Jersey Rain

The mattress I am sleeping on is indented, making me roll to the middle and discouraging stomach sleeping (my preferred nocturnal position). It is raining in rural Jersey, a dog is barking somewhere and it is 2:34am. The New England leaves are stupid beautiful right now and the temperature is ideal for my German/Irish/Nordic stock – light jacket weather. This is my second tour back on the road.

Tour can be disorienting, especially these week long whirlwinds – there is barely enough time to adjust to the time change, bipolar energy levels, fleeting moments on stage and epic car rides, new hosts, new beds, new kitchens to navigate, new bathrooms to find in the dark.. the uncertainty of resources and income takes its own particular toll as well, especially at this time. The shows in many ways are a wonderful homecoming; back in the groove, back to what I know how to do, the craft I have honed to its current level, acknowledgment from those who have been with me these 10 months, facing crowds of knowing eyes.. Being fully present on and off stage takes more energy, I am finding, but also has greater returns. I am a little dazed, and possessed by contemplation of this path I have evidently chosen without a wisp of a doubt.. When did I, the awkward kid with a stutter who did anything to stay under the radar, friend of the geeks and the underdogs, decide I was going to write songs and sing them in front of crowds of people and attempt to entertain and engage with them in a public setting?? Stage presence has not come easy to me and banter is still a major source of anxiety, yet I never questioned my choice of career path. I just suffered through the nerves and tried to figure out how to get better at it. It didn’t really feel like a choice at all, I don’t remember a conscious decision, I just kept walking in that direction, perhaps a little zombie-like. I look around and realize I am doing what I wanted to be doing, that I actually am that person I hoped I might be, warts and all. It’s a good thing I worked my ass off on letting go of the details of my aspirations, a torture I very consciously work to avoid (present tense). Braving the uncertain and shifting industry of music performance – economic churning seas, complete with whirlpools, sea monsters, icebergs and pirates – does not necessarily suit my worry-prone melancholic addictive constitution, but I am intuiting that by far, most of my fellows feel the same woes. One’s line of work, intensely personal and even spiritual as it is, remains dependent on the state of the outer world and community, no matter how autonomous we would like to feel. Everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum of passion to pragmatism; the steepest consequences reserved for those out on the poles. The quality of the work available is hopelessly dependent on our (mostly unconscious) community consensus. Unfortunately we are in it together, what we value will determine what we work for, and therefore, the tenor of our days. Here’s to trudging the road to happy destiny, and I say that with resolution and informed optimism. With true entrepreneurial spirit, I will go out to the marketplace with faith and hawk my wares.

It is reeeally late now, and tomorrow we see family and play in Philly. I feel like I have all this potential energy, kinetic creativity, building up and waiting for some spark of confidence or something to initiate its flow.. I don’t know what I’m waiting for, I yearn to write new songs, a book, an essay, something, I don’t know what, but I want to make something.. I wouldn’t call it a writer’s block, I think it would be more accurately described as a transition from creation as coping mechanism to creation as conscious expression. It’s the old artist’s saw – what do you write about when you aren’t in pain? How does one create from a place of balance? Why does one create from a place of balance? I am used to employing my excess emotional momentum to fling the work out, and its effect was more cathartic than anything else. Now that I am no longer in a state from which I need to cope, what do I have to say?


12 thoughts on “Jersey Rain

  1. Wow! Thank you. So I have written a song about you. Not the total you, which only you could know. But the you from where I sit, given all the posts you have dared…and have shared. It is old school and pedestrian. If you would like, I will do it up on garage band and forward if you give me an e-mail.
    Always wishing you the best.

  2. Ooh, now comes the fun part in writing, where you have the option of using your skills & imagination for telling other people’s stories! (Other people could even be past or future you) 🙂

    I totally hear you on the performing thing, I’ve told so many people how I’m shy to have them say, “But you’re a performer!!” Somehow it just matters enough to me to push through and get up there, to the point that now it’s usually fun, at least on the stages I’m used to!

  3. Joe, you have much to say. If you are not yet finding the other medium you seek, maybe its time hasn’t come yet. Maybe this is a time for waiting and learning and growing stronger. In time the beauty of who you are, and are becoming, will pour out of you. It already is. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  4. Joe, you continue to inspire me. Thank you.
    I woke up today to a low fog Humboldt Fall kind of morning and immediately, your song “These Gray Days” ran through my head.
    Transecting creativity with livelihood is an art until itself. I aspire to find that in my own journey.

  5. Joe,
    I recently got rid of my own saggy mattress. I felt like I was in the spoon rest, but perhaps a spoon flipped up-side-down.

    I’m a fine artist, creative guy, and dad… oh, and gay. I’ve got a loaded mind all the time, but what gets me going is family and friends. Scratch that, my happy-go-lucky family and friends. They bring out the best in me and I’ve found over the years, the energy was fulfilling for both my left and right brain. I know that makes sense to you.

    How does one create from a place of balance? Try something new. In design I explore different periods of art and/or apply a different technique. Physically, I’ve tried “bootcamp” (its awful unless your fit) and I took up pottery classes. Something that requires no words or computers… something new to me.

    When you aren’t feeling the pain to pull that inspiration, maybe think about those that are. When I design campaigns for my clients, I need to live and breathe their products and services so I can visually represent them on the page.

    I first met you guys while opening for the Indigo Girls concert (years ago!)in Harrisburg, then again at the Unitarian Church, Harrisburg last year(?). You guys played a song for me… Little Tree.. I know, not your fav, but it reminds me of my daughter.

    Feed your fire…YOU are stupid beautiful and I think you should go make something awesome. You’ve got it in you. Paul

  6. A most excellent rant….Stage presence and confidence? Mostly, no one knows HOW you’re really feeling behind your personal curtain. So if they don’t feel it, (anxiety, whathaveyou), you ain’t GOT it. Let it slide to the side, and step forward…I know not what songs you’ll write, but I’ll say this, young blood brother, you’ve got your essintial prose nailed… Love to the group from Uncle Rich.

  7. Write what you know – it’s pretty darned fascinating. (I just spent the last 2 days with “Ear to the Ground” in the CD player – your journey is more than amazing!)

    Alternatively, explore what you don’t know. That’s fascinating, too. Best of everything to you, Joe. The world is your oyster!


  8. Show in WV happening tonight??

    D. Layne Humphrey Sr. Research Coordinator Glaucoma Center of Excellence Wilmer – Johns Hopkins Hospital Sent from my iPhone

  9. Your last comments…. I feel that as of late also. In a new place of contentment, I find it hard to write. How odd too. I’m in the middle of intense schooling so I’m sure that doesn’t help me, so I’m trying to be accepting of the fact that creating may need to happen later… but please share if you discover a new method. It’s nice to read your process and thanks for being vulnerable enough to share with all. What a wonderful way to love others!

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