Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The blacks, the blues & me

Even for someone as maniacally self-absorbed as myself, I recognize the thought as a delusional doozy: I’ve been feeling a soulful kinship with the old blacks who sing the blues.

This is odd because I’m white and don’t have the blues. If anything I’ve got the greens.

And by greens I’m referring to recycling and other environmental concerns. I try and eat a lot of leafy vegetables so that shades me green, too.

I’m certainly not green because of an abundance of currency. Money-wise, I guess I’m a white guy with the reds, red being the color associated with bleeding deficits.

But lately I can’t help but feeling I have a lot in common with Big Bill Broonzy, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and especially the great Buddy Guy.

And let’s pause for a moment to pay homage to the greatest name in the history of males. I have a lot of good buddies and know a lot of great guys, but wouldn’t it be cool to be friends with just one Buddy Guy?

He almost sounds like a beer-drinking superhero. “I was all alone and mopey the whole day then Buddy Guy showed up with a twelve pack to save the Happy Hour!”

His starring role on “Champagne & Reefer” with the Rolling Stones in the 2008 concert flick “Shine a Light” is as mesmerizing a performance as I’ve ever seen. His voice is such primal fury it practically blasts wispy Ron Wood off the stage.

He released a new collection of tried and true blues earlier this year. It’s called “Living Proof,” but it could as easily be called “Persevere,” -- maybe my favorite verb -- because the songs show he’s steadfast in his conviction nothing’s going to get him down.

I guess one of the reasons I’ve always been drawn to the blues is because the men and women who sing them never seem to have them. It’s as if singing about suffering somehow inoculates you against wallowing in it.

We do share that. I’m rarely unhappy.

Often baffled, yes, but not unhappy.

I’m baffled a fresh majority of Republicans think Newt Gingrich can be president, that people are falling for Alec Baldwin’s latest publicity stunt and that anyone’s the least bit happy there will be an NBA season.

But what’s becoming most baffling is how I sense my perseverance in the face of failure is making me iconic among my peers. I’m hearing it more and more from writers far more accomplished than I.

They say they admire me for having never gotten a real job and maintaining a lively blog that earns readers, but not money. Those are, incidentally, the exact reasons that make my darling wife wonder why she didn’t marry a plumber instead of me.

They say it’s cool how I never sold out (I don’t bother telling them you can’t sell what no one’s buying).

They hint my perseverance has given me, an arhythmic white guy, something the old blues men always had: street cred.

It’s a stunning turn of events for a guy who’s often mocked for picking up and recycling gutter trash, which gives me, I guess, stoop cred.

Somehow without trying I’ve become Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke,” a man imprisoned for stupidity who just won’t quit even as the camp bully thumps him to within an inch of his life. Stunned by Luke’s pain tolerance, his enormous opponent advises, “Stay down, man. You’re beat.”

“You’re gonna have to kill me to beat me,” he mumbles through bloody lips.

Spoiler alert: They do, indeed, kill him.

It’s one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies so it’s neat to hear peers express admiration for me for showing the same sort of bone-headed determination that got Cool Hand killed.

And that brings us back to around to the blues greats. I believe they persevered through hardship and rejection to do what they loved. With them, succeeding was never as important as just doing.

That’s the way it is with me.

I’m not quitting until all the rejection, the heartache, the sleeplessness and editorial betrayal kills me dead.

Until that happens I’ll be right here in this swampy little corner of the internet, forever bloggin’ the blues.


Kathryn Magendie said...

Ah . . . blues.

*clinking my vodka tonic up against that beer bottle*

Chris Rodell said...

Listening to the blues makes me wonder why I ever listen to anything else. Merry Christmas, Kathryn!