Check-In 3 : Staying Creative, Staying Engaged, and Tempering The Melancholy

Already over halfway thru January. I’m staving off those winter blues by trying to keep the creative wheels turning in my head. For the most part I’d say it’s working. If I’m not working on art I’m writing. I finished a painting on Sunday. Monday I started a collage piece that will be a mixed media thing. I’ve finally found a purpose for all the old magazines that have been laying around the place forever.

I started this drawing/painting thing in earnest back in the spring of 2022. Started out small; a couple of postcard-size watercolors and some random color pencil doodles that turned into something quite fun. One of the watercolors actually was a postcard. My wife bought these postcards that were also watercolor paper. I did this exaggerated self portrait and sent it to one of my best friends who lives in the upper peninsula in Michigan. He’s a hell of an artist and loved the painting. He’s encouraged me to keep working on it, so I have.

I haven’t been doing it as regularly as I’d like, but that’s just on me. Well, I think if we had a dedicated spot in the house where all of the paints and supplies could stay out all the time I’d probably do it a lot more. Until then, well I’ll just have to pull it all out and set up at the kitchen table. I’ve got most of the day this coming Saturday to myself so that’s what I’ll be doing.

Another thing that I’ve been wanting to do for some time now is download some music making app and make loop-based music. Back in the early 2000s I bought Acid Music Pro and made lots of music in that. I had an extensive library of loops of all kinds and would make wonky little electronic tracks. It wasn’t me trying to be Boards of Canada or anything, it was just this fun exercise in composition. I even tried my hand at sampling. I had tracks that were based on Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick”, the Beatles “Within You, Without You”, and James Brown’s “Sex Machine”. It was fun. I kind of wish I still had those tracks, just to hear them again.

Well after some Googling and whatnot I found this site called Bandlab. It’s basically the PC version of Garageband. All free with an ample loop library, plus you can make your own beats and record live instruments into it as well. I sat in front of the computer last night grumbling with a furrowed brow and frustration building for ten or so minutes before I got it sort of figured out. Once I found where the loop library was it was like old times in Acid Music. Took me five minutes and I had a minute long track put together.

It’s a time waster, but at least it’s a creative time waster.

I have an idea of making my version of a Boards of Canada album. Every time I’ve attempted to make electronic music in my life I’ve always secretly been trying my hand at downtempo, slightly stoned/slightly psychedelic electronic music. I might actually be able to do something like that now. We’ll see.

The audiobook adventures continue as well. I’m over halfway thru The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three. I’m also in the middle of David Sedaris’ When You Are Engulfed In Flames. That one is the paperback, not audio. I also want to re-read the Jeff Beck biography Crazy Fingers given his recent death. It was a damn good book. I also bought King’s newest one Fairytale. I’d read about 200 pages of that one over vacation in October, but wanted to just buy it so I could take my time finishing it. There are some poetry books I want to revisit as well.

I’m finding a lot of joy in getting lost in books these days. I started the audiobooks last June and I think I finished 15 from June to December. I love reading actual books. There’s nothing like curling up with a book, holding it and touching the pages to turn to what’s next, but I’ve found that the audiobooks I can digest much quicker. Between everything I do during the week -drives to work, daily walks, cleaning the house, and in the summer mowing the lawn- I’ve got a lot of open time where I can get through a book with ease. I can’t hold a book while I’m mowing. So I guess I can do it both ways.

I went into 2023 thinking this was the year that my music buying would slow down, but something has changed in me. The urge to buy new music is actually stronger than ever. But I’m kind of into more boxsets, live albums, and older jazz albums right now. And used. I love finding a gem in the used section. A couple weeks ago the wife and I went shoe shopping in a nearby town and I found some gems at a local record shop. Random finds I wasn’t looking for. It was like they found me. One was a classic from my formative “rocker” years in Van Halen’s Women and Children First. Absolute classic right there.

I recently bought Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot super deluxe boxset. It’s not the super super deluxe with 12 records, but just the super deluxe with 7. It’s a fantastic set and I’ve been spinning it constantly the last three days. I’m eyeing the Pye Corner Audio Black Mill Tapes vinyl set. That one is just north of $100, but I still might do it.

I guess I’m just trying to keep my mind busy with things. Good things. Things that make me happy and keep me engaged with creative endeavors. I don’t want it to start wandering and contemplating how quickly it’s all going. How in just four months my youngest will be graduating high school and in less than two months all three of my kids will be adults. All of this is life. I get it. But I’ve got the kind of brain that snags onto a crumb of worry and anxiety and can spiral. It becomes a “Mayday! Mayday!” situation.

There’s both excitement and dread when I think about my nearly 25 year run at my current job coming to a premature close. Excited because I want to start over. I don’t have small children to worry about, and financially we’re good. House will nearly be paid off by then, and with the severance we can pay off what’s left. Other than our mortgage we have no outstanding debt. Just utilities. My wife can get a stipend through her work so we can pay for health insurance. It probably won’t be what we’ve got now, but we’ll have something. I’ll be free to breathe a little before jumping back into the employment pool.

But what will that look like?

I have no idea. Maybe I could invest in a business and become a “business partner” with someone. But what? Start a miniature schnauzer farm? Open a video rental shop(I bet they’re coming back just like vinyl), go the route of Walter White and open a car wash(minus the meth money laundering)? I don’t know. I know I don’t want to go back to what I’ve been doing for the last 30 years of my life. I could’ve done worse, for sure. But being on the inside I’ve seen that the “put patients first” stuff really isn’t the case anymore. It’s put stockholders first, then upper management first, then hospitals first, then patients, and if there’s anything left the hourly employees can have the scraps. I don’t want to be a part of that system anymore.

Hell, if I could be at home doing the cleaning, cooking, shopping, and getting up at the crack of dawn to work on art and creative endeavors I think I’d be as happy as I could be. Maybe get a job at a local grocery store and put out produce three or four times a week for extra money then that’d be just fine with me. Do that until retirement age. See where it goes.

I guess I’ll see how that senior graduation goes in May and go from there. Until then, I’ll keep making messes on canvas, reading books, tinkering in music software, and spinning albums. One day at a time, I suppose.

7 thoughts on “Check-In 3 : Staying Creative, Staying Engaged, and Tempering The Melancholy

  1. VH-W&CF is my all time favourite studio album. Great score J and green read. Glad to see your keeping busy and finding things to do. Like yourself I love digging through used record bins as you never know what u will find..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love those old VH albums. Templeton was a hell of a producer. I wouldn’t mind finding VH II and then I’d be good. The first album is great, but I heard it so much growing up I got burnt out on it. II through 1984 are 10/10. I even love the much loathed Diver Down. You can’t beat “Dancing In The Street”.

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  2. True story: Acid Music Pro and the old Mac program Ballade were the first music software programs I ever learned and not the well, if I’m being honest. My synth life started out with borrowed gear from a friend. She had an old Oberheim and an incredibly complicated Alesis workstation, but I watched and learned. I sometimes think of setting up some old machines and plugging in some old versions of Acid Music Pro and Cool Edit Pro and seeing what I come up with. I, too, feel the need to make some downtempo weirdo record like BoC, and once I’m finished with the current things I’m exploring, I may do so. I struggle with many ideas and ambitious recording plans with a lack of time to do it all. I hope you keep exploring; I’m looking forward to what you come up with. Personally, I could be idle and rich and never get bored. I can think of several creative endeavors to keep myself endlessly entertained.

    I’ll encourage the purchase of the Pye Corner Audio box set; it’s incredible on vinyl. I’m a huge book nerd, and I’d rather my house collapse from the weight of my books than fuck with a Kindle. I can understand Audible; Audiobooks are something I like exploring due to my commute time to work without the grace of public transportation. Fuck a Kindle, tho, I’ve tried, and I absolutely cannot get into reading books on that platform.

    I love dogs, so I vote for opening a Schnauzer farm in the back lot of the Video store you open.

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