Back before I got tired of all the invites from porn sites, I used to have a MySpace page. I don’t think anyone read my stuff there, either. Here’s the first in a series of essays destined for continued obscurity.Also, the latest New York Review of Books has an article about blogs. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m already worried that Dewey Eyes doesn’t qualify as a blog.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Adventures in home recording, pt. 1
Current mood: dirty
Category: Life

Tonight, after a wonderful meal with the in-laws, I came home and switched on the four-track in the basement. The four-track I bought six years ago. The four-track that was obsolete even before I bought it. The four-track I’ve never been able to figure how to use. But that was largely because depression still had me by the stones, and I gave up on almost everything I tried to do.

Treatments for depression used to suck. I’ve tried a whole bunch of them. Nardil, Navane, Elavil, Deceril, Meloril, Lithium, stuff I can’t even remember the name of anymore. I used to go to therapists for a while and then stop, proclaiming myself cured or just quitting in frustration, as per my pattern.

And then I tried . . . RITALIN! Oh, my fucking God! It was like someone pulled the sheet off my head and I saw the world clearly for the first time, and I LIKED IT! This was maybe 18 months ago. I still had a ways to go — one more visit to the psych wing of a hospital near here, following the evening when I came the closest to checking out that I ever have. The ritalin and a couple other “booster” drugs took care of the biological side of things. The week in the behavioral health unit took care of the messed-up thinking that ruled my life — the belief that I had to do everything perfectly the first time, the belief that I had to do things I hated doing because life was all about suffering, and, of course, the belief that I was a worthless piece of shit.

My week on the inside also taught me that sometimes I had to slow the fuck down and just appreciate the simple stuff, like clean air, my cat, a tree, my friends, my family, what have you.

I have read a ton of stuff on depression in general, and depression in men in particular. I think the experts are trending toward the belief that the prevalence of depression in men is underestimated by a wide margin. I agree. I see it all over the place. I still see it in myself. Most days are pretty good now, but I just came off a big long jag about being angry about things like mean rednecks, mean geeks, mean girls, mean jocks and other varieties of unpleasant people. At first, the anger felt righteous and delicious, and then all of the sudden I found myself wondering why people were avoiding me. I think I came to the conclusion that people only hurt me if I let them. Wow, profound. There’s got to be something more to it than that, but I just can’t think of it at the moment.

I don’t think anyone would mistake me for an extrovert, but it’s a hell of a lot easier for me to mix with different kinds of folks than it used to be. The alarm bells are still a little overactive, but I’m working on it.

And when you come home not feeling like shit because you’ve expended so much energy avoiding getting to know people (you know, because if they did get to know you, they’d realize what a loser you are) it makes it a lot easier to do fun things that you’ve never done before, like play with your antiquated four-track.

As a first step, I recorded myself playing drums along with “Warren Zevon’s Greatest Hits” over the headphones. I love Warren Zevon, but I was looking for a song that had a steady drum beat I could use for one of my own songs. I realized I needed a beat that bordered on monotonous. I don’t know, even “Werewolves of London” didn’t seem to work. Everything just seemed to have too many little twists that would throw me off if I was trying to play over it.

So I tried The Who’s “Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy.” Nothing there. Looked over all the stuff I’d downloaded off mp3 blogs. No good. Tried “Ramona,” by Johnny Bombay and the Reactions. Close, but they throw in an extra measure just before the chorus. I needed something as close to utterly foursquare as I could get away with.

Turned next to “The Beserkeley Years,” the greatest-hits collection from Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, which I burned from fellow drummer and bandmate Mark Timmins. Tried “Roadrunner.” Close, but it starts on the third beat of the measure, and I needed something that started on the one. And then I found . . . “PABLO PICASSO”! It was like musical ritalin, I’m telling you. I put my iTunes on “repeat” and played along with the song three times, or about 13 minutes. It wasn’t exactly right for the song I had in mind, one that I call “Twins,” but it did work for one called “Movin’ Out.” No, not the Billy Joel song.

“Movin’ Out” is a slow, almost droning kind of song that I started to write (but still haven’t finished!) at least 15 years ago, when it began to dawn on me that I had better get out and see the world. In New England, it’s perfectly acceptable to stay in one place your whole life. If you do that in D.C., where I grew up, you’re a loser. I was turning into a loser. After a certain age, no one who lives in D.C. is from D.C. OK, not really D.C., but Bethesda, Md. The attitude is the same. You have to leave at some point. Not everyone feels this pressure, but it was hitting me pretty hard at the time. It hit me hardest at a party I went to where everyone went around the room and said where they were from. When they got to me and I said, “I’m from here,” they looked at me like I was the last Aborigine on Tasmania or something, fascinating but slightly pathetic.

Also hitting me hard at the time was the realization that the familiar places I had grown up with were changing or disappearing altogether. When I go back to Bethesda now, I hardly recognize it. It may sound hard to grow attached to what is officially designated as an unincorporated area, but that’s what happened. Just when I was actually starting to enjoy the place, it went and changed on me.

Bethesda had been kind of a seedy-looking place when I was growing up there. The strip mall near my house had a five-and-dime where we used to by amazing Hallowe’en masks. It had a dingy Grand Union grocery store. It had an even dingier barber shop and liquor store. Now the Grand Union is a Sutton Place Gourmet where the chocolate bars cost $7. The liquor store and the five-and-dime are long gone, replaced by boutiques called “Persnickety!” and other dumbass names. I think the barber shop is still there.

So, anyway, I started writing a song about it. And tonight I started recording it, for the first time. The tempo on the drums is a little shaky. A human metronome I am not. The acoustic guitar is too hot and needs to be redone, but I am not giving up. I will finish this. Whether anyone else hears it, I can’t say right now, and I don’t care. I will let you at least see the lyrics, though, as they stand now:

I can’t stay here
I’m leaving any day now
But the town that I knew
Disappeared a long time ago

Movin’ out, whoa – o
Movin’ out
Movin’ out, whoa – o
Movin’ out

That town’s too big
And that one’s too far away
But this town’s dying
A little more every day

(Chorus)

Here come the people from nowhere
They don’t know and they don’t care
This time next year, they’ll be gone
But me, I’ll still be here, hanging on

I’m old enough to remember
Some things that just aren’t around anymore
Sometimes it makes me wonder
Just what I’m hanging around here for

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