EASY ED’S BROADSIDE: The Elephant in My Music Room
An elephant not in the room. (Photo by Sasin Tipchai / Pixabay)
I am sitting in my bedroom, which during this pandemic has been multitasking as an office for my daily income-earning job. It also serves as my music room and sleeping quarters. There are three guitars each tuned differently on three stands, a dulcimer, banjo, five harps in various keys, lots of capos, and a couple of high-priced speakers that I stream my music through. I’m using a MacBook Pro 13-inch at the moment, which sits next to an iMac 27-inch desktop, and somewhere on the floor is an iPad on which I might one day record one of the greatest albums of music ever written. Got an iPhone sitting on a wireless charger, about a dozen books are scattered about, almost every issue of the original No Depression magazine (from when it was published by Peter, Grant and Kyla) are neatly stacked in a wooden crate on the floor, and I’m staring at a large brown plastic bottle of Xanax.
And while I’m not sure where it’s hiding at the moment, there’s an elephant in here, too. Please note that I purposely avoided using any gender pronouns, as we’ve not yet had that conversation.
When you write a music column each week it really helps to be passionate about your subject matter, or at the very least appear mildly curious to your readers. But since the Great New York Lockdown of 2020 began on March 12, I am struggling month after month with the elephant in the room to remain focused on music. And while I’m averaging 10 hours a day of listening, and exploring a wide range of new, old, lost, and found songs, my random crazy thoughts are beginning to take over. I don’t know if this will make it into the column on not, but maybe if I make a list of some of the stuff in my head it’ll be helpful, like therapy. As it’ll be totally random, don’t try to put too much thought into it.
- For the past six weeks I’ve been working with my attorneys on my will, and writing letters to my kids about how much I love them and what they will need to do when I pass. I have converted the small amount of stock I own into cash just in case the banks fail, and I’m attempting to learn at least one Hawaiian slack-key song in taro patch tuning from beginning to end. I also watch quite a lot of Scandinavian crime dramas and wonder if there will be enough time left to view at least four or five Frederick Wiseman documentaries. Each one usually runs three to four hours. Doing stuff like that is good and keeps you busy, right?
- If one day in the future somebody finds this article in some digital trashcan, please make note that this was written during the week when the total number of Americans who died from COVID-19 passed 150,000, and it was absolutely and totally avoidable. Our country went to hell in a handbasket when millions of y’all thought it made perfect sense to put a psychopath with a personality disorder and learning disability in charge of making decisions on your behalf. Reap what ye sow.
- It seems to me that many professional musicians and other performers, including athletes, will need to find new jobs and learn new skillsets. Especially if you’re older, I doubt you’ll soon be able to safely go back to playing in front of an audience. How’s that Cayamo cruise sound to you right about now if you’re over 65, with a touch of emphysema from smoking too much weed and tobacco back in the day? I’m not making light of it, as it’s a tragic situation we find ourselves in, and I know so many people who earn a living playing, presenting, marketing, selling, and recording. Thinking of their pain and anguish is consuming. And hell, it ain’t just the arts, it’s our entire civilization.
- Maybe this isn’t quite a top five problem, but a lot of people I talk to complain about not getting enough sleep and exercise. And if they have kids, they’re worrying that sending them back to school may not be a smart idea. Then there’s this mask vs. no mask tug-of-war between the sane folks and the crazy-as-a-loon Republicans and Libertarians who see absolutely no harm to society by strapping on a hand gun and slinging a semi-automatic rifle on their backs when they need to run down to Walmart and pick up some of that hydroxychloroquine. You people actually believe a guy whose top medical expert is a woman who has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches? She also has said that the government is run in part not by humans, but by “reptilians” and other aliens, according to The Daily Beast. She might be right about that last part. This should clear up any questions about why I keep on hand the previously mentioned large brown bottle of Xanax.
- On March 8 of this year, I took my last train and subway ride into Manhattan to see Coal Country. A play by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, with original music written and performed by Steve Earle, it’s the story of the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 men and tore a hole in the lives of countless others. It’s probably one of the finest and moving theater performances I’ve seen, and within a few days it closed up and Earle and his youngest son left town for his house in Nashville. I didn’t know until this week that this project took four years to write, produce, and get onstage. And unless something happens, fewer than 1,500 people in the whole world will have had the chance to hear and see And that is a tragedy about a play about a tragedy.
I think this is a good place to stop. You probably have got the gist of it, that my mind is running around in circles and I need to take a vacation. I’m too late for heading to Florida’s beaches, I suppose, and I hear they are cracking down on boat parties on the Lake of the Ozarks. I really can’t fly anywhere, and buses, taxis, Uber, subways, and trains are all out of the question. Checked on some nice local bed and breakfasts up in the Catskills, but I can’t find any that will let me bring my elephant.
So I’ve decided that I’m just going to chill a bit for the rest of this long hot summer, and you’ll be hearing from me every other week until I get this pachyderm out of here. In closing, I’d like to leave you with a couple of musical thoughts, tips, and tricks. Ready?
I love Taylor Swift’s new album, recommend you check out what Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams are doing on their Facebook page, I want you to listen to the latest album by Tessy Lou Williams (no relation to Teresa) and agree with me that it’s the best country album of the year, make sure you are registered to vote and request an absentee ballot, skip getting tear gassed by the leader’s secret army, and please consider a donation to the Equal Justice Initiative. Stay safe!
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed here and at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard and Facebook as The Real Easy Ed: Americana and Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.