The Bookmark Factory
I was young. I was foolish. No, I was stupid. No, I wasn't stupid, I was just naive and thought the world I read about in fantasy novels had some relationship to the thorny horny real world I was inextricably entwined with everywhere except inside my head. I became enamored of the life of the carefree wandering minstrel trala, happily roving the highways and byways. I wasn't quite braindamaged enough to believe in some overlap between storybook European countryside and the more beige and suburban landscape of my native country, but I was zazzed out on some kind of adolescent hormonal cognitive disfunction and thought it was something I could, y'sknow, just do.
It consumed my thoughts, haunted my dreams, laid waste to petty considerations of convention and profession and security, and after achieving an adequate musical degree at an average university, I went out and actually became a wandering minstrel. Or to be more precise, I was unemployed and lived in a Volkswagen beetle for several years.
Relatively quickly, I discovered a number of cogent truths about wandering minstrelsy. For one thing, the pay sucked. For another, the working conditions varied from lousy to brutally hostile. And then there was the distinct lack of anything resembling a career path, excepting of course the drunkard's walk (appropriate term, that) route the average minstrel took through their commercial domain (aka anyplace they didn't get heaved out of unless and/or until they did).
But I loved every minute of it, even the ones I hated. Despite any respectable wisdom to the contrary, there is no prize so precious as the attainment of even a tiny, brutal fragment of a bright and shining dream, at least for the demented minority of us who still dare to dream them. The same went for my marriage to a fellow street performer and our subsequent partnership through thirty years of squabbles, delights and torturous glory. I used to boast that I'd attained my life's goals by the age of thirty — success in my chosen profession and finding the love of my life.
In my middle years, framed betwixt the callow delusions of youth and the blessed oblivion of senility, I became more pragmatic, relying less on gaudy visions and more on the forces of economics to chart my course. By luck, some slight business sense, persistence and a modicum of ingenuity, I built a part-time business making short-run CDs. It wasn't exactly the career goal I would have chosen at 25, but what the heck, it paid the bills. Most of the time, anyways. Even though the amount of waste paper I generated made me feel like I was mostly making bookmarks, I got a nice rugged-individualist sense of fulfillment out of it.
Wouldn't you know it though, aspiration still succeeded in leaking through the practical dike and splattering my humble workaday pants.
When Sandahbeth and I first moved into this commodious crackerbox of Chickadee Glen, she immediately laid claim to the unfinished garage apartment for a jewelry studio. I thought that it would make a terrific recording and music space, but disputing with a partly disabled woman I loved over fulfilling her thwarted lifelong artistic ambition was a fight I couldn't win and didn't want to. In other words, I caved. Over the next ten years she constructed a den for herself, with skylights and semicircular windows and a crystal chandelier rescued from her mother's estate to help illuminate her torching and grinding and polishing. She was never prolific, but she was happy and so was I. In the end, her disabilities required drastic revisions to her workshop, and we dutifully boxed it up and put it in storage while I remodeled and finished the space, but somehow never got it set back up. After San passed, I brought a roommate into the now quite livable apartment, and he lasted until I got married again, whereupon my new wife's son moved in.
In the ensuing two and half years, building lust grew in me, visions of a trim, sharp, professional space, no ramshackle living room arrangement but a real business. I spent a year building Ada her dream art shack in the garden. We plotted gorgeous visions of a spacious, more versatile future in the remodeled house to come.
And when the fledgeling finally took wing and I was faced with the realization of my heart's desire, it scared the piss out of me.
I mean, here I've been banging away at music for most of my life, a little luck here and little glitz there, mostly laboring in the shadows like most artists — like most people, come to think of it. And now I think I'm going pro? Weeellll, hoody hoo, big boy, time to put up or shut up. Where's that gold record, hah?
Hippie, please. Any and every indication to the contrary, this has never been about conventional please-your-mother success. My current status is exactly the same as before, only with more cat-swinging. I've gone from making bookmarks in my bedroom to an entire facility dedicated to that august craft, but the CDs I turn out are as low profile as ever. And my own music? What, you actually expect a musician to earn a living? What are you, Protestant?
The problem (why is there always a problem? why ask why?) with getting what you want is frequently the need to translate from a mindscape of seeking to one of keeping. It's a very different thing viewing every attractive, sharply cogent face with the ulterior thought Is she The One? from waking up for the thousandth morning in a row with The One snoring next to you. Moreover, it's a deuced sight easier to quest than to live happily ever after. You never hear about Sir Galahad having to pay taxes or negotiate a wage hike with his squire.
Then again, that's why they're called myths.