Where Am I Now?

Lately I wonder why I am here.

Maybe all old men get to this point eventually. Looking back at their lives and wondering what it’s all been about. I don’t have a god, or kids, or a financial empire, or a career in music that I can point to and say “That defines me, that is what my life means.” At almost 68 years old, I am still making it up as I go.

I mostly see the universe as random, so there’s no particular reason why I should seek these anchors, or even wonder why I don’t have at least one of them. But I read a lot of fiction, mostly trash, some of it classic, and the characters all have a mission, in the story if not in life, so I am in constant literary communion with “people” who do have goals, dreams, defining characteristics. And I’m a political junkie. Looking at politicians and hangers-on in that world I keep coming across their “stories,” and it’s easy to forget that these narratives are illusory, and imposed upon the more or less random facts of existence. That makes me think that I, too, should have a story, something with a beginning, middle and end, inspiring, or at least interesting.

Meryl Streep is now in a movie about a woman of my generation who is, not a rock star, but a working rocker, and a grandmother. I am never disappointed by Streep’s performances, so some day I will certainly see her film. In the meantime I have discovered that her character is loosely based on a real person, Terry Cieri, the screenwriter’s mother-in-law and yes, a grandmother. She’s a singer in New Jersey cover band Silk & Steel, which strongly resembles cover bands all around the country, including the ones I have played in most of my life (and probably will again). If you follow the link you’ll see that she and the band are not bad at all. You could do worse than spend an evening drinking and dancing to this bunch.

Discovering this got me thinking about my lifetime on bandstands, and the rock’n’roll dream that kept me going through the decades.  In the beginning it was just pure, raw fun, playing as loud as I could, competing and (sometimes) cooperating musically with bandmates, emulating the real rock stars that we heard on the radio and saw on TV. Then I began to think I could make a living at it, or even get rich. I never got rich, and most people would say I never even made a living at it, but it has gotten inside me somehow, and now I keep doing it despite that outwardly there seems to be no reward for me at all: Audiences have dwindled, venues have discovered that they can get away with paying local bands almost nothing, the market for rock’n’roll has splintered in so many ways that it’s difficult to find a fan base, even if you are really good.

It all makes me wonder why I do it at all. I admit I don’t know. It’s all I’m good at, I guess. And it’s the only activity that gives me any satisfaction. It ain’t the money, that’s for sure.

I don’t have a band right now, or even a job, so I’m getting introspective. But I guess I’ll take these last few years that I have, and try to be what I’ve always said I was: a songwriter, a performer, an artist, a rocker. That’s my story. So far it has a beginning and a long middle. I hope I will have finished it before I get to the end.

Tenth Anniversary

Today is the 10th anniversary of revision99.

Road
The road… ahead?

When I started this blog, it was after reading blogs for a few months in the sumer of 2004.  Blogs were actually in the news then. It was a trend. There were already hundreds of thousands of them, maybe millions, with more cropping up by the minute. I can’t remember exactly what blogs I was reading then, but I do remember being impressed — amazed, actually — at how many great writers there were out there. I don’t know what made me think there wouldn’t be, and certainly there were (and still are) plenty of bad spellers with nothing much to say and no clever way to say it. But I found a surprising number of smart writers putting together thoughtful, funny, engaging essays, some of them posting every day, and after a while I wanted to join the club.

Blogs have changed a lot since 2004. It’s not a trend any more. Various social networks have gained unbelievable popularity, driven, I believe, by ease of use and privacy controls. On Facebook, you don’t have to know much of anything or figure much out to start creating “updates.” That resulted in a lot of people using Facebook who don’t know much of anything. It’s reflected in their “writing.” Your “friends” don’t have to articulate anything about how much they like the picture you posted of your breakfast burrito. They can just click on “Like.” At first and for quite a while you could only write 240 characters, which relieved the user from having to use language to make sense. Beginnings, middles and ends vanished, along with complete sentences. Pictures, being worth a thousand words, replaced words. And privacy controls ensured that you wouldn’t have to deal with anybody online that you didn’t already know, so there would never be any need to think up and put into words a response to someone who didn’t agree with you. If worse came to worst, you could just “unfriend” them.

The blogs that I still read don’t resemble the blogs that drew me into blogging in the first place. Mostly they are professionally written and they have advertising. In order to target the ads they use tracking cookies and other devices to find out what you might be interested in buying. That way you’ll get more ads about stuff you’ve expressed an interest in. The blogs I read these days, such as Ed Kilgore’s excellent Political Animal, are sort of patterned after old-style newspaper editorial or entertainment pages. But they’re not the heartfelt amateur writing that I once fell in love with, and by amateur I don’t in any way mean inferior. I just mean not written by pros, for money.

So the world’s changed — what else is new? I guess I must sound like an old codger growling at the neighbor kids to get off my lawn. It’s true I miss those early blogs, and the people I met online who wrote them. But nine of the twelve links in my blogroll (look it up, kids) no longer exist, or are abandoned. To fill the empty hours I do have a Facebook account, and a bunch of Facebook “friends.” In fact, I actually feel kind of guilty that I have let this blog languish for such long periods between posts, while I have been busy posting pictures of my breakfast burrito on Facebook. Anyway, I am moving on, in the halting manner of the old codger.

For most of the lifespan of revision99, I was a working man, but that ended more than two years ago. Since then I have sent out over a hundred resumés and did not find work. In the past year my rock’n’roll band fell apart. I am now old enough to receive Social Security benefits, so I applied for that. I scramble daily for little odd jobs that do not tweak my conscience or cause me humiliation. I fix computers, troubleshoot small office networks. I design web sites and write PR. Mostly I sit in the sun and read detective novels.

I don’t know if this blog will continue very far past today. Every now and then I have something to say that I think must be said, and for the reasons mentioned above, Facebook doesn’t always seem like the right place to say it. So maybe I’ll write more here. I am starting  a new solo project, a musical one, and I thought it might be interesting to keep a log of its progress online somewhere. But ten years is a long time for something that’s no longer trendy, and I don’t have blogging friends any more. I don’t write anything of general interest, so I wouldn’t be able to sell ads here even if I wanted to, which I don’t, so what’s the point?

But even if I don’t put revision99 to rest I think I’ll go somewhere else to write about my solo project. Start fresh with a new design. Post my thoughts about the project, describe how it’s going, and put up music clips as I get things finished. So yes, at least one more post on revision99, in which I’ll describe the intent of the new project and maybe include a sound clip and a link to wherever the new project lives.

Until then, happy anniversary to me. I never thought it, or I, would live to this age.