There’s certain rituals that I just cannot let go of. My brain is wired a certain way, and to deviate from these things in my life would cause complete mental havoc. Civilizations woudl crumble, lives would be forever changed, planets would tumble infinitely through space till they turned to space dust, and I’d be in a really bad mood for a few days.
What are some of my rituals? Fridays after work I spend two hours or so cleaning up the house; sweeping, dusting, swiffering the kitchen and dining room floors, cleaning the bathrooms, and shining up the stove top so I can see my reflection in it later on when I’m getting dinner ready. This is followed with an ice cold pint of some IPA I picked up at the store, and a record on the TT to enjoy while the beer goes down.
Writing is another ritual. It’s become one of the most important rituals as it allows me to clear my brain of the thoughts that would otherwise be stuck up in my skull knocking about like a trapped bat in a belfry. Whether they’re thoughts on music, movies, books, or just my own current state of dread and existential pondering, this thing here for almost ten years now has given me an outlet to discuss my reality with, well, myself. And of course, you the reader.
I try to write Sunday mornings. Mostly reviews of albums for the week. But then during the evenings and early in the morning(like 4:30am early) I’ll write in the quiet of the house. I find writing before the sun comes up is when my brain is firing the most on all pistons. Still a little groggy and feeling whatever strange dreams or thoughts in sleep I had most strongly, I’m at my most vulnerable and open emotionally. Pre-dawn is where I find the good stuff.
Of course, the morning ritual is a pot of coffee brewing. My wife says she can’t make coffee to save her life(she says that about rice, too), so I’m the barista of the house. There’s ritual in the coffeemaking; filling the Brita water filter pitcher, measuring out the tablespoons of grounds or beans(if beans, grinding them in the grinder), laying the coffee filter into the basket, filling the basket, pouring the water from the pitcher to the coffeemaker water basin, then hitting that “on” button. There’s nothing quite like that gurgling, burping noise from the drip maker to get you excited for the day. When I’m not too tired or lazy I’ll get it set up the night before and set the timer on the coffeemaker. When I rise at 4:20 am(or more recently 3:20 am) I’ll walk from the bedroom to the sweet smell of dark roast brewing.
I’ve always loved the smell of coffee. I can remember my dad brewing his Maxwell House before leaving for work and I’d love sitting at the kitchen table breathing the aroma of those beans in as I ate my Trix or Eggos. The first time I had coffee was on a trip to Chicago with my neighbor and his uncle. His uncle took us to the Windy City for an overnight visit. We ate in some building called the Italian Village and had this authentic Italian meal. We also went to the top of Sears Tower. The next morning we ate breakfast at this upscale restaurant. I decided to have a cup of coffee. I think I was 14 or 15 years old. I put a bunch of half and half and sugar in the cup and thought I might have had the best cup of coffee in the world(it probably tasted like candy.) Anyways, I didn’t really become a coffee drinker till a few years later when I started working third shift at a grocery store. With each cup I’m trying to chase down that first cup in Chicago.
Of course record buying is a ritual. The search in a shop you’ve never been in. I always check to see if they have an “Electronic”, “Jazz”, “Experimental”, and “Metal” section. “Soundtrack” sections are great, too. I always try to even out the purchases so I get at least two from different genres, cause variety. When I get home I have to at least listen to one new one right away. I’ll put it on and then read up on all the info in the liner notes and give the artwork a good once over. And usually while I’m still listening to the first record I add all the new purchases to my Discogs acct. It’s something I quite look forward to, honestly.
These are just a few examples of my own personal rituals. I could see where there’s a fine line between ritual and compulsion. I think the biggest difference is that compulsion tends to be an unhealthy urge, where ritual is more an orderly and constructive way to standardize both our wants and needs in life. I think some of my cleaning rituals may occasionally divert into compulsion, but not to the point of being OCD. But dammit, things need to be clean.
Mostly, ritual is comfort to me. It’s a book of instructions I keep up in my brain in a library where only I get to check out the books and find some personal wisdom from. I cull a sort of instructional way of functioning in this messed up world from that library. It gives me a mental road map that tells me where to go, how to get there, and how I should behave once I arrive. It highlights the little things and makes them bigger, giving meaning to things that might be overlooked by others; like cleaning the house on a Friday afternoon, writing about an album at 4 am, buying records, or making that first cup of coffee in the morning.