I’ve been hanging out with those red-eyed cicadas lately. I live near Princeton University, so I go into town to grab a coffee and read a book in one of about a hundred perfect reading spots. Park for free at the municipal lot. Don’t give that town any more money! There’s even a set of publicly accessible rocking chairs that I can direct you to if you buy me a drink or tell me I’m handsome or that you like one of my songs.
When I’m not going to college, I LOVE going to college!
I’m drawn to these bugs and I’m not sure why. I like watching them launch themselves into the sky erratically, like somebody slightly misfiring a cannon. With my COVID year having been preceded by about eight years of lengthy and sometimes overlapping family crises, I can relate to the feeling of being stuck underground and wanting to propel myself into a new life.
It was supposed to be New Orleans. My sister and our (howdy) pardners. Palm trees out the hotel windows. Lizards dropping their tails into our incredibly strong cocktails while we’re not looking. Three meals a day each made with four sticks of butter.
Look, we might not have actually SURVIVED the trip as we envisioned it...
But the idea was, if we have to suffer the death of our mom, having suffered the death of our dad only a year-and-a-half earlier, then we also have to enjoy ourselves like ourselves had never been enjoyed before.
That was February 2020...
I am working on chord sheets for a performance in August. Looking at the old, old, old songs, I feel comforted. It’s a young guy hanging around the gardens, keeping to himself, wanting some excitement, not knowing where to find it, kinda feeling blissed-out anyway. He doesn’t have any evidence that he should believe in himself (and the guidance counselor sure didn’t), but he just does. The music keeps playing in his head and he thinks somebody else might want to hear it, too.
The guy in those songs is about twenty years old. Even with all the chaos of the intervening years, I still feel the same way when I go back to those gardens. I know I’m not a clean slate now and I wasn’t then either, but I also know that most of the best things that happen to me will happen because I dreamed myself doing something bigger and better than others might dream on my behalf.
The guy in those songs took two buses to college and then two buses to the shoe store where he sometimes laid on the bathroom floor because of his back pain and then he walked home because he didn’t have a car and was too petrified to drive, anyway. And then four years later, he was playing a set of original songs with a great rock band in New York City. I’m not saying that anyone had ever heard of our band or that we came home with any money, but we DID play and it WAS great and it was a LONG way from that bathroom floor in Fairless Hills.
The manager of that shoe store, incidentally, was POSITIVE I was doing drugs in his bathroom. Look, JOHN, it’s possible to be shaggy-haired and horrendously introverted
and NOT on drugs. JOHN!
I hope John is doing well. As for Payless, I’ve outlived them and I intend to outlive every business that ever paid me five or six dollars an hour. Fa-huck AHYAHOOOOO! I’M COMING FOR YOU, CVS!
Anyway, now I’m looking at the Count The Colors songs. I’m shocked that I committed some of these thoughts to paper - and then ultimately to your mailbox and the world’s biggest streaming services. But it’s honest. Couldn’t have more heart and soul.
Even the stuff that’s the most difficult emotionally... I can’t help but think that it could be useful for someone else. So many times I felt fully disconnected from the human race until the right song came on and showed me that, yes, someone else has felt these feelings and thought these thoughts. They felt that way during track five, but by track nine, they were on top of the world.
Hang in there, our favorite music seems to say, ‘cause you might be four songs away from greatness.
Back to the cicadas. Brandon Wall tweeted, "I am also looking forward to emerging from the shell of my former self and spending all summer outside screaming."
The thing is, we can’t be EXACTLY like these sex-crazed Brood X cicadas if we don't want to be dead in a couple weeks. So we’ve got to pick and choose the traits we want to emulate.
Me, I want to
1). shed some skin
2). have red eyes
3). spend the summer outside screaming with my friends
But then I get so many compliments about my eyes as they are... hmmm...
Anyway, the last chord sheet I worked on today was for my song “You Don’t Have A Map.” I wrote this on my way to a Syrrah show at Philly’s North Star Bar (R.I.P.) in January 2012. It is one of my theme songs. It is about being bold enough to look beyond the limitations of your current circumstances and visualize your best self living your best life, wasting no time, wasting no gift.
How the fuck does a cicada know the exact number of years to hide out to avoid its predators? How is the cicada more sure of what a prime number is than I am? Did the cicada expect some sweaty dork in a Neil Young shirt to be photographing it when it finally emerged after seventeen years underground?
I’m getting away from the point. Instinct! Is the point. Instinct. We’ve lost so much, but I can’t help but believe that great things are coming, especially to those who are motivated by a desire to use their gifts to make the world a little better.
I like what music does to a room. Plus, I’m startin’ to git good. I’m gonna keep musicing. It makes people feel good.
Just, please, for Gad’s sake, please don’t be alarmed if I show up to the gig with red eyes. I already warned you about that a couple paragraphs ago. Besides, I wouldn’t be the first musician to show up with red eyes, anyway.