Monday, April 8, 2013


Genghis Cohen, Los Angeles

Photo by Obe in Mazunte, Mexico

My friends Christian and Andi are traveling the West Coast in an RV with their infant and three year-old while Christian promotes his solo album, “Sleep the Machines.”   It’s a wonderful anthropological/artistic experiment, which promises to be showcased in various formats. I returned from Mexico by way of California and met up with them in Los Angeles to sing a few songs with Christian at Ghengis Cohen last Thursday.  Christian mentioned at the show that making music is really just a good excuse for being on the road.  Another friend, working on a novel, describes a character possessed by "a strange compulsion to keep moving, to keep boarding anything that moved, from merchant wagons to caravans to trains to ships, with no destination in mind but only the intense addiction to constant motion and to the changing shape of the landscape around him.”  One of the friends I visited in LA just finished a fantastic screenplay with a similar thematic backdrop – men on the highway. 
Ramsey and Lila in Pasadena
I've met some memorable characters on my various journeys; a few of them have remained a part of my continued narrative, while others were more ephemeral -- a beautiful part of a moment.  Some of them have been true travelers, others more like tourists. There is a code that seems to govern the former and their relationship to life: Everything is for the moment, and the moment is everything.  I guess this is simply a way of reconciling with what is true of even the most seemingly stable and stationary existence: everything is temporary – even the things that are permanent.  What better way to come to terms with this truth than to simply make it explicit?

The problem with happiness -- one that I believe true vagabonds confront quite directly -- is that it creates a hunger for more happinness. . . kind of like Carmex.  The Buddhists have found a way to work with this basic fact of human nature but it remains on my list of things to be mastered.  They make a distinction between that which is simply relief from suffering, and what is authentic happiness.  Carmex would probably fall into the first category, while the second category demands a total commitment to the moment -- space/time continuum, be damned.  In my experience, fighting (martial arts) and live performance of any kind are a couple of very direct ways of training in the art of being in the moment – the minute you start thinking about or getting hung up in what just happened, you trip.  There is only one direction to go -- forward.  Accepting this doesn’t mean being cold or unfeeling, or denying the pleasure that memory offers – I guess it's more about how to relate to one's experiences, ie, not getting entangled in what has already passed, or trying to extend or change history using brute force of will.   
I guess this is why we write songs, get tattoos, make art, linger over meals and then talk about them afterward – they are all ways of holding and savoring a piece of what we experienced -- letting those feelings and moments be a part of the story that our bodies tell, that our voices sing. 

Photo by Hugo in Guanajuato
Tatuaje de Amor