Friday, October 15, 2004

Advantages of growing older; one leaves the age of acquisition behind.

While checking out eBay this morning (the first steps at de-mystifying the process) I found myself momentarily caught up in click-shopping. Had no idea there were so many things in the world that I know longer want or need. Somehow over the past few years, I reached a place where there was simply nothing left to want that's buyable, that is. Except for the occasional purchase of something to feed my soul, like a piece of art or some cut flowers -- tickets to a play or dance concert, or the upgrading of my Mac from time to time -- having money holds little meaning now.

Then why on earth do I continue to have this need to be employed? Why is it so difficult to simply call myself retired and get on with it? Why do I equate independence with an adequate bank account? Of course, I do need to provide for Dorian as well as myself -- but that shouldn't take much - and I surely would hate to have to begin to think about senior housing, or, "assisted" living. I'm still far too capable and healthy and involved in life to want to separate myself off into that kind of isolation until it's absolutely necessary.

It may have to do with a wish to continue to be the bank of last resort for my kids. There's little else that I can provide for them now. And, given the state of the economy, they'll never have the advantages that Mel and I enjoyed as young parents. The total economy is skewed in favor of the elderly -- with little provided for the generation that follows. Poor planning, that.

I wonder why my generation functions as though it's the last? I wonder if it's related in any way to religious beliefs that have predicted Armegeddon since I was a child? How short-sighted. How else do we read current denial of global warming? How else are we to understand the abandonment of international treaties? It is as though my generation has every intention of using up all the remaining resources -- leaving every man, woman, and child a national indebtedness of $25,000 each. What with "The Rapture" about to arrive, who'll need to pay it anyway? How did it come to this?

There must be others who've also grown past the "age of acquisition," and who are as frightened at the state of this nation as I... If this new awareness is, indeed, a natural part of the aging process, then I cannot be alone. It suggests that the prevailing attitude as exhibited by the current administration is an aberration that rises not from my generation, but from the one that followed.

Since the engine that pulls capitalism is fed primarily by the acquisitiveness of young families (first homes, appliances, vacations, education, children's needs, cars and sports equipment), would it not be smart to see to those needs first and foremost?

Perhaps -- if I were an economist -- I'd better understand that I'm being simplistic. However, most truths that have withstood time for me have proven to be elegantly simple. There may be just the seed of such a truth here. I'm a bit too wise to believe that I've solved the problem (smile).

Now it's time to work on those fingertip callouses a bit. Nope, haven't clipped those nails yet. It may take a few more days to know whether I'm committed to the Muse. But I did make a trip to Tupper & Reed Music store in downtown Berkeley yesterday to pick up a jazz guitar book that looks promising. Even recognizing that there isn't enough time for mastery, I just might reach a reasonable level of mediocrity on my instrument. When I got to the counter to pay for my purchase the young woman asked if I wanted the teacher's discount(?). I said, "no." She obviously couldn't imagine that I was buying this for myself(!).

Just blasted another stereotype!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Received a quickie invitation (Sunday morning)

to have dinner with friends at the home of a woman who is slowly growing into the inner circle of my life of good friends. She's coordinating the city's arts programming. We became acquainted during the brief period when I served on the Arts Commission.

Jennifer called early in the day to say that Michelle had invited us to share an impromptu supper with her family, and that a few other friends might be there as well.

It was a do nothing evening with only Dorian to commune with, and she was busily working on a new bedspread. Her crocheted coverlets are piling up now, with each new and colorful piece begging for distribution. I've about decided to let her sell them on eBay, as soon as I can figure out just how one does that. I need to photograph them (beautiful!), and advertise online -- to see where that goes. I have the label created, "Global Warming" by Dorian Leon Reid. How's that?

We attended a reception in the rotunda of the Oakland City Hall last night. Dorian has a painting on exhibit that was getting some notice. She's now sold four pieces at NIAD over the past few months (okay, one was to her mother), with one of her large quilt-sized collages currently under consideration by a potential buyer.

But let's get back to Sunday evening:

It was very casual with the small group gathered randomly, some with wine or a dish to share, and all with warmth and "life!" There was music from somewhere, and I saw a young man enter with a guitar in hand and knew that there would be more than food and fellowship shared. There was.

When it seems right -- when the mood struck -- he brought it out and began to play his original compositions. Started with a blues and followed with art songs that sounded free-flowing, free-form, and possibly improvised on the spot. Fun!

For the first time in years, I asked to have turn, to recite the lyrics of a song written long ago, and did so while he strummed in the background. It woke the artist, and felt right. The words still rang true, and the emotions expressed still current. It was a moment I'll treasure.

Yesterday, before sitting down at my computer, I poked my old Martin out from its hiding place in the back of the closet; remembered seeing a packet of new strings somewhere ... found them in the bottom of a drawer, and went about the business of changing the much-corroded ones for new and resonant ones. Fingers quickly remembered the process -- stored in muscle memory, I'm sure. This was step one.

Fingernails on my left hand must be clipped close (what a sacrifice, since they are such a nice length and I've been nursing them along with diet supplements of collagen) and new callouses need to build up on my fingertips in order to press the chords ... it I take this detour... .

Still, I tuned up and gingerly started to send the signals from mind to fingers and the strings responded accordingly, and -- before tucking my beloved guitar away in its old hidingplace, I held it for awhile just remembering the times we'd shared. Ask any musician -- one's instrument becomes imbued with human attributes along the way, and ties between you are binding for life. And, by no stretch of the imagination would I consider myself a "musician." An artist, surely, but in an ill-defined way. A lyricist, a writer, a poet, maybe. A guitarist, never, but I've always sensed the potential -- if ever I applied myself to the effort to de-mystify the symbols and learn to stop being dependent upon a supersensitive "ear" that dictates where fingers need to be placed instead of the notes and chord symbols on the sheet. There was never a problem replicating the sounds in my head with the instrument in my arms. It made for great freedom in creating songs, but completely destroyed any ability to master the instrument.

My oh so sensitive therapist told me years ago -- when I wondered about the source of the songs that poured so effortlessly out of somewhere within -- "forget the lessons. Go with what your heart says. Those who create do so to make the map for others to follow. You must not limit the scope of the creative process by adherence to rules." Made sense of a sort, but said nothing about the frustration one experiences when the muse can't be evoked, and there is not the box of "tools" into which to dive at such moments. That may have worked for the likes of Jackson Pollock, but I'd have much preferred to emulate the artistry of a YoYo Ma who has such mastery that he can throw away "the book" and improvise with total freedom. Too late for that. Not enough time for "mastery," but the music may still be in my head and heart, and may still be accessible if... .

That was yesterday. Today I've toyed with the idea of clipping my nails. It's only a short step before the beginning of the building of the callouses on fingertips of left hand, an hour or so at a time - while those voices are being re-awakened ... .

Maybe the source of the music is still hidden somewhere behind my eyes. After that brief trip back in time on Sunday, sitting with other creative artists listening to their young souls, I may be ready to unwrap my own. Maybe a few more evenings with others with active muses will do the trick. Good reasons for creating some Sunday Salons where that can happen -- house-to-house? At the library? Community centers?

Maybe... .

And wouldn't you know that the "community organizer" part of my brain would enter just about now? Just in time to get in the way of the creative process, too (grin!)