“What is life? A madness. What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story.” - Pedro Calderon de la Barca
I think it would be fun if Literary Kicks won the 3 Quarks Daily Arts and Literature Prize in 2015. My blog post "First There Is A Mountain" is in the running, and if you’d also like to see Litkicks win this prestigious prize, please help me out by voting for me. I need your votes to advance to the next round, so please take a look — thank you!
I did a wonderful podcast this week for a BreakThru Radio show called Biology of the Blog. This podcast features an eclectic variety of original voices on the Internet, and I was truly inspired by the smart and thoughtful questions host DJ Jess tossed my way and went on quite a roll about, hmm, let’s see … why online literature is like Bitcoin, why pacifism is a major meme waiting to hit, why I am obsessed with the phrase "Ship of Fools". BreakThru Radio is about both words and music, and I also like the pleasant tunes DJ Jess selected for this podcast. Thanks BreakThruRadio and Biology of the Blog!
While I have you all gathered here, dear Litkicks friends ... I want to mention that I’ve been going through a bit of a mad season, a roller-coaster year, a splintered summer. I’ll be heading to San Francisco in a couple of weeks in what must be some kind of search for sanity and/or meaning … I’m excited to be part of the Beatnik Shindig and I’m excited that I’ll be reconnecting with old friends, newly connecting with new friends and (best of all) meeting a couple of longtime Litkicks contributors for the first time, all of this going down on the hallowed streets around North Beach and Columbus Avenue and Jack Kerouac Alley.
My blogging schedule will probably continue to be pretty uneven through the next few weeks. I’m also following through with a bunch of tech/design updates to this site, which is another reason I’ve had less time to write.
My personal soundtrack for my splintered summer has been a live album I love so much I want to tell every single person who reads Litkicks to go download the whole thing right now. I’m talking about Live at the Music Hall by Phosphorescent, which is basically a one-man band dreamed up by the intense and sweet-voiced Matthew Houck.
I can’t believe how talented Matthew Houck is. His songs about love and hate and anger and betrayal and breakup and forgiveness and sadness and renewal stab at my heart in a way that reminds me of the most emotional and cathartic record albums I’ve ever heard (say, Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan or The Hissing of Summer Lawns by Joni Mitchell or Harvest by Neil Young). But even as his lyrics sometimes pull me into my past, his brilliantly organic and ironically bubbly musical settings sound totally fresh and alive for 2015. Here’s one of Phosphorescent’s more upbeat songs:
A lot of the other songs aren’t as upbeat as this one, but they can make a guy cry. The sad songs are the ones you should really buy this haunting, honest, beautiful live album for.
I was sitting on the trunk of my car the other day — a hot day, a sandy parking lot — waiting for an old friend to drive up. I took a picture of my shadow on the ground, and then I was surprised to see what the picture showed: a chill guy, relaxed and ready for action, head upright, knees cocked to move, a big sneaker poised to coolly jump.
The funny thing is, I was the real-life version of that guy, the original of that shadow ... the human body blotting up the hot sun so as to carve this casual diagram into the ground. But I don't think I looked anything like that shadow as I sat there waiting. I knew the expression on my face was tense, tight, bugged, reflecting the exhaustion of a hard day. I knew my body language radiated weariness from overwork, anguish from defeat. There was nothing "cool" about myself at that moment -- nothing at all.
But what does it mean, that my shadow can tell such a good lie?
I don’t know what it means, but the realization that I have a shadow that can so easily fabricate a beguiling mirage has somehow stuck with me. I sense there's something meaningful for me in this metaphor. Too often in my life I have hidden within the shadows I cast, pretending to be a simpler person than I am ... pretending that things are going well when they're not.
This is something I don't want to do any longer. I'm on a truth journey this summer -- splinters and all. Here’s another song by Phosporescent, and I’m out.