Blog Post #1: No Day, But Today: Musicals, and the Unknown

Life is the ultimate unknown unknown.

I’ve decided to start a blog about nothing. Though I’m not as cleverly nihilistic or compelling as Seinfeld, I am reasonably post-modern, meta-fictive, and pretentious.

I also like to talk. I like to talk a lot about anything that  comes to my mind. But I don’t really have a venue to share these thoughts freely.

And then I realized I have this website: I’m not abundantly bright, sometimes.

So, I’ll be using this blog, maybe, to just talk about myself, my life and my interests. It will not be structured like my other insanely ambitious project of obnoxious length and size. And, I’m trying this as a way to stop getting sucked into the toxic state of Facebook, while still communicating myself to the world. To my friends fighting the good fight: I support you, but my heart cannot take so much abuse; that is my privilege as a more or less middle class white dude, and I choose to use it.

I’m not writing this for you: so if you don’t want to bore yourself with the mundane everyday beauty of some random white-ass guy in his late 20’s, who likes to ramble, now is about the time you want to peace out. If you still want to read this shit, by all fucking means.

Last night, I saw RENT‘s 20th anniversary tour opening night in Boston. I’m not a Rent-head, though it is among the musicals I go to regularly in my listening habits. Despite it’s swollen First Act, its lack of a strong narrative through-line, and a noxious self-abasement in characterization, it is thematically rich, wonderfully orchestrated (For my 90’s ass alt-rock sensibility), compositionally powerful, and emotionally cathartic.

I have a bout fifteen big words on standby, and I’m pretty fucking verbose: you’ve been warned.

So, if you’re a random internet stranger, this means precisely jack and shit to you. But if you’re among my friends…it probably also means precisely jack and shit. So let me clarify.

For the last…oh, I don’t know, 18 months, I’ve developed an overwhelming obsession with Musical Theater. It started in October with my friend’s suggestion that I listen to Musicals, based on an old blog where I reviewed music. My first exposure was Sunday in the Park with George…which was not a great entry point. I gave it up for a bit, and decided “eh, not my thing”

Then I fucking listened to Hamilton about two months before it blew the fuck up. I will tell you, without a shred of irony, that that was a motherfucking game changer. I listened obsessively: I sing the thing in public for my own sanity; and I enjoy it immensely. As a piece of narrative art, and a piece of pop-culture, it’s pretty unimpeachable.

So, I decided to listen to ALL THE CAST RECORDINGS EVER. Currently, that’s only like…50…but whatever, there’s a lot of them, and I’m really good at listening to a ton of music in a short period of time. Bill Haley is currently rockin’ round the clock as I write this by virtue of a list of 3000 albums I’m listening to.

[2 minutes of old-school rock n’ roll dancing later]

‘Scuse me. Anyway, I started listening to Cast Recordings a lot. I feel like listening to Cast Recordings can make you a smarter person. That’s non-scientific. But if you have no idea what the plot of a show is – and it’s non-sung through – you have to use your imagination to figure out just what the fuck is going on. Filling in those gaps – the known unknowns – gets your brain working overtime and overcompensating. It makes the space more meaningful. Space is something that matters to me, as does uncertainty and the unknown.

But a propos  of the interest in musicals, my artistic leanings, which are film, music and writing based, without all those dang oxford commas, were pinged immediately. Plus due to a startling lack of originality, and a love of Dante Alighieri, the greatest poet ever, I decided to write a musical about Dante.

Now, I’ve always been an anxious planner. I used to get straight panic attacks if I wasn’t at least an hour early to places. I like to dot my t’s, and cross my i’s; I’m also a fan of chiastic confusion, digression, and being a douchebag.

Still with me? Nope? Good

If you don’t  know, composing a musical is a big task that requires a fuckton of planning. It also requires a knowledge of composition, lyrics and songwriting. Things that I currently do not have. I do have an obsession with Narrative Structure, however, so I applied that to my musical and worked from there.

So far I have the story and no music. Something about composition scares the shit out of me. I don’t want to suck at it. I want to be good and compelling and all the rest. Otherwise I won’t be produced. Sorta the name of the game. But I have to have music in order to be potentially interesting to producers. It’s a real catch-22.

Also, I’m financially tight, comes with building a life. So you have a man working full time, unable to write music, trying to put the groundwork for a musical together; unable to afford going to the theater to see shows. It’s a real thing, I tell ya.

And then I read a few books: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson and, more importantly the Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

I read self-help books because I need it. I don’t care if that makes me a coward a loser, they’re helpful, and I exploit them; if you don’t believe you need a self-help book, well, good for you having your life together. That isn’t  sarcasm; really, good for you.

But I need help. And while these books are two very different books – very different – they more or less arrive at the same conclusion: life is uncertain, and you can’t change that fact by planning for it. In the Black Swan, it’s mathematical and philosophical; in Not Giving A Fuck, it’s anecdotal and curse laden.

But in both, the conclusion is the same: you are insignificant, the universe is bigger than you, and we all die. The true way to never be fazed by it is to embrace that uncertainty, not fight it with damaging predictions.

That really affected me. I believe wholeheartedly in failure as a guiding principle to greatness: you get good by sucking really hard first. But I had never considered the anxiety associated with predicting the future as potentially problematic. I had never assumed that it might be a harmful safety net.

So i’m dropping it, or trying to. I’m practicing mindfulness and all that shit to get me in the moment and stop freaking out about the future. Because here’s something I learned independently of those books: worrying about the future, and planning extensively is really good at making you anxious, and very little else. It can be a pretty nice safety-net, but when you detach from the fear, and embrace the suck, things tend to work out.

Which leads me to Rent. I bought the ticket on a whim because I wanted to see it and because I hadn’t gone to see a musical yet, despite wanting to write and perform them.

Seeing it was hella enlightening. It gave me a thrill: Musicals are living text; they’re organic, they grow, they evolve, but they tell the same story. And you only get where you need to go by doing it, and sucking it. Much like the characters in the show, you only get anywhere by living it, not by planning for it. And even if you succeed at achieving your goals, if you’re stressed about the process – you know, the life part of art – it doesn’t fucking matter whether you achieved anything, it’s just some stressful experience you had, that someone else liked.

So when I heard “No Day but Today”, it was pretty fucking powerful.

I’m not more emboldened to be myself, and write my goddamn musical. Fuck it if it sucks at first, at least i’ll have something to work with. I’m going to write a damn musical about Dante, and that’s damn exciting.

I also applied for a writer’s position, because fuck it, it’s not about the end result, it’s about fucking doing it. My idea is unsaleable for the position; again, fuck it: I’m proud of the idea, and I wanted to do it. It doesn’t matter if I get in, even if I want it.

And my advice to you, if you somehow managed to get through this hopeless morass of self-reference and snark: stop freaking out about the future: no one knows anything, and all you’re doing is making yourself a neurotic mess. I know, because i’ve stopped making long term plans; everything is about the same, i’m just a lot less of a stressed out mess.

So, embrace that motherfucking uncertainty watch the haze of the future, grab a drink, and let the shit hit the fan. I know I am; and once I get good at it, I’ll probably be smiling too.

Peace homies.

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