnaround, its role in my every day. And, partnered with a very personal need to journal again, I spun what I thought might have been the best pieces of the Idle Time site into threads of what I’d hoped to be something new, or, at least, something of the new me.
If that sounds directionless and vague, it was. Which is unfortunate, in a sense, because the last thing I’d wanted as a hallmark of my twenty-fourteen was a lack of direction. But as it turned out, moving forward — or backward, or sideways, or whatever direction the wind, song, or Sunday required — without my mind constantly fixated on the What’s Next was the best thing for me.
2014 was a year of being in the present. It was my most introspective, self-realizing year, built up from the ashes of a year I’d hoped to soon forget.
So what were my key discoveries in one year of in-the-moment musical experiences? Reviewing my blogposts since last March, and it seems like a lot more of the old: pseudo-reviews of albums; buzz-passing from one posted songstream to another; grainy phone pics from dimly lit shows. I’m happy to see that something else developed along the way. I’ve lauded MI’s Holy Bee blog series This Used To Be My Playground as a touching memoir of my friend’s formative years, expertly soundtracked with the tunes of his era. Every Dragging Handclap might well be described as the rough draft or the on-set dailies of something I might one day reflect upon and commit to prose. It wouldn’t be anywhere as good as what he’s chronicled, but it’d certainly be the story of a formative time in my own life.
I used to create busyness. Idle Time was anything but idle. It was one project after another, and the deliverables, as intangible and inconsequential as they might have been, were imbued with a sense of great importance. It was easy to lose sight of why I championed Top 20 lists or hosted costumed athletic events.
So at the end of this past year, when I spoke with some of the guys in the treehouse, and the discussion came around to compiling another List, it was interesting to see an absence of urgency. Not because we had already taken a two-year hiatus and the extended break seemed to give way to a permament one, but more because the two-year hiatus allowed us all, myself especially, to reflect upon what we had been doing in the first place. And why.
We wanted to share music, certainly. That hasn’t changed. This blog is full of stuff I’d been excited about. But what we really value is sharing of ourselves. Not so much the music that we took so personally — album choices that we’d near come to blows over in the past — but the personal discoveries and associated growths that so often accompanied those discoveries.
I’ve spent an enormous amount of time this year learning about myself. My connection to music has been only one small part of that. But through the weeks and months of this blog, and through the end-of-the-year discussions I had with WH and RF, I was pleased to see how much of that restorative focus on the present, and on myself, came through in the songs, albums, and concert experiences of 2014.
Case in point: Hundred Waters. Their ’14 album, The Moon Rang Like a Bell was an honorable mention on WH’s list. On his recommendation, I went to see them at Great American this past Saturday night. I spent no time pre-drafting a review. Never once considered sending a Tweet. Only near the end of the show, when I thought this whole weekend might be worth thinking and writing about, did I even bother trying to take a picture. It’s easily the shittiest show photo I’d taken in the last twelve months.
The show was decent enough. Atmospheric to a fault, but I’m able to enjoy all manner of music given the right crowd and right company. It strikes me that shoegazing has given way to glovegazing, so to speak, as so many new electronic bands weave these fuzzy soundwalls with waist-high synthesizers and nary a guitar in sight. But I remained in the moment. Maybe the entire night. No planning, no orchestrating, and no preliminary attempts at ranking or comparing.
Less than twenty-four hours later, I was watching the sun set in Carmel. I’d been on that beach many times before, and seemed to recall every me that had been there. Every situation, every conception, and every anxiety or heartache that I thought the natural beauty was cleansing from my psyche. But how many times had I really just enjoyed where I was, and who I was with? No resolutions, no determinations. Just today. Just me. Just you and wherever else we end up.
Where we ended up next was Big Sur and that “sonofabitch bridge” along the coast. Bloody Marys at Nepenthe, swallowed up so completely in the mist that it felt as though we were captive in a lightbulb. I was reminded of how much I used to love reading Kerouac and then feeling guilty about reading Kerouac and then re-discovering Kerouac’s beautiful sadness and mid-century madness with the one novel in the Dulouz Legend that I’d never gotten around to. Big Sur, of course. And I bought bookmarks. This is where I am, at present.
And two miles into a twelve-mile trail that wound through the Land of the Dinosaurs. Ancient ferns, giant clover, and the sighs of something-assic boulders spilling just enough water into the valley. Everything but those two-foot long bugs that used to give me nightmares as a kid.
There are a thousand more of these, at least. Ten thousand days, easily, of days spent rapt in the present. With music, with wine, with love and with time. Time to be happy and be calm. Time enough for sunsets upon sunsets and a healthy dose of fog machine in between.