OnStage: The Goblin Cellist Extraordinare

23 January 2013 § Leave a comment

As the bluegrass cradled and rocked the living room for her friends, Sophia sat on her heels, building a fire behind the stage. The sparks escaped the fireplace and embers popped like drumbeats to the strings – silky violin lines, the high tension beauty of a fast mandolin and guitar, cellos and vocal cords singing similar frequencies. The sweet pine smoke wafted through the orange Moroccan-designed room, and we listened to Rushad the eccentric cellist sing about his mini-love in striped pants and gypsy hat. His microphones were our ears; the PA his fingers and throat.

Rushad Eggleston, the self-proclaimed Proprietor of Igwarfnees, introduced himself and thanked the Three Intergalactic Lesbian Wise Women for hosting the Lily Henley band and himself. Two of the 3ILWWs were my good friends Sophia and Kirsten, and though I wasn’t previously aware of their stellar status, Sophia – perhaps in jest (or perhaps not) – quipped that the title was “not entirely untrue.”

The super secret house concert was twenty-five people strong, including the five-piece band. We’d been lit up by three lamps, a few candles, laughter, and now a campfire in the brick hearth. A giant dreamcatcher hung from the ceiling in the middle of the living room. Sometimes Lily would sing through its strings, and, true to its nature, we heard only beauty from the other side. For the night, we resided for the evening in the world of Sneff, a farm in the sky whose animals are songs that escape instruments and throats sometimes by accident, and other times from envy. Sneff is Eggleston’s creation, his home on stage, where he speaks his own language, one that lacks clear meaning. He compares many of his lyrics, which sound very much like Lewis Carroll’s poem ‘Jabberwocky’, to musical notes: it’s not about the definition, he says, it’s about the sounds that the syllables make; that’s where the meaning is.

Eggleston, veteran cellist and co-founder of popular alt-bluegrass outfit Crooked Still – and these days his new band Tornado Rider – is on tour with Lily Henley and her band, a bluegrass-ish outfit made up of New Yorkers, Southerners, and herself, an international nomad.

Mid-show, he, who claims to be half-goblin, but looks more like Johnny Depp caught somewhere between Pirates of the Caribbean and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, staged a gargoyle-pose contest between band members to kick off a song about, well, gargoyles. His comical antics on stage seem to display his blatant, innocently vulgar genius on his instrument. At times he hopped on one foot, do the can-can, or hide behind a chair to emulate the monsters of Sneff, or the goat god Pan in his storybook songs – all while playing, and quite proficiently so, his cello, which was wrapped around his shoulder with a furry pink strap.

Though his eccentric nature might seem to keep him from the “beacons by which music is measured these days – Rolling Stone, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Coca Cola commercials, and that shit.”, Rushad has no problem with said beacons, or recognition for his talent. He was the first ever string player to be offered a full-scholarship to Boston’s Berklee College of Music. In 2002, while still in school and playing with the Fiddlers 4, he was nominated for a Grammy. Recently, when Mazda wanted to commission two cellists for the commercial revealing of the new Mazda6, they found none other than the Tornado Rider himself.

Despite contagious reassurance from the public, Eggleston is transparent around his “facade” of confidence. “I’m kind of a self-deprecating guy,” he said on stage, idly playing. “Sometimes I hate myself, so if I call myself a fuck-up at any point, you could let me know, so I can stop.” And we did.

Watching him play reminded me of the semi-trance people enter when they truly listen – with all their senses – to music. When I looked around the room and witnessed the audience in varying states of bliss, the Intergalactic Wise Women included, I realized once again that music, for many, is a foreign language. We can listen to notes and syllables that at once seem to make no sense at all, like Eggleston’s lyrics, but only once we stop trying to make sense of it can we allow the notes to unfold into phrases and songs, the words into paragraphs and stories, and extract what meanings we will.

As the night quieted and tired bohemians trickled from the house awash with songs written in airplane lavatories, heavy discussions about breakups with young chilren in the backseat, or rolling down the hills of Big Sur, the band took compliments humbly and with gratitude. They sat on the floor for a late-night jam session with smiles and laughter. Said Lily, the angel-voice herself, says touring with Rushad is a blast. “It’s always like this. We go bowling, take nothing seriously, eat tasty food, and get up when we want. I love it.” The violin and mandolins accompany Rushad’s percussive cello melody with cricket sounds, and left us with what was left of the night: ice cream, and a 2 a.m. run to Voodoo Doughnuts.

Music should always be like this.

song for a secret home

23 January 2013 § Leave a comment

if they ever come in,
welcome ’em simply.
and should they go,
thank god’s some lovely.

he showed the blues the night,
kept cold the dark journeys
we sowed in moldy towns,
the crooked nails of a staircase
in a whiskey old west saloon.

it’s been one-third of a well-told
tale since you and I were
more than a mandolin apart –

dreamcatcher above, she says
I can feel that you hold me in
your nightmares so tight, and
I just want you to need me tonight.

I’ve seen the moon dying
in the burning of the sky,
she said, so I quieted
the light as it plucked rays
from her phosphorous eyes.

nonsense on high

13 January 2013 § Leave a comment

I don’t know where to begin. Last night I found an amphitheater in a park disguised as a wall ball court. My newest best friend had let me take his golden retriever for a walk, and while she ran through the muddy night time park, I traced the lines between layers of brick and wondered where my voice belonged. I feel like I haven’t written in ages. Written for real, like translating the world into how I see it like some people do with music or with paint. For months I’ve hesitated to call myself a poet, for I felt that role belonged to people who did something tangible with words. Something real and unforgiving. I’ve been busy with forgiveness, molding a place for it into my stories and loves like some do with clay.

So while some compare what we have to what I’ve said I’ve had before, to what I have in the recent past longed for, to what they may not have had, I keep wondering what I’m changing into. The broom closet door creaks ajar, and I’m trying to keep up with the movement of the hinges.

I’ve disappeared into the cosmos. I keep rewriting stories. I wonder what those I’ve left behind think now. The drum beats hit the plaster with the sex sound of a snare. I think I’ve made my way downhill since we chatted with the mountaintop. Find the storm. It’s not far away. God damn, those we blame need our mercy more than most.

The rhyme and meter and rhythm flux, purpose, sense of humor laments the notebooks we’ve emptied into swamps. I climbed rock today with the weakness of a newborn child. Let the granite judge us hence. We’ve got handprints on the north face waiting for our fingers to take hold. Let me clear the woods of fog, and mistresses, hear this: what you see and what you hear are senses that I’ve missed. Remember all the nights we’ve spun fire with. They live in black and white and sepia, siding with their kin.

Licentious, squandered.

story lost and found.

8 January 2013 § Leave a comment

I seem to have misplaced some of my travel experiences. The ones that didn’t make the cut of the Stories I Most Often Tell got lost in the ether somehow, or hide out quietly in the softer regions of my heart, unwilling to be told flippantly at a party by my blabbering mouth. No, they deserve more respect than that.

Three trips abroad, and I have used photography to focus less and less on me and my baggage. The last one, nearly a year living in Central America, I lost my camera early on, and haven’t looked through a viewfinder since. Before that, I used a stuffed spider named Boris to take my place in pictures taken in Amsterdam, Munich, Budapest. Wherever. I didn’t want to be a part of it. I thought I needed photos to make it real. I didn’t. I needed me to make it real.

The memories themselves I haven’t forgotten – I remember the smell of sulfur at Dettifoss in Iceland, as millions of gallons of water fell into a hellish abyss every second, and how the spray felt on my face, how it crept inside my rain coat and soaked my t-shirt. I remember my footsteps inching closer to the edge of the wet rock, and wanting to look farther down, as if the heavy mist would clear just for me, as if the water would stop falling just so I could feel the depth of its journey.

No, they’re not gone; they have woven into the fabric of my being, stretched my smile lines wider, found their way into my open wounds and spun fire with my DNA. They are as much a part of me as the blood pumping through my heart.

I read somewhere that new cells replace every cell in the human body every seven years. That would mean that I am entirely a new physical entity from who I was seven years ago. Bigger changes have occurred in the universe than my cellular reconstruction, like the Big Bang and the dying of certain stars. My gratitude for these catastrophes undulates between the depths of Dettifoss and the peaks of the mountains I’ve climbed in search of my shadow. With a constant practice of thanks I try to keep the waves down, but the wind works in mysterious patterns, and I don’t want the responsibility of controlling the weather. All I can do is say ‘thank you’ to the postman for bringing me words, and to the saxophone player on the west side of the Ross Island Bridge for playing his heart out even when it rains.

For a month I’ve been reading and playing around with The Artist’s Way, doing the necessary morning pages, and I’ve yet to take myself on an artist date. The idea, according to author Julia Cameron, is to set aside specific time for yourself to do whatever you desire: go to a museum, go for a hike, trip out on people in a coffee shop, masturbate – absolutely anything to spark the artist within. It’s an active search for inspiration, and a practice of allowing what Is to channel through you. Let your inner child play. Let your inner artist create. Shut off the phone and the rest of the day, and give yourself the time you’d give to a lover. Drop off the face of the planet for a few hours, and love yourself.

Me, I’d like some time with a notebook and a pen. Or a computer that features only a word processor – no internet, no games, no distractions. I want to see what comes out. I’ve become friends with the wordpress ‘Add New Post’ page because it feels like an open forum. I don’t have to worry about who might read it, or who might not. It’s practice in sharing, like in kindergarten: here, look at this memory, looks at these words. They’re mine, and now they’re yours.

In the back of my mind I wonder how much I’m willing to share, how much would be safe to share, how much trouble would I get in if I shared everything. And I write somewhat regardless. Change some names, leave out others. Those I don’t share are my soap operas and moments I haven’t figured out what to do with.

I wonder what I could give more detail on. Probably everything. The magic, said someone speaking on James Joyce, is when a writer can completely recreate everyday life, and not miss a beat. Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man did that for me. So does Junot Diaz. I feel like I swim between them: convention keeps my voice formal (for example, I’m scared to dash my dialogue like I’ve wanted to do since I read You Shall Know Our Velocity!), and few things titillate me more than opening my voice up and writing a story exactly how I’d like to, tossing the rules out the window and writing the way that some have loved me for. If I were to listen to the advice written on the lululemon bag sitting on the floor collecting our rubbish, I would go do that. ‘Do one thing a day that scares YOU’ it says. I thought they should have emphasized scared, but that’s neither here nor there. I think I’m going to go write a story now.

happy new everything

6 January 2013 § Leave a comment

The bathroom door slammed hard. I didn’t mean to do it. It was just loud. I walked to the mirror. I saw the toilet, the bathtub, the lovely tile floor in perfect incandescent lighting, all in watery ripples. It took a moment to realize that I was there. That I was happy. I smiled at the me in the mirror, and thought of the dance floor at the Portland Art Museum. The stilt-walkers playing trumpets. The feather headdresses and sequin trench coats. Rubber bodies bending backwards in a break dance to the March Fourth Marching band. I remembered the line at the door of the secret library, where they brought you in, sat you in a chair, and played beautiful music and lights next to your face, Clockwork Orange-style. Until you got the way they wanted you.

I saw a man dancing in the bathroom through the glass. He looked happy. Maybe brainwashed. Then he walked out of the bathroom and back into his bliss.

truth, sushi and emergency exits

6 January 2013 § 2 Comments

I sat at the sushi bar and mixed fake wasabi with low-sodium soy sauce. I felt like I’d visited an end of the universe every day for a week. Heather and I talked about small things like how people display discomfort by looking away or scratching their neck.

The place was packed, a crowd outside waiting to pile in. A crusty man in Carhartts stood up to put on his coat and laughed. Tables fit like Tetris blocks, so not talking to your neighbor was impossible. More often than not it meant that you knew who was getting fired at so-and-so, and who cheated on who, or why Androids were better than iPhones. A boy told his parents about a girl he knew. Heather finished the last piece of the tuna roll.

“Here’s the best piece of advice you’re ever going to get,” said the pony-tailed fisherman. I need in on that.

He looked the four-year old straight in the eye. “Don’t be reckless with people’s hearts, and don’t tolerate others being reckless with yours. Enjoy your meal.” He laughed some more, and his wife bid the young family good night.

There’s a sign over the one of the exit doors of the universe that says ‘no one leaves unsatisfied’. I read it last night in Southern Oregon, somewhere between the green glitter of the stars and the indigo penumbra around the edges of the Milky Way. People were bustling about the room, breathing and helping each other. The quiet flame flicked at the air, made space seem less bulky for a while. Like it was something easy to hold. I held my hands up for as long as I could.

And they don’t, really. Leave unsatisfied. The path is the path, and it ends where it ends. Sometimes the crest of a hill obscures the dead end at the top, and other times there’s someone going so perfectly in the opposite direction you smash into each other. I heard tonight that a Bristol Bay fisherman, one of my ilk, was killed in a head-on motorcycle collision a few days ago. He was visiting a fishing friend in Bali. The Ark Angel, his boat, may not fly come summer.

Meanwhile, crews commit and assemble to envision an abundant and joyful next season. I got a promotion on my boat, and Heather’s running the Silver Kris. She manifested a perfect crew, and plans to spread her father’s ashes off the bow. He’ll return to his home the ocean and be with his fish again.

Everything is speeding up. Life at velocity. I have friends who love me, and want to spend time with me. What a weird sensation. I think I’m going to go for a walk in the woods for a few days. Maybe I’ll find a pond and look for what they see, and fall in love with myself like Narcissus. Freud said a certain amount of narcissism was a good thing. It was the first form of love. All that stuff about loving yourself before others can. I’ll go with that.

I’ll just try to not be reckless with my heart.

Where Am I?

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