2011- The Year of the Sax

There is no way for me to not be trite about this past year.  Well, there probably is a way, but I am not a good enough writer to do that.  Thinking back to where I was at the beginning of the year to now has been nothing short of incredible.  So, friends of the blog, let us proceed with a waterfall of cliches and super obvious observations!

My friend Alex relayed this story to me a while ago and I can’t remember if I wrote it here or not (and I am feeling too lazy to look through all the old blog posts to read what I have written). Anyway she once told me about being a server in a restaurant and just getting slammed.  Table after table of people, the kitchen backed up, a line out the door- slammed.  She said that she felt so stressed, constantly behind and as if her shift would never end.  And then something weird happened, she flipped an internal switch.  She didn’t know how she did it, it just kind of happened.  She looked around the restaurant- at those frustrated customers, those line cooks in perpetual motion, that line out the door- and she realized she could only do her small part.  Her panicky feelings weren’t going to get food out any faster and they certainly weren’t going to satiate the irritated people at the six top in her section.  She was still busy and, in fact, she was still doing the same tasks she had done before but her mental approach was one hundred percent different.  She was relaxed.

Now, dear reader, I am not here to tell you that I am totally in that place yet.  But I am close and close is good.

The last post I wrote here on learning to surf was a giant metaphor (which you already probably figured out because you are smarter than I (or is it me?)).  Things in my life that I think I want don’t always end up exactly like I expect them to.  And things that I think will be easy sometimes end up being hard.  It is nice to be able to sit back with some distance on the experience and realize what just happened.  With Miles, the timeline went something like this:

0-1 week old: Unencumbered joy/terror

1-2 weeks old: I can’t believe we are moving.  This is stupid…and hard

1 month old: Wow, this isn’t getting any easier

2 months old: Wow, this isn’t going to end.

3 months old: My life is over.

4-5 months: This was my darkest part.  I didn’t wish ill on him, I just kind of wished he would disappear.  Like one day I would have walked into his room and he just wouldn’t be there anymore.  I would walk downstairs and tell Shannon, “Miles is gone.  Weird.  Do you want to go out for dinner?”  I think it was the lack of sleep at this time.

And then he laughed and, bit by bit, things got better.

For the rest of my life whenever I see a new father at the four/five month period I am going to want to hug them and say “It gets better.”  I have a classmate who is adopting a new born in February and he was telling me about how he heard (I think) the singer from the Killers say that having a child opens up a whole new chamber in your heart, that you love in a way you never knew before.  I think that’s true, and every new dad needs to recognize that it hurts too.  I know this sounds like total white-guy problems (and it is) but having a kid alters your life so distinctly at first because of the sheer relentlessness of it.  If you want to be a good parent you never get a day off, ever.  Even a few weekends ago, when Shannon and I had our first weekend alone together since Miles was born, he was in our thoughts.  We had an amazing time together (it was our old life compressed into two days-a movie, a play, a museum visit, a gallery visit, meals out, drinks and desert) but we knew we were just being tourists.  We are parents now.

So when I think about my year, I think about all of that.  I relish my mornings with Miles now.  I mean check this out:

Miles watches the Fleet Foxes and tries to decide if they are good or boring

During the summer/fall I would have the new AV undercover on each Tuesday morning while I made his breakfast and Miles started paying attention to it more and more (and, seriously, who knew Peter, Bjorn and John could do this:

Try a little tenderness; or that Sloan would do this: Cars).  Miles would start dancing in his chair.  He sings to himself.  And now, when I turn off the music in the morning he puts his hands together and says “More” several times in a row.  I smile so big; and I try not to cry.

I guess I am indoctrinating him.  I am probably being selfish.  Miles, like it or not, is having his world defined by our experience.  I am hoping he will think it is totally normal to love music, dance, make art and read like me and be deeply caring, compassionate and thoughtful like Shannon.  Who know what he will actually turn out like?  Right now he is a smiling, affable little kid with the uncanny ability to mimic almost anything we say while still being absolutely terrible at walking.  For me, it is amazing to see this person experience the world (and even gravity) for the first time.

So, to the cryptic title of this post.  2011 is my year of the sax because I am experiencing everything again for the first time.  I have a lot of music in my collection with saxophone on it but, until this year, if asked I would say that my saxophone records were my jazz records.  Sax wasn’t used in my new rock and roll albums (and rock and roll is a weird noun here because I don’t think the three things I am going to reference here are really “rock” in any traditional way).  Suddenly, though, I noticed it everywhere.  And it was blowing my mind (pun certainly intended).

Colin Stetson’s performance and album sound like the apocalypse.  I can’t believe a human being can do this.

It has been the best paper writing music this year.  All of my work has been dark and moody.  But of course it tortures Miles.   On the other hand, it was by happenstance that I discovered the new Destroyer record relaxes Miles like nothing else.  Every time he cried out of control in the car this year, the opening notes of “Chinatown” would quiet him instantly.  Usually he would remain quiet through the rest of the album even in the sax-lite songs like “Savage Night at the Opera” and “Bay of Pigs.”  I haven’t listened to one album this much in years and what’s even weirder is that I haven’t gotten tired of it.  Its probably my favorite record of the year for those of you who might be interested in that sort of thing.  I never thought I would say that after ten times through…but a hundred…and that drive where we played “Chinatown” again and again for an hour to calm Miles and rolled into our neighborhood after midnight.  It is perfect.

Finally, I have been rereading some of David Foster Wallace’s short pieces as a break from all the Deleuze and Ranciere that has swallowed up the majority of my student life.  In his piece on the adult video awards, Wallace recounts a police officer someone met who liked watching pornography because he felt it was the only type of movie where, on occasion, an actor would display their actual emotions.  The purpose in most film acting is to get the audience to believe you are someone else and so most actors are less interesting than they appear in films (Matt Damon and Charlize Theron might be two exceptions here but who really knows).  However because the basic elements of human reproduction on on display for the viewer, Wallace makes mention that these actors slip up and accidentally show their true emotions.  I have to admit that I thought this cop Wallace mentioned had one of the strongest intellectual cases for being into porn and his reasoning may be bullshit, but it was interesting to think about.

So ANYWAY, why am I mentioning this here?  I imagine being a touring musician would be fun for about two weeks until you have played the same songs a thousand times and then it would become like work.  My favorite thing about seeing live music is that, on occasion, the musicians actually appear to be enjoying themselves.  This almost never happens when I see a band play on television but it happened twice recently on Jimmy Fallon’s show.  The first is out of bounds with my general theme here but St. Vincent crushed the Pop Group.  The moment I am talking about here comes a little over half way through the song when she jumps up on the drummer’s riser and appears to say “we are going to fuck this up.”  The second is just a half-laugh between two of the members of M83 when they preformed “Midnight City.”   It fits perfectly here because it happens at the beginning of the surprise sax solo.  You can see the two of them laugh as if to say “My God, how cool is this?”  It makes me smile every time.

Maybe my old albums are full of stuff like this.  I do know that I am listening and looking again for the first time.  It is amazing and I feel honored to have this experience.


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