Request for sidebar October 4, 2010 6:26 AM   Subscribe

This comment from sonascope is unacceptably amazing.

I have lots of stuff to do I can't sit around re-reading his fantastic story all day with something in my eye. At least sidebar it please so everyone else can be equally distracted.
posted by Potomac Avenue to MetaFilter-Related at 6:26 AM (89 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

Flagged as fantastic, yes.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:29 AM on October 4, 2010


Before the years out, I think sonascope is going to have enough material for a smallish book of personal essays.

And I challenge anyone who tells me Citroen can't build a car
posted by Think_Long at 6:36 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, it sure is.
posted by OmieWise at 6:38 AM on October 4, 2010


tl;dr
posted by hermitosis at 6:38 AM on October 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


That comment is causing an interface error for me. I'm only able to favourite it once.
posted by atrazine at 6:38 AM on October 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


thanks for pointing that out, I'm not sure i would have gone back to that thread again to find it.
posted by HuronBob at 6:44 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why isn't this dude working as a professional writer? Somebody call David Eggers, and get him a job at McSweeny's!
posted by schmod at 6:56 AM on October 4, 2010


I mean.. that comment was so good that I had trouble reading because I was too excited about how clever the writing was:

...and the organ sat there, a boxed chorus of angels waiting for a new day to sing.

...which made a luscious mechanical clack with a trailing aftertone of a tapped wine glass.


Awesome.
posted by pwally at 6:59 AM on October 4, 2010


I cried... I identify with it alot.

My dad has a 65 Chevelle convertable that he's been 'working on' for about 25 years now. He'll probably never get it on the road.
posted by empath at 7:03 AM on October 4, 2010


I don't understand this callout. The comment was fine!
posted by Ironmouth at 7:10 AM on October 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


sonascope, thanks for that story. It was beautiful.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:16 AM on October 4, 2010


on the other hand, nomadicink's comment at the end was probably meant for a different thread.

posted by Ghidorah at 7:17 AM on October 4, 2010


My god, that was amazing.
posted by padraigin at 7:19 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I should think so, Ghidorah. Heh. Nixed!
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:22 AM on October 4, 2010


That was fab - thanks for pointing it out!
posted by gomichild at 7:24 AM on October 4, 2010


It's that kind of comment that makes me want to start writing fiction again.

Wait. No it doesn't. Fantastic story, nonetheless.
posted by slogger at 7:27 AM on October 4, 2010


It's that kind of comment that makes me want to start writing fiction again.

I had precisely the opposite reaction.
posted by empath at 7:31 AM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow I hadn't researched sonascope's favorites history before posting this...If I had I would have realized that he's already had a comment side-barred recently, as well as several others that clearly deserved to be.

I change my vote to INSTA-BAN. This dude is making the rest of us look lazy. Quit ruining the story curve jerkface!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:55 AM on October 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


The more I'm around here, the more I love that guy.
posted by Shohn at 8:01 AM on October 4, 2010


Yeah, he should write a book.
posted by empath at 8:04 AM on October 4, 2010


to be fair most of the comments by sonascope are pretty amazing.
posted by The Whelk at 8:12 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


That comment is causing an interface error for me. I'm only able to favourite it once.

Heh, yes, here's my pony request: change favorite status from binary to floating point, so I can 3.4E+38 favorites sonascope's comment.
posted by FishBike at 8:13 AM on October 4, 2010


Also, I agree. He makes us look bad and should be stopped.
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuck yes. Sidebar. I've still got tears on my cheeks.
posted by Ahab at 8:23 AM on October 4, 2010


I loved that comment. We've already sidebarred sonascope once, maybe twice. I try, in some sort of weird way, to put people other than the usual suspects on the sidebar so it doesn't become just a list of the same [awesome] commenters making awesome comments. I was also going to mention him in the ericb thread as well but didn't want to make a comment prasing someone from my phone [typo laden and rushed]. So this is as good a place as any to say, yeah, it's been wonderful to read his stuff. He's a treasure. My favorite comment of his that didn't go on the sidebar was probably this one... [*gets lost looking for the "I was a 300 lb stripper"* comment] hmm, can't find it, so here are a few others

- border guards and the security blanket
- "All the fancy showboating over-engineering in the world can't beat a simple, useful, durable machine that lasts almost forever, rarely breaks, and which does a variety of jobs very well."
- "I had a terrible childhood, with awful parents who did me wrong, but I've rewritten that piece of my own mythology, based on the prevailing research. I wonder how far out of the norm I fall for people convinced their childhood was an awful, unfair time." (related)
- sleepwalking

Oh wait, here's that stripper story.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:27 AM on October 4, 2010 [68 favorites]


That stripper story is my favorite too.
posted by The Whelk at 8:40 AM on October 4, 2010


Jesus, that comment is beautiful, poetic, amazing. I have to admit, it did get me a little choked up too and I don't drive or give a damn about cars, but what an amazing personal story.
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:44 AM on October 4, 2010


Missed the stripper story until you pointed it out. Thank you, Jessamyn.
posted by zarq at 9:06 AM on October 4, 2010


Rare is the human that can so aptly put into words a feeling so many of us have shared in so many myriad ways, and make us remember our own Citroen stories. Well done good sir.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:06 AM on October 4, 2010


He perfectly captures my relationship to the stuff I have that was once my mom's, or is tied to her somehow. It's not something that one can dismiss as "sentimental value." It's...

See, maybe sonascope can put into words exactly what I mean, because I sure has hell can't do it.
posted by rtha at 9:17 AM on October 4, 2010


That stripper story is fantastic, and totally not what I was expecting.

Is there a Nobel Prize in commenting?
posted by sonika at 9:36 AM on October 4, 2010




I did not cry, because I am a robot, but I would have.
posted by pwally at 9:55 AM on October 4, 2010


He's got a lovely singing voice too.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:59 AM on October 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


I loved the stripper story and the Citroen one is just so freakishly well-done. He doesn't make me want to write though. I could never be that good or thoughtful or eloquent.

I am now having fan-like feelings toward sonascope.
posted by zerbinetta at 10:08 AM on October 4, 2010


Jesus, I too had never put together "the sonascope pastiche." Is there some way we can put together some kind of, like, scholarship for him? An author-in-residence program?

What would it take to get a book of his writing published with "Brought to you by Metafilter" printed tastefully but discretely on the cover?
posted by ErikaB at 10:12 AM on October 4, 2010


good writing and the dresden bombing argument was spot on.
posted by clavdivs at 10:19 AM on October 4, 2010


sonascope, you should definitely write a memoir.
posted by torticat at 10:23 AM on October 4, 2010


wait so what happened to the mouse
posted by jtron at 10:43 AM on October 4, 2010


+1 request for sonascope to write something long-form. Great stuff.
posted by naju at 10:52 AM on October 4, 2010


Wow, checked him out on facebook. 1 mutual friend.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:03 AM on October 4, 2010


I've been waiting for a sonascope call-out. I couldn't make one myself because I'm too embarrassed that, while our comment counts are close to even, I haven't actually said even a tenth of what he has here. And I'm not talking about sheer length - His comments are so beautifully crafted. Every sentence has impact.
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:22 AM on October 4, 2010


This comment from sonascope is unacceptably amazing.
posted by John Cohen at 12:29 PM on October 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is there some way we can put together some kind of, like, scholarship for him? An author-in-residence program?

Yes, there is a deadline of December 1st for a 4 week residency application at the Bellagio Center on the shores of Lake Como, Italy next summer.

I was there in a workshop for three days a couple of years ago. It made me want to write.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:48 PM on October 4, 2010


I would buy that memoir! I would then loan it to my mother.
posted by NoraReed at 1:14 PM on October 4, 2010


if sonascope is ever outed as a fake, the wailing and gnashing of teeth from this board will be audible in... whatever place is far away from the Internet.
posted by jtron at 1:18 PM on October 4, 2010


Yeah. Memoir, man.
posted by killdevil at 2:37 PM on October 4, 2010


I printed it out. I want to use it in my Freshman Lit class as an example of contemporary creative non-fiction. Do I need permission?
posted by madred at 3:05 PM on October 4, 2010


Actually, I think I can do a mashup of all his comments and put together a memoir. I would pass it off as my own, but no one would ever buy that I'm a middle aged gay man who once sang opera and loves French cars.

He's on his own.
posted by madred at 3:12 PM on October 4, 2010


It's a bot that mashes up Alice Munro with McSweeney's. Kill it with fire, I say.
posted by Rumple at 3:13 PM on October 4, 2010


Jeez, I'm not sure what to say. Someone had to point me in this direction because I'm not real smart about the outer reaches of MetaFilter. After a long weekend of mopping a flooded clocktower, mediating a territorial battle between studio artists, and going out for breakfast and a few hours of French car gossip, only to return to find that my dogs had tunneled through my sofa for the sixth time (I am the master of the blanket stitch at this point), it sure is nice to hear that you folks enjoy what I've been writing.

It's sad that I had to actually had to look up "tl;dr," but it's probably on the money and I do worry that I'm prattling on a little too much, but it's just my speed, alas. I always feel sort of like a leech on MetaFilter because I have never managed to come up with an FPP that doesn't break the rule of being directly connected to the issue, and I'm also in a sort of writing frenzy because my working life has finally settled down again after a few years of flux and mutation, so I do tend to go on.

I've been writing on livejournal for nine years, but something's changed there, something in the vibe of the place, or the non-place, whatever you want to call it. I'm still writing there, just not so much, and mostly friends-only, because I'm now representin' for a large and conspicuous nonprofit and I'm not supposed to share my stories about how I briefly ended up as an MC for antebellum-themed bukakke parties in a local firehouse bingo hall. There are a few recent ones I can link, though:

About wrecking my scooter in March, which is all meta and ironic because I'd posted cranky comments about table saw safety hardware, then gone out and dropped my scooter after feeling all old man smug (I recanted, to some extent, within the thread).

About old dog & new dog and the new dog, a little later.

About my poet mentor/antagonist/patient who died in January.

About antagonizing my dad with Mrs. Beasley and a talking bear.

The livejournal stuff is always a little off-the-cuff and full of insider references that only made sense if you'd been reading for a while, but I wrote about three thousand pages worth of stupid little stories about my life there, so now it's sort of where I go to harvest pieces to expand into bigger things.

The thing is, I think I really should have been a puppeteer, because I get really shy and awkward about being out there and doing any kind of promotion. People tell me I should try to get stuff published, and I've had a few things in print locally, but I really don't know what to do with the thousands of pages of this stuff I've written. I left the government subcontracting business in 2004 and spent two years working as a freelance building contractor and editing my manuscript in-between, but that kind of large-scale editing isn't my strong suit and I spent two years essentially draining all the life out of a manuscript for a book that'll be called Scaggsville if it ever gets into print somehow. I read about Ralph Ellison doing sort of the same thing, which is what made me start writing with typewriters again.

I've got a website and have been trying to figure out where to go next, but that's just not my strong suit, unfortunately. I'd rather just sit and write and occasionally stand up on a stage and tell stories with my own music and field recordings as a soundtrack. If anyone has any pointers, I'll be more than happy to thank the hell out of them in every venue I can find.

Thanks so much, too, for all the kind words and the patience with my increasingly-frequent tangential rambling. MetaFilter is a forum I find I love more and more because it's just so full of people who don't mind reading, don't mind exploring, and don't mind a little cantankerous back and forth with far less idiot rancor than any other forum I've ever found.

For the record, I had my friend pull over just north of the Maryland border and I took the little box with the field mouse and her babies in it down into a gully and found a place for them in the rocks there where there was a nice rich leafy mulch, trying to find a little hidey-hole that a fox couldn't easily get into. I hope they're okay.
posted by sonascope at 3:18 PM on October 4, 2010 [43 favorites]


I was totally a fan of sonascope before it was cool,
posted by The Whelk at 4:21 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I actually quite prefer his earlier comments.
posted by philip-random at 4:43 PM on October 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I briefly ended up as an MC for antebellum-themed bukakke parties in a local firehouse bingo hall

I AM LIVING MY LIFE WRONG
posted by hindmost at 5:13 PM on October 4, 2010 [13 favorites]


I ♥ sonascope.

An incredible writer!

Worthy of praise here and elsewhere.
posted by ericb at 5:20 PM on October 4, 2010


You, sir, are a writer.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:03 PM on October 4, 2010


I was totally a fan of sonascope before it was cool

Yeah, back in the day I used to go to see sonascope at these antebellum-themed bukakke parties in a local firehouse bingo hall. The place was so obscure & underground that not even the fire department knew it existed, and the old biddies would only be allowed in to play bingo if they had the correct brand of insider-knowledge-only oversized bingo marker.

For bukkake nights, we had to dress up in blue-rinse wigs & pretend we were going to play bingo, which confused the police no end - not only did they wonder why there were groups of youngsters in the neigbourhood streets in these outlandish wigs & sensible shoes; they also racked their brains trying to work out whether the bingo markers were evidence of a new kind of glue-sniffing craze. Obviously, they had no idea that the hall existed either, or they might have been able to put two and two together.

Nowadays, I see that sonascope is doing his stuff on community weblogs. It's good that he's reaching a wider audience, but boy do I miss those old times: the wigs, the faux patent leather handbags, and the pearl necklaces.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:20 PM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was totally a fan of sonascope before it was cool

I have just been a fan since jessamyn recommended him the first time.

Which is why it is important to read all of the Meta's. You wind up having to skim past a lot of stupid jokes and other junk but many times you find a gem.
posted by mlis at 6:58 PM on October 4, 2010


the outer reaches of MetaFilter

Outer reaches? MeTa is the moist nougatty goodness at the core of the site!

the secret ingredients of nougat, of course, are snark, spite, over-sensitivity, and flameouts.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:27 PM on October 4, 2010


and schmoopy! There's a little schmoopy in meTa, too, or we wouldn't none of us be in this here thread.
posted by rtha at 7:36 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


and schmoopy!

I hate that word.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:01 PM on October 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


But we love the feeling
posted by The Whelk at 8:22 PM on October 4, 2010


level up for love dude
posted by The Whelk at 8:23 PM on October 4, 2010


Sonascope: My Anti-Twitter.
posted by schmod at 8:42 PM on October 4, 2010


Hold onto the hagiography, I have shocking news. It's obvious from his comments that he subscribes to a deviant lifestyle most of us here simply don't approve of.

He's subtle in his intimations, letting drop a reference here or there, but I'm onto his counter-culture agenda. The codewords, the fashion, the involvement with French industrial design.

It's quite clear he's a steampunk.

I, for one, will pray for an intervention from on high before he uses his serpent's tongue to lure children into buying Raleigh 3 speeds and mustache wax.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:02 PM on October 4, 2010


It's cool, jessamyn already replaced 1/3 of his favorites with favourites, so it balances out.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:25 PM on October 4, 2010


"mopping a flooded clocktower"
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:31 PM on October 4, 2010


Sure, I enjoy comment fables, stolen porn, and a man who can sew a good blanket stitch as much as the next person.

But when someone so eloquently expresses as much love for my home state as I got, well, I get all schmoopified. Sonascope, you totally take me back to coming of age in Maryland and remind me how special a place it is, and for that I thank you!!!
posted by sarahnade at 10:55 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't have to click the link to know it was a Citroen DS, because of this line:

"...And, well, there I stood, with the Citroën finally groaning and rolling into place..."

Nothing groans like a poorly-maintained goddess air suspension. As someone who's never had the pleasure of owning one, and who lusted after the entire parking lot full of 'em (in various states of disrepair) back in the late 80s in or near Forest Glen (long gone now), I envy you for having owned one at all.

and if you ever find a good runner, let me know
posted by davejay at 11:06 PM on October 4, 2010


The Whelk: "Sonascope is part indian princess from outer space ...on his mother side."

This is funny as hell and poignant to boot, warm fuzzers and laughter all mixed up and stuff, great, great fun, invest a few minutes in your happiness and listen/watch this great reading by sonoscope.

sonoscope, if you don't put a book out, or if you do, you could also broadcast yourself, and no I don't know where or how but ... This American Life? Ira Glass, are you wanting a great show?

Thanx for a wonderful evening, sonsoscope, reading and listening here on a wonderful chill Austin autumn night.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:21 PM on October 4, 2010


Oh gosh I really really shouldn't have read that piece about your old dog and new dog, sonascope. If you'll excuse me I think I'll go give my own dog a good scratch behind the ears now. *sniffle*
posted by misozaki at 3:18 AM on October 5, 2010


It's quite clear he's a steampunk.

I cannot let this outrageous calumny stand.
Sonascope is NOT a steampunk, he's the real incarnation of what they wish they were. People hate on steampunk because of its artifice and superficiality, I am confident that no-one who writes so movingly about finely made machines would glue a pointless gear onto something. In one of his comments he even rages against the kind of people who destroy perfectly good typewriters to make kitsch jewelery out of the keys.
posted by atrazine at 3:59 AM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have met a great many raconteur and monologists right here on Metafilter - perhaps an evening of live storytelling is due? We can call it IT CAME FROM THE INTERNET or something.
posted by The Whelk at 5:48 AM on October 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


sonascope is like the Old Spice Guy of Mefi. "Look down! Back up! What is it? A wry essay about that time I taught the ambassador of Sri Lanka the true meaning of Diwali. What's in your hand? Back at me! I have it: it's an engaging recap of the summer I learned how to sculpt butter at the Iowa State Fair, and what that showed me about the spirit of the Midwest. Look again: the butter story is now a fascinating explanation of the history of freediving as seen through the lens of the senior year I spent exploring flooded diamond mines in rural South Africa!"
posted by Rhaomi at 8:14 AM on October 5, 2010 [18 favorites]


I'm having trouble understanding how all of these stories can be about the same person. It's like he's living ten lives at once.

Teach us your ways.
posted by reductiondesign at 8:39 AM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Look back at me. I'm on Chuck."
posted by inigo2 at 9:40 AM on October 5, 2010


Actually, Rhaomi, they're all fairly ordinary experiences, not exotic forays like underwater diamond caving. People he's met, jobs he's had, things he's owned, the peculiarities in his daily (or nightly) routine. We all probably have experiences that can match or top his - what he has that makes his posts special is the presence of mind to note and explain the extraordinary in his everyday, the wisdom to see how it fits into life in a larger context, and the power to present these observations and experiences with wit and charm.

He hasn't necessarily lived more life than the typical person, but he has savored it like few have.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:02 AM on October 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


what he has that makes his posts special is the presence of mind to note and explain the extraordinary in his everyday, the wisdom to see how it fits into life in a larger context, and the power to present these observations and experiences with wit and charm.

*wipes tear*
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:18 PM on October 5, 2010


Surely there's an editor or literary agent lurking around the premises? It sounds like Sonascope has one of those giant boxes of print-outs that all literary gatekeepers fear and dread. But, like, in a good way.

People have parlayed far less than "a bunch of cool Metafilter comments" into book deals, is what I'm saying.
posted by ErikaB at 1:42 PM on October 5, 2010


So my wife, whose dad used to drive her around on his dirt bike from when she was old enough to hang on until he passed away from lung cancer 15 years ago, looked over my shoulder last night and made some mildly dismissive "eh, Metafilter again" comment. I finally had a chance to say "Here -- take the laptop and read something. Start right *here*. This is why I read Metafilter."
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:45 PM on October 5, 2010


One day, idly reading Metafilter, I noticed a reference to Scaggsville. Hey! That's where I grew up! Then I read about Mrs. Kane. Whoa. I had scary Mrs. Kane myself in third grade, several years earlier, but had no idea how bad things could get. I remember the pita breads and other weird, wonderful food Mrs. Wall used to cook. I still use the cookbooks she introduced me to. My first job, the tedious menial job that convinced me to stay in school as long as I could, was at that family business, but I was away at college when it collapsed and never even what happened to it. I remember when Mr. Wall first got that motorcycle, that year that gas prices were very high. I live 1500 miles away now and it's been a long time, but I can still see his amiable smile with his waxed curly mustache. What a pleasure it's been to get the opportunity to read these stories.
posted by Ery at 3:27 PM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always feel sort of like a leech on MetaFilter because I have never managed to come up with an FPP that doesn't break the rule of being directly connected to the issue, and I'm also in a sort of writing frenzy because my working life has finally settled down again after a few years of flux and mutation, so I do tend to go on.

Oh, come on. I read your comment in the classical-music thread and if you'd only written that part where you describe the uneasiness you felt when the orchestra played "your" cues to enter, when you had left the world of opera, it would have been enough for me. The resonance of small things.
posted by ersatz at 5:32 PM on October 5, 2010


He's at it again. Great slice-of-life stuff.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:36 PM on October 5, 2010


Love sonascope, although I'm waiting for the backlash once he goes electric.
posted by arcticseal at 8:17 PM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also will profess my love of sonascope. Thanks for sharing, sir.
posted by maxwelton at 8:53 PM on October 5, 2010


Kate Bush made me write.

We used to drive South, heading from Maryland to Georgia on semi-annual excursions meant to keep my father connected with his kin, piling into our absurd, enormous silver Suburban with a giant maroon stripe that ran the whole way around the waistline. We'd pack the car tight, loading in suitcases and a case or two of the Thunderbird we had to buy for my grandmother because regional propriety kept the vulgar delights of that particular fortified wine beverage out of Thomson, then set out on what seemed in those days to be an almost epic drive.

My parents would sit up front, with my brother and sister in the back, and I'd hole up in the immense warehouse of the cargo area, with suitcases, boxes, and bags carefully configured into a little fort there. All through the day, I'd recline in moderate luxury, with a pillow against the Thunderbird, playing license plate games with my siblings and staying on the lookout for the holy grail plates that my father offered us a bounty to find: Guam, Alaska, Hawaii, and even more esoteric locales.

The farms and small towns would rise and fall, punctuated by long stretches of Route 301 where the farm fields and pulp plantations would take over, and in the lulls, when we'd all discussed every possible thing to discuss, we'd all just look out the windows, watching the unknown world unfolding around us. Hour after hour, mile after mile, it came into focus, then rushed away again.

I always wondered, seeing people in the deep focus of the fields, standing around small houses set deep in the cotton, if I'd ever see them or those places again in my lifetime. It brought on a curious yearning, a feeling of existential uncertainty, almost, about all the stories I'd never know, out on that lonesome road left over from an earlier era. We'd listen to the local radio stations, with local preachers playing gospel music and spitting fire in broadcast sermons against the wicked ways of the world before disappearing into little spits and sputters of static as we passed from market to market.

When I got my first cassette player, an old-style Craig with a chrome metal gearshift to select REWIND - PLAY - FAST FORWARD - STOP instead of the more common piano keys, I'd plug in and put it all to a soundtrack. In my clunky grey plastic monophonic headphones with sticky blue rubber earcups, I'd listen to the Beatles and P.D.Q. Bach and Parliament on tapes I'd made by holding the recorder to the speakers on our stereo, and it gave the miles a form, a sort of atmosphere that let me impose more of myself over that generalized feeling of decreasing cosmic importance that I'd get from realizing how much larger the world was than what I knew.

By the early eighties, I'd graduated to a blue Toshiba that I'd bought with the $73.21 paycheck I got from working at my very first part-time job, we'd traded the Suburban for a station wagon, and my sister was living in the East Village and sending me care packages from NYC in the form of mixtapes.

I couldn't ride in the back anymore, being a pimply, gangly teen, so I just sat in the back seat instead, looking out the window, listening to mixtapes and episodes of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series and old radio dramas I'd taped off our local public station, and I let my mind drift through the music and the scenery and the staggering doldrums of being fourteen or thereabouts.

Kate Bush did me in, though.

I loved the landscapes of the mixtapes, the sterile pleasures of Grauzone and Thick Pigeon or the angst of Tuxedomoon or the romance of OMD. There was the quiet wonder of Eno, like strata of subtly-colored air rising as the sun came up, and always the Beatles, the glorious, timeless Beatles. I loved my Stravinsky and my Prokofiev, my Kraftwerk, Wendy Carlos, and Parliament, and I was lucky enough to have access to almost anything I'd ever want to hear, except—

The new tape was just labeled "The Dreaming" in my sister's distinctive handwriting, and "Never for Ever" on the other. I didn't even bother with it until we were almost in Richmond.

I didn't listen to anything else on the remainder of the trip, both southbound and on the way home. Those of you who know and love Kate Bush will know why, and to those who don't, I hope time will change your minds. There are other paths to cosmic oneness, and mine's nowhere near being the only one, though.

The Dreaming was devastating, just absolutely the most impossible thing that ever set my eardrums vibrating, and, unlike music, literature, movies, or artwork that wore out its welcome with increasing familiarity, I just heard something new in it each time, and every time, and I still do, even now.

The Dreaming was devastating for another reason, even as it made me feel alive and full of awe and wonder and joy.

I will never be able to make a piece of music as good as this.

I just...won't. At the same time, there are works of such creative ferocity out there that you just pine for that unbearable moment of discovery, when you find something that just changes everything, redefining your notion of what the limits of art really are, and in those moments, you become who you will be from that point onward.

I sat in the station wagon, playing and rewinding, just looking out, my daydreams and the scenery and the music all caught up in the alchemy of unexpected fusion, and I wanted to be a musician, too.

I taught myself how to use a synthesizer, and how to record, and how to connect sonic ideas and sculpt meaningful phrases and structures into simple landscapes, but it's not my gift, and my work in that arena is essentially slight and a bit of a diversion. That doesn't stop me from working, though I work in a form I have some mastery over instead of in songwriting, because I know where my boundaries lie.

I can't generate those feelings with lyrics and sounds and melody, and that's okay.

When I'm focused, and when I'm feeling it, I can write pretty well, and there's that old quote, attributed to dozens of artists, about "when you run out of red, use blue." My blue has turned out to be words, and my goal of reaching some of those musical heights has rarely been achieved, but it's the reach, right? You reach out for things you won't get, and if you do it frequently and with enough devotion, you can get pretty close.

Other music came along to set those standards, too. I found Holger Czukay's warped cuckoo clock symphonies and Jah Wobble's inspirational early home-recorded solo work and Laurie Anderson's on-stage pocket universe, and they've all been bright lights on the horizon over the intervening years, calling out to me to keep me marching forward, chasing those perfect moments when you just feel—well, you just feel, and everything is right with the world.

If there's any big secret to how I do what I do, it's still in the music.

I sit in front of a screen and keyboard, or in front of my typewriter, if I want to be really free of the pleasant meandering opiate of the internet, and I put on a pair of big, clunky headphones, dial up a piece of music that makes me feel the way I wish you would feel when you read what I'm writing, listen until my heartbeat is tuned into the rhythm and the timbre and the feel of the music, and start typing.

On the road, the sky turned dark, and the shaggy points of the pines in the tree farms feeding the local papermills would turn to silhouettes, like a waveform measuring out the music against the deepening indigo sky. It was just us out there, chasing the glare of our headlights long after anyone with more sense had pulled into a motel, and the moon skimmed the trees, all clear and bright, following us on our way, and looking so close you could reach out and pluck it from the sky.

I sat there, listening, watching, with my breath like fog on the cool pane of the window, thinking about life and how much there is out there, right to the last note of the last song on the tape.

I pressed rewind, waited, and continued on my way.
posted by sonascope at 11:09 AM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think I had the same Craig, sonascope, in my '78 Honda Accord. And Kate Bush: an impossibly talented prodigy, if you were paying attention in the 80s then yeah, she should still be in anyone's ears.
posted by Rumple at 12:28 PM on October 7, 2010


Someone do a Joe Wall FPP.
posted by sammyo at 1:06 PM on October 9, 2010


Someone do a Joe Wall FPP.

I JUST DID
posted by The Whelk at 9:40 AM on October 29, 2010


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