Thursday, June 15, 2006

Listening to Enya

I had a dream one night.

I went home to Ohio, with the idea of living there again, indefinitely. For a number of years, it always felt as though I could return after having spent half my life away, and I could pick up right where I left off. This was reinforced with every trip home. But something happened this time. No sooner had I settled in, than I realized that everything around me had changed. It was more than the transformation of physical landmarks, or strip malls where there was once open fields, or friends moving away or getting older. It was as though I was suddenly a stranger. It was as if, at some point shortly before my return, I reached the point where I had finally stayed away long enough for everyone and everything to move on.

When I lived back home, I moved freely among musicians' circles, and sat in with professionals. The whole time I've lived in DC, that has been nearly impossible. It's not that the calibre of musicians is any higher around here, so much as they are less accessible. This never made any sense to me. I used to read about them in newsletters, and I see them in e-mail notices, a lineup of bands that, with a minor change here and there, three or four of them were merely various combinations of the same people. For example, if you were a really good fiddle player, you wouldn't want to be confined to one style. So one band would be devoted to Irish music, one to New England style, one to southern mountain style. Except for a piano player in the second or a banjo player in the third, it was the same damn band! If corporations did that in a marketplace, there would be antitrust laws against it. But I've seen a few people corner the lion's share of the action.

The point is, for all the pretense of being socially alternative or progressive (you know, "hippie dippie," that sort of thing), the end result is sooooo East Coast elitist.

It was even more crass when I was playing zydeco, back in '02 and '03. I used to sit in with the bands, and it was great. My chops were at their best in years. I was holding my own, and the guys in the band were totally cool with it. Problem is, the promoters weren't. "David, people are paying for the authentic Louisiana experience," one told me. Apparently a clique of middle-aged, middle-class, East Coast wannabes have to be the ones to show guys actually born and bred in Louisiana, as to what the "authentic Louisiana experience" really is. Uh-huh. Looking back, I think it was jealousy. I see it a lot in musical circles -- the wannabes. They've never played an instrument in their lives, but they hang out with the band (and sometimes, at least in the case of the women, it doesn't seem to stop there). Then a yutz like me walks in from out of nowhere, and they can't take credit for it, and it infuriates them. It's all more eilitism to me. So I decided then and there, that I'd wait until the time was right, or I spent time in Louisiana myself.

Then again, it has been awhile, so...

I've changed over the years, in a way that I wouldn't had I stayed in Ohio. I pronounce some words differently, like "EYE-ther" instead of "EEE-ther" (either) and "NYE-ther" instead of "NEE-ther" (neither). (I notice when my son calls me "Dad," there isn't that midwestern twang to the "a" sound, more like... California or something. It probably has to do with him not being midwestern, you think?) I've met people from all over the world, people I would have otherwise merely read about. I've seen events that made world history happen right in front of me. I've had opportunities that I never would have had, had I stayed in Cincinnati.

So, why the dream?

I was never much of a joiner, really. In a small group, I'm the life of the party. But "schmoozing" in crowds is not my idea of a good time, so much as an excuse for idle and insincere chatter. I suspect my dance pals don't even notice. That's because we see each other at things where I dance more than "schmooze." When I'm with "Sal," I talk with her mostly, and she's better at that sort of thing anyway. I suppose most women are.

In the prayer Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen), we speak of our earthly life as "this, our Exile." We refer to this world as a stop on the way to what he hope to be our true home. We all have our limitations, and we make the best of them until then.

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