What fun. As stated, this is a chapter from The Alleged Johnny Real, a novel that I worked on from 2000 to 2006. I have not visited this manuscript in over 11 years, but if I ever finish a third novel, I think this will be it. The context of the story doesn’t matter here; the philosophy is what matters, and yes I really do believe this stuff. Crazy, I know, but I do. This is raw; I only read over enough of it to know what it’s about, but I did see it still has some of my editorial red type. I thought for a second about taking that out, but just for a second. I hope it doesn’t take anything away from this…if that’s possible.
Much love and ceaseless prayer that you have pleasant and blessed 2018.
I keep trying to deny music in the whole story of it all, Frank. Music runs throughout the story of the booze and the bridge. But how can I deny music, Frank? Why would I even try to? I mean, music is at the center of it all, is it not? Not just the jukeboxes in bars and arcades, but all of it, God and everything. The belief that Heaven is waves of music and math, eternal pi, and the soul that goes there becomes a note. To become one with the vibration of a plucked string and then have the string removed. Parallel to the Buddhist thought of the drop into the pool. Total immersion. Atoms big banging all the way, beyond need of brain, opposable thumb, and evolution.
Thinking that, it stands to reason that I would want it all to be about music as much as possible. It certainly helps to write off some of the drinking. That is to say, if I was going to be in bars beating my body with booze, at least I was keeping my soul somewhere closer to the stuff that Heaven’s made of. This is something that see gone from many of my AA fellows; it seems that music left their lives when alcohol did. Not so for me, my friend. It’s almost always on in the house. Between Luisa and I the stereo gets a lot of use, but Santy can really tear it up. He has such diverse tastes. I guess he gets enough Spanish language music from that which Luisa and I play, as he plays English language music almost exclusively. Luisa has influenced his tastes for acts like James Taylor and (other act mentioned in “Chiapaneco Liberation” chapter), and I had passed along the craft and thoughtfulness of The Floyd and the simplicity and showmanship of KISS. (Parallel this sentence adjectively) Then he listens to the contemporary hit music that he gets from the kids at school. Luisa sometimes gets on me because of my liberal acceptance of the music that he comes to own, but I remember how I always loved my mother for not talking shit about music and the other things I was interested in, when my father wouldn’t miss an opportunity to ridicule me and tell me how bad something was for me. Mother’s message, in contrast, was that it didn’t matter what I interacted with in the world, but it mattered how I reacted to those interactions, how I let the external affect me and play on my actions. Maybe Santy will pick up some of that thought and use it to become an accountable person. Besides, the stuff that he brings home really isn’t that bad. I guess it is to a staunchly conservative Catholic woman from Mexico, but from what I know growing up in the States, it’s really pretty tame.
You’ve only been dead about eight years now, Frank, but you possibly could imagine how much the pop music scene has degraded in that time. No, even you probably couldn’t have predicted such a drastic decline in music. I’m not talking about the actual music itself; to me, music’s music, strings of notes for the purpose of creating rhythm. It doesn’t have to be pretty or complex, but just that, notes strung together to create a rhythm. I’ve heard nothing from the contemporary popular music scene that has failed to meet that criteria. Where the scene has degraded has been the lyrical themes. Rap and hip-hop have almost completely taken over the scene, and the themes are simply scandalous, to match the lives of a lot of the performers. Brazen hedonism and unconscious materialism, reminiscent of that of the decade of the 80s, seems to be running throughout the world of big name celebrity, and sex and ownership are the central themes of even the most mainstream artists.
Santy does a pretty decent job of staying away from the worst of it. He brings some decently risqué stuff into the house, but since I sometimes route the music he’s playing to the house speakers—I can do that—I guess he keeps it pretty clean. Luisa can still be heard to utter a pained whisper of resigned prayer of “Jesus” occasionally, while wiping the able or stirring a pot, but I haven’t heard anything that’s too bad. I guess we’d talk if I did, but I still don’t think I would tell him that he couldn’t listen to anything.
And why would I tell him not listen to a certain piece of music? Wouldn’t that be to ask him to deny himself of just one more opportunity to mix himself with some of that eternal pi, that song stuff that Heaven’s made of?
When I think of the music of my life, commingled with the drinking, I sometimes wonder if the music was somehow responsible for the drinking, or if the drinking was somehow responsible for the music. Did I drink because bars usually had music playing, or did I stay attached to music because I happened to spend a lot of time in bars? Thank God I remind myself quickly that it doesn’t matter, since it truly is an unanswerable question.