A Good Day October 25th 2012
A Canadian songwriter- personable, intelligent, friendly- recently transplanted to Los Angeles with his family- a number one single on the Billboard charts. Our day of co-writing had been a wash. We fumbled through two promising possibles songs and at the end of the day had completed none. Eights months of having at least three co-writes a week and this was only the second time that I’d ever not finished a song.
After the session, I spent an hour and a half in traffic to get from Silverlake to Santa Monica. I spent the majority of time talking to my mother on the phone. Now I’m sitting in a nail salon on Main Street in the Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica. Ocean Park is south of the SM pier and west of Lincoln Blvd and the area that I have lived in for a year and a half. My girlfriend is beside me getting her nails done while a 60 year old Vietnamese lady is massaging my feet.
I’m thinking about my maternal grandmother and it being three years this week since her death. On the phone call with my mother earlier, she told me about how today, the extended family gathered to divide up her belongings- couches and chairs and pots and framed needlework. My grandmother, five months before her death, was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and unbeknownst to the family, she had taken it upon herself to write on many of her beloved objects who she wanted to have it after her death. The underside of a vase- the back of a picture frame- the inside flap of a cardboard box that contained a deep fryer. Today was the day- like a strange lottery where you found out, in tangible terms what your worth was to a dying woman- not in adjectives- there were no parting words or letters or money, but in lamps and side tables- this was your measure of worth- a worth that no one knew except Granny.
The reflexologist asks if i want a shoulder massage for an additional $10. I don’t understand and she repeats it- twice more. Yes is the obvious answer- after an hour and a half in traffic and eight in a studio on the other side of town with a top writer who was a ball of nervous, unproductive energy- yes, yes please.
I recently signed a publishing contract with Check Your Pulse Recording and don’t have “money”, but I do have a full fridge for the first time in my adult life, and for tonight, I have a foot massage and someone to work the stones out of my neck without guilt.
My girlfriend thinks that this is funny- my not understanding- my eagerness for a shoulder rub- the fact that I’m sitting in a nail salon at 8:30 on a Wednesday night. I love her. I think of how sad I am that she never met my grandmother Joyce. If she hadn’t gotten cancer and was still alive, I wonder what objects Anna would have one day gotten from that tiny farm house, on County Road 34, in a town that does not have a name in east Alabama.
We walk to the ocean- black and starless; with the lights behind us, over the sand to the water- ghosts that only come out in fall, and fading phantom memories of the day dance over the cold sand. The two of us stand, at the far western end of this country- not a person between us and the edge of the world. Four blocks away is our little one bedroom apartment. It’s warm with good cheese and figs in the kitchen- a glass of bourbon waiting to be poured- a happy shared home in lamplight and Cole Porter songs- but right now I like the darkness and the cold. I like denying myself the resolution- withholding the need to find some moral lesson where it all makes sense, where the pieces allow for some greater understanding of the world. I allow the chill to unsettle me- I hold my partner. Today was a good day.
Another Day May 17th, 2012
I’ve been in LA 11 months. I remember my first few weeks here- crashing on a couch in Burbank, reading Milan Kundera in my friend’s hottub with nothing to do. I lived in a haunted house in Laurel Canyon after that (where some famous rock & roll-ers used to live too)- then I found an apartment at the beach. I released a record. I got arrested for trying to instigate non-violence with the LAPD at City Hall. I went into a big music office with a guitar and tried to impress them with my songs. I fell in love with someone. My day job became working with the best and the brightest musicians and producers in the city. I gained a manager, lost a manager. Got two songs placed on internationally syndicated shows in the span of a week. Last week I saw a man die on the sidewalk in front of my apartment from what looked like a heart attack. Next week I return to Atlanta with a plan to make an album and re-visit the trucker bar and record store and the pasture lands which are entire districts of my anatomical geography. Life is too difficult and too expansive to say anything about it definitively. One year is nothing and a day is enough to change someone entirely. Enough thoughts. I have to buy frozen pizza for game night. If you’re reading this, thank you for visiting.
What I’ve Learned January 6th, 2012
New Years Eve was spent at my guitarist’s house in Atlanta. I really wanted to kiss one of the pretty girls, but I got to the party late, and didn’t much feel like drinking and the girls were already being bothered by the “out of town friends” who did (feel like drinking). At 1:15am, I was three miles away at my friends John and Sarah’s house with Micah Dalton and his girlfriend when I received a call from my mom telling me that my grandfather had died. I was so thankful to receive this news sober.
My trip home to Atlanta was a gift from a childhood friend in the form of buddy passes. I’d accosted the internet (as is my habit when I need something), for some help getting home for Christmas (I’m a lifelong starving artist). The response was more generous than I could’ve hoped or imagined. The trip back to LA was scheduled for January 4th. The arraignment hearing for my Occupy arrest was scheduled for 8:30am on Jan 5th (I’d found out that my maximum penalty could be up to six months in jail for that violation). Before the arrest, I was planning to stay a month in Georgia.
My grandpa’s funeral was on the 3rd, which was the same day as my Eddie’s Attic show in Atlanta (which the Silver Girl attended, and I spoke to her briefly-ps it’s funny how your heart moves on after thinking it won’t for so long). I spent the 4th at the Atlanta airport missing flights (I was flying standby). When I went home after all the flights for the day were done, I had no way of getting to court by 8:30 am in Los Angeles, and my lawyer friend said that I would almost certainly face jail time. I woke up early Thursday and miraculously got the first flight out at 8:30 eastern time. When I landed in Los Angeles, I talked to the Clerk of Courts and they had no record of the arrest. They had “not filed” it. I asked her what this meant. She said, “go home. do whatever.” She said that it was possible that they could still file it, and I would be notified, but that it was unlikely.
I had to cancel a tour in the Southeast. I almost missed my grandfather’s funeral. I missed January’s ATL Collective (which would’ve been a reunion with David Berkeley and Micah Dalton). I will miss my sister’s birthday. The Occupy arrest was very costly in personal terms. I question whether my momentary gusto to be arrested was worth all this headache. My first and last reaction to this question is that life doesn’t carry out objectively, in tidy rational cause and effects, and to measure it in this way doesn’t show respect to the Chaos and Order that is implicit in Life (which is so far away from our ability to understand it all at one time).
My heart knew the right thing to do when the decision time came, and I did it (and it’s was one of the two or three things I’ve ever been proud of doing). There were things that didn’t occur to me at the time- the headache that my two friends would have to go through to move my car, the stress my parents would endure, all the phone calls my lawyer friend made that she didn’t want to, and for those things, I am regretful. I see more clearly that it’s those who insist on their autonomy who put more burden on the people around them. The line “I got no strings to hold me down” is untrue. Everyone, even the most solitary and self-sufficient rely on an army of invisible people. I is a We before it is an I (for that one person reading this who understands gibberish). I think if you’re mainly conservative your mind automatically goes to people on welfare and how unfair it is for society to hold up people who can’t hold themselves up. I think if you’re more liberal, your mind thinks about how selfish it is to forget that we have to take care of people that can’t take care of themselves (the difference between standing up for rights & assuming responsibility).
I’m not interested in that. I’ve had enough “political” discussions in the last month to learn that the only people I care to talk to about that are people that aren’t interested in being right (which is about 1% of you fine folks- no offense). Kierkegaard talks about the passionate prayer of the heathen to a false god and the dispassionate prayer of the believer to the true god, and says that the heathen is closer to the true conception of God. I think that’s ultimately where society breaks down. Thinking right vs. feeling right. I have learned that there are pitfalls to accepting one or the other (loosing your mind vs. loosing your soul), but that these are just the pitfalls in the human condition of choosing how to live. The tragic hero’s tragic flaw is that he is free (you are the tragic hero btw). He doesn’t have the knowledge of the possible consequences of his actions, and so he chooses anyway. I side with feeling. I use thought, but more as a useful guide or life raft, rather than as a foundational principal (“you weren’t as smart as your friends” said the arresting officer). I have felt the fire and I have “tasted and seen” so to speak, things that I can scarcely believe and I would rather be wrong on my own accord than right on someone else’s (because the fire is so hot and the fruit is so sweet!). I’ve heard that life, like in poker, favors the bold. There’s no protection against failure, disease, death, loss- but there’s no protection against that anyway.
I’ve also learned:
You should not fly stand by if you have to be in court the next day. (that should go without saying)
If you think it’s possible that you’re going to be arrested, wear thick socks and slip on shoes.
The people that present the news to you are creating their own narrative based on the stories they tell you and how they tell them, and it’s in your best interest to stop watching TV news (and be suspicious of print sources that are owned by Rupert Murdoch), because if you’re not aware of it, it becomes your narrative too.
Those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind. (dr. seuss)/ it’s true
Memorize important telephone numbers.
If you feel like you shouldn’t drink on New Years Eve, trust that instinct.
The fruit from the edge tastes better than the other fruit.
OK, now I’m done with all this. I’ll get back to writing songs and stop bothering everyone.
My Experiences and Arrest with Occupy LA December 1st, 2011
Disclaimer- I don’t know all the correct legal terminology that is helpful in an account like this. If I mislabel something, it is not intentionally. I’m sticking to things that only I saw and heard and won’t comment on any of the hearsay. I also want to note that I don’t represent Occupy Wallstreet or Occupy LA or their views. I was there as a protester and observer because I believe that for personal reasons, it was important to witness and make sure that it was peaceful from the end of those protesting.
I arrived in Downtown LA around midnight with the intent of joining the protesters by city hall. Twitter was helpful in finding ways in through the police barriers. I was alone, but joined a group of 10 or so people, and after about half an hour of walking through parking lots and side streets (trying to avoid police), we were able to reach the stretch of 1st street between main and Los Angeles. I estimate that there were at least 600 people at that segment. The numbers grew as protesters found ways around the police barriers and joined us on 1st between Main and Los Angeles. The protesters were peaceful. The police were in riot gear and were dismantling the encampment when I arrived. I saw a policeman make a network cameraman stop filming. There were five or six helicopters in the air. I heard screaming from the camp, but couldn’t see anything. The protesters were generally either afraid or overly assertive (more so than Sunday night). I stayed near the police line at 1st and Main and attempted to keep the protesters from shouting at the police. There were mic checks to remind everyone (and the officers standing in the line in front of us), that we were there in peace. A few of us sang “We Shall Overcome.” The disbursal order was given, but there was no time to get outside of the police perimeter in five minutes. They also announced that anyone that wanted to be arrested should sit on the ground. Many people started to slowly leave, though the police were covering the exits (1st and Los Angeles on the north and south side of the street). I was still at the front of the police line on 1st and Main with maybe 10 people near by who had decided to stay and be arrested instead of trying to run (which seemed fruitless). I was singing and said the Lord’s Prayer audibly, asking for the officers to please be peaceful. I saw some police handing our mass quantities of zip tie hand cuffs. Almost everyone left the western most portion of that block that was closest to city hall (save for me and the 10 near the police line and 30 or so in the middle of the block). The police ran to cover both sides of the sidewalk which caused a panic. People started running east towards Los Angeles to escape, and the officers to start arresting as many people as they could grab (that is, they were arresting those who were trying to escape). The police line in front of me was ordered to march, and they marched slowly, arresting those on the ground in front of me as I walked backward facing the moving line of officers. In fifteen seconds I was on the ground (in the middle of 1st between Main and Los Angeles) and was being yelled at to put my hands on my head. I expected the police to be rough, and they were (nothing illegal or immoral or anything to report). My right hand was badly hurt by the tightness of the zip tie (which I expected). I heard one man screaming that they’d broken his wrist (or to be fair, “were breaking his wrists”- there is a difference objectivity is hard when you’re staring at the ground being arrested)- he was in his forties, mustache and grey hair I think. He was writhing in pain.
I couldn’t see my arresting officer (he was behind me putting on my zip tie), but I was handed over to an officer- we made small talk. He said that I wasn’t as smart as my friends who had left- I responded that the world favors the bold. I asked if he had a family, told him that I respected that everything had been mostly peaceful up until then- he as humane to me as I could expect him to be in those short minutes without being “friendly.” I was taken to the north west side of the 1st and Main intersection on the sidewalk of the City Hall park and was asked questions and searched. An officer that had been on the police line was nearby, and another officer looked at me, and then at the other officer and asked “is that the guy?” I didn’t know what that meant. I was handed off to another officer and I waited outside the bus for a few minutes. I was near a female journalism student from USC and the man with the broken wrist, who hadn’t stopped screaming about his wrists. It was pain, not antagonism that he was screaming for, I did get that sense. He was trying to rationally argue, while writhing in pain for them to “please, oh please dear god. If you would just loosen them” etc.
I was one of the first seven or so people on the charter bus (fitted with iron bars and fluorescent lights). The bus had three sections that I can remember. In the front, there were what looked like individual cells. The journalism student was asked to go into the cell. In the back half of the bus, there were two cages with benches in them that held somewhere between sixteen and twenty or so men. I was in the rear cage. They slowly filled our cage. One man was passed out in the row behind me when I arrived in my seat (you have to sit sideways because there isn’t enough room for your legs). I assumed he was sleeping. There was a school teacher, a loud scruffy guy who said violent things, a hand full of kids under 25, a man who was taken from his tent and wasn’t allowed to put his shoes on, a kid who had been occupying one of the trees at city hall, essentially a mixed bag of ages and ethnicities. There were at least four people out of these 18 or so that had their zip tie handcuffs so tight that they’d lost circulation in their hands. One man who was probably 300 lbs with huge hands was complaining about how tight his cuffs were while the cages were being filled. We all assumed that ours were about as bad, but his arresting officer had put the cuffs on so tight that he was on the last possible notch (ie if you have to make a belt for a fat man and a skinny man, so you have lots of notches, and you put the fat man in a belt and wrench it to the farthest notch). His hands were bluish purple. We shouted “this man needs help” for ten minutes with no reply. There was also the man with the broken wrists. He relayed to me on the bus, that after five minutes of screaming in pain, he told the officers that he would swear not to report the wrists if they would only loosen the ties, which only after saying this repeatedly, they did loosen his cuffs. We waited on Main just north of 1st on the bus for about an hour, during that time, someone farther to the front of the bus urinated, and the urine ran down the floor boards to the back. The bus moved to City Hall east. Some of the crowd was in pain, but many were in high spirits shouting “we are the 99%” and “occupy the jail.” At one point, the man who I thought was asleep, was asked if he was alright and did not respond. We had a group shout that there was a medical emergency- “a man needs help” “help please officer” etc. These shouts were interrupted by the radio in the front of the bus being turned up to an unreasonably loud volume (the thought in my head at the time was “full volume” but that’s something that I can’t verify). Even typing this right now, my rational brain thinks “this could not have happened”, but it did, and I assumed that I wasn’t more shocked by it at the time because I had my hands tied behind my back, urine on my shoes, people screaming in pain, my wrists throbbing and my knees tilted and was unable to even sit up properly. He was breathing, but we all were incapacitated, and there was nothing that we could do, but shout for help which was responded to by “God Bless America” on the speakers (I wish I wish I was lying about this) at volume 10. Ie, this was not an effort to ignore cries for help, it was the opposite. We cried for help for a person in dire need of medical attention and the officer(s) responded by turning up the radio so loud that it was painful to hear. please re-read that until it sinks in.
There was a young latino man in front of me, who, I’m convinced saved the lives of two people that night (and I wish the LAPD would buy his family a mansion for the wrongful death suits that I believe he helped prevent). After two or three hours (during which time we’re either waiting at the park, waiting at city hall east, driving, or waiting at the Van Nuys Jail), the hands had become a critical concern in a few of the men I was with. This kid had smuggled a safety pin and had been working to figure out how to use it to get his hands free, and he finally did. He tried to see if he could figure out if he could do it on someone else. I was the closest and my right hand was in severe pain, so after about 20 minutes or so, he figured out how to loosen it. Soon he was able to remove the ties from those with the worst injuries, and we were alright (except for the unresponsive (but breathing) guy in the back). Many got their zip ties off, I was afraid to. One of the women in the upper portion of the bus started complaining that she was very sick. We all tried to shout to get an officer’s attention. She vomited. The smell was terrible. Another women about an hour later asked to go to the bathroom, pleading for about twenty minutes with growing intensity. After a while she was quiet, and five minutes later, she urinated on the floor. I heard the female detainees yelling at her, and the urine (there was a lot more this time) ran all the way to the back and soaked in the socks of the man who was refused shoes by the police.
The bus left City Hall East after being stopped for maybe an hour and a half, and were soon out of downtown heading north on the 101. Since it had been hours since the arrest, there were rumors about a FEMA camp in Simi Valley. By the time we got past Studio City on the 101, many were convinced that we were going to be held on federal charges. On the 101, the driver made a few swerves and made a hard tap on his breaks (the windows are at the top, and you have to stand to be able to see them- which as I said, we were afraid of going to Simi Valley, so most everyone was watching the windows), and we went tumbling onto the ground (with the patina of vomit and urine). Instead we went to Van Nuys and waited another hour and a half to be called one by one off the bus. The sun was up by the time we got off the bus (and my zip tie handcuffs had been on for at least six hours).
We were asked questions and searched again one by one and led into a holding cell and given breakfast (french toast and powder eggs with a very chemical taste). Three hours or so later I was called to be processed, fingerprinted, picture taken, etc. I wasn’t informed that that was the time I had to use the phones. It was there I was told that my charge was a city ordinance violation of blocking a sidewalk, which was strange because everyone else’s was a failure to disperse. Their bail was set at $5,000, mine was set at $100. I was told that it was not a jailable offense, and that I should be free in an hour or so. Another officer told me different. Most officers that I had contact with were curt and as helpful as they were allowed to be. However, when my friend came with bail, she was turned away for six more hours because (they were still processing everyone). We were told by an officer that “the chief want’s to make an example of you” and we were not permitted to leave on our own recognizance, which is a right that extended to nearly all misdemeanors (ie, you are set free and expected to show up for the arraignment).
I would like to tell more about the experience of Van Nuys jail, and I’ll probably edit this post in the next few days to include observations from these next 10 hours or so, but other than one specific, verbally abusive officer, it was as one can expect a dirty jail to be (there was blood on the wall by my head in the cell, it was cold, and the water faucet didn’t work). Information was scarce on all sides. I was lucky.
All in all I was in custody for about nineteen hours. As far as I know, most everyone else is still in jail. That’s my story.
*I was informed by a reporter that those in authority in the bus were the LA County Sheriffs, not the LAPD. If there are any important things like this that I missed, please inform. I want this to be as unbiased as it can be in a situation like this.
The Ego And The Idiot November 28th, 2011
I spent last night gaining twitter followers and loosing friends on facebook because of my involvement in the Occupy LA protest. I got to stand face to face with a policeman in riot gear and look him in the eyes and tell him that I loved him, and that I was not his enemy, and that I knew that he had to make concessions with his conscience to be there, and he teared up. I saw a historic night unfold and went home an hour after sunrise. I saw violence and peaceful protest, and then I saw a standoff, and then I saw retreat. I went home and slept till mid afternoon.
I think that this blog started, this website started even, as a way to help me gain credibility to advertise my music a few years ago. I was in France for a show, and the promoter’s dad was some big shot music person who was goingn to help me, and that was my motivation for putting this thing up. I think I was hoping to be on Joshua Radin’s European tour that spring or something (that I didn’t get on).
Anyway, I woke up this afternoon and spoke with a lawyer about dissolving a music deal that I’ve been bound to for the last year. Since last October, I’ve gotten to hang out and write and play live with some pretty amazing and well known people. Because of the deal I got to play in front of millionaires and drink wine on their vineyards, and see places that most people will never see. The lawyer (or “magisterium of justice” as a czech friend once mistranslated), rightly advised me out of this contract which takes 30% of all earnings (even stuff that the production company has no part in), and basically exists to get me a major label deal. Autonomy is what getting out of this deal represents. Autonomy (the ability to create what i want, or release a 50 song album or write about how much fox news blows, without anyone telling me no) is the core modus oprerandi in my brain beyond eating food and not sleeping on the street. Some partnership is good and necessary, but on the outer layers, where the vision touches the real world, not in the space with the vision.
I hung up the phone and drank the two shots that were left in my bottle of rum. Rent is due on my birthday in three days. I’ll be 26. I’m about $200 short (I share a one bedroom apartment at the beach in Santa Monica with my freshman roommate from college). The place feels old, but I like it.
I moved to LA because I thought I wanted to advance my career, and to get out of Atlanta (where the girl who will haunt my songs until there is one decent enough to replace her lives). I like it here- so long as I don’t have to leave my neighborhood (which is perfect because it has everything I need- especially the ocean).
In an hour, I’ll have to call the father of a friend, the father who helped me get the production deal in the first place (and who has a 50% stake in it), and tell him that I’m dissolving it, and that I’m sorry.
I don’t know what place ego has in this business. LA is certainly the town that ego matters. Everyone wants to “make it”- no one wants to “go back east.” It’s funny that we talk about our dreams, assuming that we deserve to have what we want. I want fame, so I should have fame (which is nonsense). Mayby, more aptly, the question is: why do I deserve to have what I want?
Two weeks ago today, I was driving back to LA from San Fransisco. I took the Pacific Coast Highway from Monterrey all the way to my house in Ocean Park, Santa Monica. The cliffs of Big Sur caused me to break into laughter. The scale is incomprehensible. It’s too beautiful a scene to even begin to have another thought except that you feel a desperate need to return as a child and live your life differently.
The major pitfall of thinking with the ego is the thought that you can add anything to this world that it doesn’t already have. I’m not talking about music. I’m talking about the wordless truth that your life is a breath. You are only a dead man who is still alive- dust- a foregone conclusion.
I’m not arguing a defeatest “so goes the world” mentality. NO! The end is gratitude. Hallelujah, not a damn thing that I say makes the slightest difference. How lucky I am to participate in such a beautiful world.
I’m reclaiming this blog. My ego is the biggest idiot I know. Soon there will be no more filters- no one to impress- only me and an out of tune guitar just like it used to be before I knew what the hell I was doing. I make music for the pure and unadulterated joy of doing so. Put some money in my coffers if you will (tylerlyle.bandcamp.com), so that I can pay rent (or don’t- that’s also fine). I’m about to walk over to the Santa Monica Promenade with my out of tune guitar and sing on the street, because the things you can’t say with words, sometimes help to be shouted and played with a harmonica.
Politics, career, taste- these are all the playground for the ego. Be wary fellow traveler (or don’t- that’s fine). I’m still learning my lessons too.
Halloween October 31st, 2011
I’m sitting alone in a hot tub in burbank- the same hot tub I frequented daily my first two weeks in la when I was crashing on couches. Good thoughts. The world can’t help but change in 4 and a half months. Good change. Last halloween I was long distance with A-. I think my sister and I went out in east atl. She made an octopus jack o lantern. The year before that I was a zombie and V- was a chimney sweep, and my sister and I hid from the trick or treaters because we couldn’t afford candy. Now V is married. The year before that I was working at forman france in Paris. I remember the little children looking so out of place in their costumes in the 1000 year old city. All the good and the bad and the time. Where does the time go? I wonder if next year I’ll even be able to recall the hot tub- that first symbol of quiet that I was offered in this city. I think about the friends I was so close to who simply evaporated with time and inertia. And the new ones- zack and katie and steven and sarah. Then I think about my freshman roommate in lexington- the one who I now share an apartment with at the beach. S-and A- friends that stayed connected. We never know the moment when memories turn to sentiment. We never know which strong cords will break and which feeble strands will hold till the end. Sometimes I wonder which six men will carry me from the church to the hearse to the grave.
Two Stories January 8th, 2011
The Koran, as a rule, is to be placed above commonplace things. So, at libraries and bookstores, you’ll find it on the top shelf (if your library or bookstore is sensitive to these sorts of things). My copy of the Koran at my cabin in East Atlanta was sitting on top of the bookcase along with my other copies of sacred texts (more for a space reason than respect), and periodically I would find the Koran moved over from the Upanishads three or four inches. It never alarmed me even though I had no explanation for it. I live in an old house, and don’t believe it’s haunted, but, maybe some spirit wanted to set it apart from the others. Once I sandwiched the Koran between the Upanishads and the Tao Te Ching to restrict his wandering. When I came back to it, the Upanishads were on the ground and the Koran, still upright, had scooted over to his normal, apart from the crowd space on the top shelf. Still, I never felt the need to explain this to myself.
A few months later, I discovered that the book moved whenever we had band practice. The kick drum was moving it.
I was driving home one night, alone in my blue Toyota Matrix, when a sock randomly flew over my head and landed in my lap. I had no explanation- still don’t. It wasn’t anything that I could’ve done. I was just driving. The sock wasn’t stuck behind my head or anything. There wasn’t a critter in my back seat.
I’m not convinced that an effect needs a cause. I’m not convinced that “reasons” are what we think they are. They say that as Magellan’s ships were passing around the tip of South America, that the natives, who could not concieve of a big European ship, did not see the ships, or if they did, only saw ghosts on the water. Not only that the object is un-conceived, but inconceivable.
Kierkegaard says that within life, there exists what he calls a “surd”- an unexplained remainder when everything else is explained away. He says that life is like drinking a beer and finding a frog in the foam, and you have no explanation why, and no way to figure out how it got there. It’s just there, and that strange feeling of being unable to explain, is an important psychological truth about life.
From the story about the sock, I learn that the nature of things are unexplainable. From the story of the Koran, I learn that sometimes the nature of things are explainable. From the Tyler, the idealist, I learn not to romanticise. From Tyler, the zoo keeper, I learn, that it’s always hard to live with a pair of ducks.
On Tour September 21st, 2010
I woke up this morning on a comfy couch, in the home of a friend. The curtains are drawn, the house is surprisingly clean. I slept very well. Understanding that there are 10,000 different ways that a person might react to the same situation, I understand that “tour” for tyler and “tour” for chelsea might be different. Anywho, here’s the skinny. I’m on something called the “Southern Trail Tour”, which includes Chelsea Lynn Labate, Jeremy Aggers, Channing & Quinn, and myself. It’s a 14 date tour across the Southeast (mainly), and last night was the Nashville date (show 5).
When I go to see artists on tour, I hate to hear them say that all the cities blend together, because when you’re in Louisville, you certainly don’t want to hear it compared to Birmingham (or visa versa). Still, there’s this sense that no matter where you go, even if, at some places it’s harder to find than others, there are still pockets of cool people, pockets of “bless their hearts” honest to god sort of people, and a big rowdy crowd of rude, noisy, irritating people. There’s always some sight to see. There’s always some coffee shop. There’s always a used book store in an out of the way sort of place. That’s refreshing to see. It means that America is this mad-lib, and any city can fill in the nouns uniquely, but uniquely in the same way.
Every morning I rise, be it from a comfy couch/ guest bed/a children’s racecar bed/ floor, in a studio/sketchy livingroom/finished basement/undergrad tv room, and get in the van to go to some new place. I end up creating constants within this world. I have my bag, it’s mine. I know how it’s packed. I get a V8 and Naked Superfood every morning at the first gas station. I drink out of the same bourbon bottle every night. I text message the same girl. I have my books, my music, and my magazines. Outside of these things, I have no control over how the universe chooses to fill in the proper nouns on the madlib sheet for the day.
Another predictable pattern:
lack of time…
A Night At The Opry August 13th, 2010
I’m from rural West Georgia. It’s there; it exists. If you go outside of I285, past Thornton Road, past “the suburbs”, past Douglasville for another 45 minutes- almost to the Alabama border- approximately at the line where people start to wave at you when you drive by, it’s right there.
There are some things I love about the south. I love the food, the warmness of people, how everything is familiar, how the trees and grass are super green in the summer. I love the slowness, the time and space to watch a cloud pass all the way across the big blue sky. I love the south. I truly love the south.
I also hate the south. I hate the arrogance, the small town bickering, the constant question “what would the neighbors think?”, the bad education, the popularity of Fox News, the “fuck you” pick up trucks, the tendency for people to think “things cain’t get much worse off.” I hate the south. I truly hate the south.
It is what my great great great grandfathers and grandmothers left for me in their will. They left me a bad stomach, a big nose, decent vocal chords and a plot of dirt. I carry them inside of me like a blueprint- like a foregone conclusion. There’s even a road that cuts through a trailer park somewhere near where I grew up that my grand pa paid to be named “Tyler Lane” (in honor of my birth). The first song I remember learning was “Honky Tonk Man” by Dwight Yoakam. My dad was the minister of music at my country Methodist church. I know the cemetery where I will be buried- right next to the patch of woods where my second cousin was killed by her boyfriend for getting pregnant- near the jail I spent a night in for breaking into the public pool.
When I go home now and see the Glenn Beck Show saved on my parent’s DVR or I run into an old classmate who is selling insurance, I’m reminded that this was my course. The fate that awaited my grandfather after the military, the fate that awaited my dad after getting cut from his New York acting school, the Christ Haunted South of hard work, Sunday lunch, and hard deaths is my fate. It’s what the Oracle told me as a child. It’s the warning I see on every back street and on the tongue of every small town preacher in my home town. “This is where you belong” is the word from Delphi.
I am Oedipus. I ran from the ghost to live in the underground dives of Paris. I have a subscription to the New Yorker. I graduated college with a degree in Philosophy. I love the European Novel. I love Dvořák, Mahler, Beethoven and Liszt. I’m a Humanist. I get my news from the BBC, my beer from Belgium, and religious instruction from 4th Century Greece- and despite this heresy, this intentional avoidance of The Ghost, I am my father’s son.
I went home last weekend to help my grandfather cut grass and to hang out with my parents. Once a month there’s a sort of variety show about 20 minutes outside of Carrollton at the Lowell Opry House- which is a beautiful converted airplane hanger in the middle of nowhere. I’ve never been, though I’m sure my dad has invited me to every single one.
The format is like this: there are two sets, both are opened by an original act. The main feature is a band that plays mostly old country songs and members of the audience who can sing those songs get on stage and sing with the band. I knew about 2/3 of the songs (i am my father’s son), and they were all executed beautifully. The pedal steel player is about 80 and has played for every decent country band between 1960-1985. 98% of his licks are perfect but the other 2% are so incredibly off it’s almost a masterpiece. The keyboard player is blind and makes the joke “it’s nice to see all of y’all here tonight.” My mom was asking the band leader why he (the piano player) never brought his girlfriend around and the band leader responded, “well Deborah, she’s just a damn whore.”
The median age of the crowd is probably 50, but the music is so good. It’s exactly just so. It’s the predictable jokes, the showmanship of someone who has seen a life time of honkey tonks. There’s no awareness, no pretensions, no winks and nods. It’s not like Southern Comfort (a trucker bar just outside of Atlanta) that’s becoming a new hip place to hang out. It’s not hip. I don’t even think it knows what that word means. It’s families and hard working men and women with no need to qualify their life or their music. They’ve never listened to anything besides Country radio, but they don’t self-identify with it either, because in rural West Georgia, it’s not a conscious choice. It just is. Anyway, they were gracious enough to let me play four songs and were so kind afterwards. “It’s not country, but it’s not bad.” One of the singers and I were talking outside. He asked if my friends would make fun of the event if they came. My response was “No, because it’s good.” While this is probably at least half true, I really wonder what my friends would think. I wonder about my generation’s (and my own) fascination with cheese, with kitch, with irony, with authenticity. I wonder about its value.
I forget sometimes in the coffee shops and galleries and bars in Atlanta that the Deep South- the scary south- the “rural” south is my inheritance. I spent 18 solid years being unable to abstract myself from where I grew up. When I was in Paris, I thought about the Deep South in the same way an anthropologist would think about a tribe in Africa. One night after playing a show at the Troubadour in London, a British fellow came up to me and said “I like your songs- I had no idea that was what music sounded like in the American South.” I thought the comment was funny because I was listening to so much David Gray and Damien Rice at the time and the music I was making then was completely non-descript of time or place. It made me realize how much I wanted to be from the south, how much I wanted to own the rich traditions and melodies. That night in London was a turning point. Last weekend in Carroll County was a turning point. I don’t have to self-identify with the south, but I can be a rightful participant in the grand tradition of music and art that’s still more or less unbroken.
I am my father’s son. This curse is also a sort of cure. I won’t be voting for Sarah Palin in ‘12, nor will I trade my hatchback for a pick-up truck any time soon, but I will dust off some Dwight Yoakam and some Conway Twitty. I’ll make a country/blues record. I’ll hold my tongue when the old folks start talking about the rapture. I’ll remember that having all the answers doesn’t mean quite so much as being a good person and loving people more than yourself. These are the things I’ll teach my children, and I’ll take them to the country to visit their grandparents who will also teach them these things, because that’s how families work in the south-an entire history of foregone conclusions. I am my father’s son.