Before everything took off, in two or three binges, I bought up tapes from Constellation Tatsu in bulk, bringing my collection up to as many as 30 all told, once everything arrives. I had no motive; most of these are ambient or “new age” I always thought they were kind of incompatible with my high-strung nature. Now I’ve got to account for them in my quest to write a blurb for every one of my 300+ purchases on Bandcamp… what do I say? Maybe by listening to all these I’ll develop a finer ear… all ambient music sounds the same to me. What’s the angle? Well, I’m highly on edge from this coronavirus shit, soldiering through brutal depression, maybe I’ll meditate to these tapes for a week & write about how they make me feel. Better than nothing.
Day One, the ears on the tress “new beginnings”. 25 March 2020. I felt like a major suicide risk so I broke isolation & went to my parents’ house in town. The first case of COVID-19 in Nacogdoches was reported that night. Mom took a screenshot of the news on Facebook & printed it out from her iPad… I put the paper in a binder of memories along with stuff like my employee review from the first six months at my first job that wasn’t fast food or retail & the card I got from my parents when I turned 30 years old. I told my parents I wanted to drop out of grad school & dad told me to stay (a month ago I was toughing it out & he told me to drop out)… classic example of dad finding something wrong with every decision I make. That night we almost got into a fight before dinner b/c he thought I grabbed a plate from the cupboard instead of one of the ones he had already laid out for us (he was wrong)… it would still fuck me up if he died from COVID-19 though 😎👍 shit, fuck everything, maybe it wouldn’t… remembering another fight ten years ago, he’s yelling at me & I’m just walking away, I wander around suburbia aimlessly, don’t come home for hours… I know I don’t have it bad when it comes to dads. Repeat that like a mantra, or so everyone says I should.
Day Two, Celer “I Wish You Could”. 26 March 2020. I was listening to Father John Misty’s COVID-19 relief album during work hours & it was giving me a headache… not because I dislike him though, it’s fucking boring to hate Father John Misty, he has a few interesting songs. I had gone back home b/c that’s where my music setup is & yeah, I guess it’s the only thing keeping me sane right now. My job was on my ass to make sure I’m productive 8 hours a day while at home (during normal operation they’d only wanted me to account for 7) but I haven’t got shit to do, I tell everyone supervising me I’m just watching training videos all day… on 6 April I’m supposed to come back, one week earlier than Trump’s beautiful vision of packed churches all across the country Easter Sunday. Putting this on & trying to meditate – I’m failing spectacularly at it – makes me feel better I guess. It’s going to be a while before I check back in with Twitter, I think.
Bernie e-mails me for a hundred-dollar donation to charities he’s selected providing COVID-19 relief. Two days before I asked on Facebook, I have money, why should I help artists have an income right now when no-one seems to give a shit whether I live or die? I give a hundred to Bernie. Fuck you, Bernie, just don’t make me buy your music unless there’s a vinyl record for myself out of the deal. (There is an album on Smithsonian Folkways of a young “Bernard Sanders” telling the story of the life of Eugene V. Debs. I listened to it on Spotify.) This morning I went “Yes” & “Uh-huh” & “I don’t know” for an hour over the phone to my therapist; she said I was “enigmatic.”
The work day is officially over. I put on José Orozco Mora “Forma Aparentes”, think about what a shit start this decade is off to, wonder what adults were thinking after 9/11, think about what Seth Graham said to me about irony & lose my focus.
Day Three, Paul R. Marcano & Andre Martin “Valley Flutes / As it IS”. 27 March 2020. Nick Storring “My Magic Dreams Have Lost My Spell” came out today but I was distracted on my first listen. In the morning I put on Abdu Ali “FIYAH!!!”, my attention divided between the music & the computer books I thumbed through, counting my time as hours spent “training”; the music was challenging, I made a note to listen more later. It was Friday which meant no early morning tomorrow so I loaded up on caffeine. I guess I just wanted to feel something. By 3PM I had a superhuman dose in my system… I feel it, I feel it! I thought, after the equivalent of maybe a dozen cups. I once met a guy who’d gotten schizophrenia from doing bath salts & he said he didn’t need ‘em anymore with Monster in his life. I wondered what his tolerance was like. I reminded myself, don’t self destruct. It seemed to be my natural tendency. Was I crazy, or did a track on Hiroshi Toshimura “GREEN” sound a little like one of the sides of the Celer tape from yesterday?
The paradox of Friday at home: I was supercharged on energy but felt the least tense I had all week. Unplugging from Twitter was paying dividends I think. I checked my e-mail & found out the first case of COVID-19 had been discovered at an immigrant detention center; I made a generous donation to RAICES, then checked my bank account & noted I needed to take it easy with the spirit of giving. Maybe I should be in a fortified bunker right now with ninety days’ worth of rations reading Atlas Shrugged.
“Valley Flutes” sounds a little like whalesong; it’s a vintage track which predates Brian Eno’s invention of ambient & the cut on the tape is just a fraction of the full recording. I put it on & it’s a little counter-intuitive to the triple Monsters in my system but what the hell. I stop moving & take a few deep breaths, & I can’t explain it, I feel a bit of a buzz. I have an idea. I’ve got a SAD lamp pulling yearlong duty on the floor pointing up at the recliner which constitutes my home office; I turn it on & sit, breathing deeply. Damn, I feel pretty good. My sobriety was not harmed in the manufacture of this feeling. The room eventually goes silent, & the high fizzles. I look for something else to listen to.
Day Four, Arrowheads “Lifeforce”. 28 March 2020. This one is pretty funky. Another weekend, nothing to do but stay inside; this is how all my weekends go in Nacogdoches anyway but this time it was an imperative, to everyone who believed in science, anyway. Some of my coworkers didn’t seem so sure. My dad brought over enough groceries to last a week. Instead of a hug, we bumped elbows. I’m grateful for my dad, I thought. I was. It was something to write in my journal. Last night we videochatted about current events; I asked him what he thought of Biden & he said he was concerned. When he dropped by with the groceries I told him I loved him. Oh, something else for my journal… I’m grateful my depression is numbed today. It must be the extra mood stabilizers. If I’m numb, that means I can be bored, like someone normal.
12:30PM, Open Spaces “Opening Space”. 1:30PM, Saphileaum “Samosi”. 2PM, Stephan Haluska “Empty Room”. 3PM, Canada Effervescent “Ridin’ America”. 3:45PM, Alex Crispin “Open Submission”. 4:30PM, Lunaria “Ascension Now”. There’s so many when I grip the downloads! I sit in my chair & breathe, & feel numb. I haven’t dropped out of grad school. The entire campus has switched to distance education since the end of Spring Break. I reconnected with an ex-friend earlier in the year. I couldn’t be around his drinking. He’s stuck in New Jersey with his parents now. I’ll probably never see him again.
My boss e-mails me that we’re going to be teleworking for all of next month. I tell him I’m thankful the university takes the safety of its staff seriously. I wonder about the status of my student loan payments. Mom lectures me on the phone about what to do with my stimulus check & I give her lip. I take out my annoyance, frustration and/or pain on my mom waaaaaay too often, to be honest (b/c it’s safe).
6:30PM, I put on a playlist of Celer + Forest Management “Landmarks” minus everything that can wake me up when I’m asleep. I put it on repeat. I want to write a cut-up poem but I don’t have any scissors. I save a draft of the blog post you’re reading now & feed it into an online Markov text generator:
Before dinner, books & record collection and this feeling. The room events; I asked on Facebook for someone who believed in my record for my dad. Repeat the status of it & download the latest Brian Eno inter-intuitive too much potential told, concerned. What good or retail & found out the new JPEGMAFIA sing me I’d gone back in with stuff like my employee review from the first case of Eugene V. Debs. I look off, in my record collection of its staff. I wanted today. I’m asleep.
At night I attended a livestream concert featuring artists from the label Hausu Mountain. I had a GREAT time. Livestream concerts are a really good idea; they should continue after quarantine. The temperature in my apartment got hot during the M. Geddes Gengras set & I had some sort of prophetic vision which I described to the people in the chat in real time. There was a creature that looked like the Daniel Johnston frog but with Garfield’s face & the eyestalks were bunny ears of which he had three… & Jon Arbuckle’s cousin, the one with a mustache, was there. Later a duck showed me a roomful of eggs & told me, “These eggs contain the hopes & dreams of everyone on this planet. They all wish to be happy & have a good life.” Then the duck showed me MY egg. “Falseness is an illusion created by the evil mind but we’re all thoughts in the good mind…” What did it mean??? You really had to have been there, I guess.
Day Five, Chihei Hatakeyama “Scene”. 29 March 2020. I had a dream last night that my cousin changed his Twitter display name to “Lord Immortal of the Labyrinth” & he wrote, “it’s not edgy to be poly just be single”. I was really tired from staying up late. The vibe-o-meter readings on today’s release are quite high… if you want a cassette tape with calming ambient music on it, this has gotta be one of the highlights of the catalog. I play the MP3 version of the album on loop for an hour or two.
Sunday’s supposed to be a day of rest, but I’m busy analyzing & second-guessing my entire music collection. It’s a long story but I didn’t have to make a rent payment at the beginning of the month. Instead of putting that money into savings I used every single dollar to buy music. I’m a one-man stimulus package in these uncertain times. At least I’m not depressed right now. I’ve got a massive back catalog of new acquisitions to scope on my computer & so many physical goods due to arrive in the mail, who knows how far into the future. I sort through the records & tapes I already have & pick out my favorites until I’m no longer sure what I like. Some critic I am. I start organizing the MP3s in my music library & put on Thyme Lines “Geodesists” to keep the plot of this article going. This one’s not so ambient. It reflects the busy state of my mind. You’ve been working on this post each day as it unfolds, Mike. What are you going to do when it’s time to stick the landing?
On Sunday, I am tired & confused. What kind of music do I even like anymore? I don’t know. I have so much music. I wish I had some organizing principle to bring order to the chaos. My matrices of meaning are a little askew after one full week in quarantine – minus the emergency detour to my parents of course. I’m worried about my parents. I’m worried about my entire extended family. I have another month to think about this in the safety of my home. I consider it a blessing, but maybe a mixed one.
My reason to stay alive is this: curiosity. It’s interesting as hell to see which way things are going to turn this decade. Actually, it’s to spite my enemies. I don’t know who’s NOT my enemy, so I err on the side of hating & fearing everyone. Actually… it’s because I’m lazy. It’s all of these reasons, & no reason at all.
I could do to relax. Now if only I could get the hang of meditation…