Standing In The Shower…Thinking.

103 degrees in the high plains.  Cup of cold instant coffee, a stack of rough pages written from the weeks past, and my dog snoring under the kitchen table.  I hear him between track changes and breaks in Nothing’s Shocking by Jane’s Addiction.  I remember first hearing this when I was a teenager.  It instantly became a part of my culture, like it was when I first heard Nina Simone’s version of Strange Fruit.  I was a teenager then as well, in Chicago, where I was laying across the bed of some girl.  I was on a criss-cross maze around the states, working labor mostly, sleeping in the back of my Econoline and writing in my journals.  But I’d met this girl who was 6 years older while I was walking the river, and one thing led to another and it was 3 in the morning and she was in the shower.  She had a radio by the bed and I remember the El rolling past the window, the shower turning off and the first sounds of the piano and the vocals pushing out of the small single speaker.  It was the first time I could remember a song rendering me speechless, almost breathless.  A few keys of the piano and her voice crept to high corners of the bedroom, until the room absorbed her completely.  I laid there and listened to the basic elements of the song; a few notes and her voice were all that was needed.  The words were destructive and beautifully sad.  I watched the ceiling and the shadows of the city punctuated by the bittersweet chalk of her voice, and it was at that moment that I instantly fell in love with writing, because a door had opened for me.  It wasn’t the busyness or expanse of the work, but the impact of whichever expanse you had to give that gave it range.  Basic yet holding layers of feeling is what held me to that mattress, completely frozen and burning and fixated on the song of this woman.  It ended and the girl came into the room, awkwardly telling me she had to be at work in an hour and that her brother dropped by to sleep there after his graveyard shift because it was right down the street and so on.  She told me I was welcomed to hang out there and meet him, but I walked down to her car with her, said goodbye, jumped into my van and drove to a diner where I filled a notebook with the new base of everything I would ever write again. 

It’s not often that a piece of work adjusts the work of another form without an element of emulation, but when the feeling of music puts a shape into the work of a writer it is a pure metamorphosis, a dawning of sorts, and an exact beat that redefines the spectrum of that creation. In fact, I would say it’s a rare to never occurrence.  Now that I’m 40, I don’t really encounter any more things that get to me like a good song used to.  We build our own cathedrals, so to speak, and we learn our own styles and they become the base for what’s ahead of us next.   An outlaw or a leader, I’m thinking about power, the ways a man could use it, or be destroyed by it, the water hits my neck and I’m pissing on myself…

About Jeff Stewart

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