In Moisture We Trust4/27/22
Everything changes. Nothing ends.
There is no principle more principal in physics than the conservation of matter and energy, which can neither be created nor destroyed but only changed in form. And which, incidentally, are the same thing.
Extend the complexity of the system and the same fundamental holds sway. Chaos theory tells us that the butterfly's wings flap not once but forever. The evil men do lives after them. So does the good. So does everything else.
And here at the year's eternal turning, Pynchon's dreaming fishes to young ram, I'm waxing philosphic-taster in contemplating my existence, my chosen career path (or maybe it chose me), and my latest participation in the freewheeling moveable feast known as the Moisture Festival.
The festival needs no introduction here: I've had reason to report on this event previously, in happier pre-pandemic times that seem almost quaint and daguerreotype-tinted now, a mere three years later. During that viral time the Festival, like so many other fun things that involved public gathering, was in abeyance, defunct, kaputt, off the air. Okay, not off the air: an abbreviated on-line zoom festival aired in 2021, and our show band was in it. But recording and videoing socially-distanced musicians in our backyards for a stitched-together performance was barely a palliative for the crushing sense of isolation we felt in being cut off from one of our chief sources of entertainment, namely being the show, not seeing the show.
So as you may well imagine, the news that the Festival was indeed going live this year hit the lot of us in the Moisture family like a cool glass of water in an insufferably dry desert, or maybe a belt of good whiskey after a long day at a really unpleasant straight job. The Sancapators gathered for rehearsal at a member's garage, waxing frolic as little chirp birds in spring over the unbelievable thrill of being together. The venerable arrangements leaped to our lips and fingers, newly rediscovered like well-loved family heirlooms in the attic. None of us had ever taken the Festival for granted — we all well knew what a thrill and a privilege it was to be a part of it. But now that understanding was doubled and redoubled. We were like, y'know, chuffed, man.
But wait! There's more!
In the glory of its triumphant return, the Festival sported a poignant twist: after a 40 year run, Hale's Ales was being sold, and the Palladium, proud vaudeville nouveau theater risen from the dross and clutter of a brewery warehouse, was on the block. What little I overheard of our stalwart producers' attempts to locate a new venue was no more promising than any other real estate search in this overheated Seattle market. Even the high and mighty Theatre Zinzanni, thrust from its choice location beside Seattle Center, was run out of town, forced to relocate to the distant wilds of Redmond. Such a uprooting might well spell the doom of a fragile flower like ours. So this year marked an end of an era, and quite possibly the Festival with it.
We dug in deep and put out the best we had. It was a week of punctual attendance, of scrupulous attention to conductor's instructions and to intonation, of solos with just the right amount of creativity and focus, of hushed pianissimos and thunderous double-fortes. Members of the cast and crew exalted in the splendor of our unit: "Hey, you guys are actually in tune this year!"
And within our own little corner of our own little entertainment universe, I got my own little piece of stardom as a featured soloist and valued section player. And at one point during the week I Saved The Show with a timely guitar chord-solo version of Don't Get Around Much Anymore, when a headliner's recorded music mysteriously failed, garnering a surprising amount of appreciative praise from the rest of the band. My fame lust, right along with so many other lusts I've embodied and diffused in this my spendthrift life, has waned in recent years, and I no longer pine for the spotlight quite as ardently as I used to, but the warm regards of my fellow performers were still a quietly satisfying banquet for my straitly-confined showoff ego. And I had the all-important sense of inclusion, of being a member of a club I actually wanted to belong to for a change.
And then, it was over. The Sunday evening show rolled, and having rolled, rolled on. We gathered fallen sheet music, packed up our instruments, folded our music stands and vanished into the night. Artifacts of the event remain: photos, video footage, website references, stray comments in media here and there. But like all live art, lived out moment by moment in the physical world, Vonnegut's merry steamroller of time stomped it all into the tarmac of history.
But what were we saying back there? Everything changes, but nothing ends. And the good we did that week and all the weeks and months and years before and to come, we and all the other we's of Moisture and New Vaudeville and social justice and societal change and peace and love and hippie-dippie idealistic hopeful work-within-the-systematics, that good goes out into the world, out and out and on and on. Waves radiating from where there is no pebble tossed nor wind to blow. To coin a phrase.
I'm less naive now in my witless senility than I was in my thoughtless, trusting youth. I know there's no perfection, no immanentized eschaton to be strived for, no worker's paradise or kingdom of heaven, save perhaps in the innermost chambers of the soul. But I'm pretty fair convinced that there is such a thing as better. Not as the ever-referenced enemy of the good, but as a goal, a process to be embraced, a path to walk, which, like everything else, never ends. And that's as good an ideal to base living on as any.