Free At Last, Free At Last, Good God.
The grayness -- the colorless energyless light that manages to get through the clouds -- is ruining my vibes. I’m stuck inside and fighting to pick up my guitar. I have rocks inspired by Tom Petty roaring through my head. The guitar solos are so loud, the whine from the pull of the strings deafens both my ears and I know exactly how I’m going to put the Fisher Henry spin on Running Down a Dream. I can feel it in my body.
Christian is out at work. He’s a line cook at a Chipotle knock-off japanese-bowl restaurant. The lights in the house are off. They’ve been out for the last week. With only a skateboard for transportation, I’m stuck at home because it’s raining outside. In Orlando, when it rains it continues for hours. The whole day is one constant pour that leaves the sky gray, the air sticky, and the street flooded.
You should know I’m guided by a force much more powerful than god.
I want to play my guitar and enact this vision. I want to create and make beautiful art. But that low-energy grayness is holding me back. I have the enthusiasm of a college senior stuck inside during a quarantine who is being held accountable for a writing capstone. I am given this gift of a perfect song roaring through my head. I have been blessed. But fuck me if I was going to pick up the guitar.
I don’t have a phone to distract me or blame for my lack of enthusiasm. Years ago I stopped wasting my mind scrolling through Instagram like the other sheep out there. I am protecting my mind from those pixels. Companies like Facebook don't just want your data -- they want to make you into a programmable drone who sits and scrolls all day. I’m in the fight of my life against all those companies, Facebook, Google, and Youtube. Until recently I felt I was the only one. But now others are coming around. They see I was right. I’m right about a lot of things you know.
I’m fighting back by living off the grid. To be independent is an act of resistance. I’m starting a permaculture company. I’m growing my own food inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka’s natural farming ideas. Right now I’m operating out of our backyard The left side by the chain fence is a trash pile with old bike tires and sofa cushions, but I’ve taken the right side of the plot--30 square feet where nature flourishes. The world has been destroyed by concrete and multinationals. Now I’m letting biodiversity and the complexity of the living organism reign. Natural farming is a closed system, one that demands no human-supplied inputs and mimics nature.
I like that. A system unfucked by human kind. Man’s first ideal is the Garden of Eden. We taint the world with sin. Human’s enter a serene setting and destroy the land. Now it’s time to wake up and live in nature.
Pause: These guitar tones are still going in my head. Maybe it's not just me. Can you hear it too?
I’m going to lead the movement, to wake up America and rattle people so their brains bounce inside their head and begin working. But for now I’m stuck in this fucking house and staring at my guitar: wood-chipped and covered in a messy amount of band stickers. I’ve been playing since I was little because my parents are huge Jimmy Buffet fans. I read a review from the New York times dragging Jimmy Buffet as plastic manufactured experience, but that man gave my parents a lot of happiness. So much pleasure that they named me, my brother, and my sister after Jimmy Buffet’s kids’ names. Shit you not, I’m named after Jimmy Buffet’s second son. Christian (the dude we introduced at the start of the story who is out working) is named after Jimmy’s first son.
When I was a kid my parents wanted me to be a musician. They put a keyboard in the living room and every Saturday after coming home from the Pulaski little league baseball games I would sit on the keyboard and basque in glory. I was the golden child. My father loved me for being the best baseball player in the city, my mother because she thought I was Mozart 2.0. Outside of the family, my music teacher took note of my talent and my sister’s friends snuck dreamy glances at me.
In eighth grade I played a recital. My mother took me to get a fitted tuxedo and I remember the tape measure wrapping around my chest and pulling tight. I came onto the stage and pushed my bangs to the side. I sat on the bench and played like a prince. No flaws, no attitude -- just excellent craftsmanship on display. My sister said those 40 minutes were the peak of my life. We spoke about 4 months ago, after she told me to stop asking her for rides or to hold $10. She said I was beyond helpless and my life peaked when I was 14 and made our mom cry during the recital.
After walking offstage the principal of Ethical Culture, a local prep school approached my family. That fall I started classes at Ethical. I was in a special program for exceptionally talented children and was expected to go to school and then practice music every afternoon. Two years of blurry memories later I was back at Pulaski High School. I had been thrown out of Ethical. If people asked for the story we said “It wasn’t the right fit.” I quit playing baseball too. I don’t want to listen to my father give me hitting practice for two hours every Saturday. That guy is a fascist without power.
I don’t like talking about school but filling up on words is drowning out the music in my head. Things are settling down.
I lasted for about a month at Cooper City High School, a big public school. I saw all my old friends from middle school and wanted to tear them apart and tell them how the whole school system is bullshit and they should start thinking and stop wasting their time with textbooks and practice problems. School was for chumps and after four and a half weeks of classes during my junior year, when I turned 16, I filed out my paperwork and left. Everywhere I went I told people that school fucking sucked. It’s a cruel joke that we are stuck under fluorescent lamps in a concrete block modeled after a prison every day. How people put glitter under their eyes and paint crowns for senior spirit day just shows that no one is thinking for themselves.
After dropping out of high school my parents were on my ass about getting a job or getting back into school. If you think I hate school, working for a manager is even worse. I packed up all my music equipment. My guitar, a bass, a synthesizer, a drum machine, mic, mic stand, three different amps, and set off for a farm outside of Atlanta. Jackie, a 60 year old homesteader, offered to take me in and provide food if I worked on the farm everyday. All those posers talk about wanting to go WOOFING after college, but the people who passed through the farms weren’t clean cut soon to be Yuppies. They were escaping from the normal life like I was. They saw a soleless nation of corporate greed and opted out.
On the farm I learned how to milk goats and cows. I planted a field of Spinach and harvested everything myself by hand. I worked under the sun and my skin got tan, forearms became solid, and hands calloused. In the third month my mother came up to visit me. She wanted to make sure everything was going well and that I wasn’t lying in a vacant house tying a belt around my bicep and nodding off until my next score. Jackie assured her that I was working hard and eating three square meals a day, but she also told my mom I had an attitude problem -- like it was a fucking parent teachers conference.
I got on with the farm life for a couple more months. Being away from people gave me time to work on music and I put out an EP. It was amazing, all mixed and recorded by yours truly. It didn’t blow up on band camp but I felt such energy to release my art to the world. When I saw my music organized in that EP I knew in my bones I was going to be a famous superstar. I was destined to change the world. But I started fighting with Jackie every day. I couldn’t deal with this bitch telling me what to do. I snapped one day, called her a cunt, and left the fucking farm. I left most of my music equipment too. I hitchhiked to Atlanta and caught a megabus to Jacksonville and then from Jacksonville headed to Orlando.
My brother Christian lives with his girlfriend and another friend from high school a few miles away from the UCF campus. Christian agreed to host me and I’ve been living with him when I don’t have anywhere else to crash. That’s how I got stuck in this house on a gray rainy day with no car, no electricity, and nothing to fucking do besides tell my story.
The moment I stop reflecting and filling my head with words, the guitar solos come roaring back. They’re even louder now. The guitar is forcing me to play. Loud solos are running from ear to ear and I can’t make it stop. I hate losing control -- being dominated by the powerful forces that have chosen me. Chosen me because I am the chosen one.
I don’t have a choice. I get up off the floor and walk to the guitar which is leaned up against the couch, pick it up by its neck, placing the guitar body onto one knee and fall back onto the smelly and stained cushions. I let the music guide my fingers and start to pluck and hold and push down onto the wire-y guitar strings. Almost instantly I cut a finger. Blood starts trickling from my fingers onto my hand and from my hand onto the strings and the neck and then onto the couch. But I can’t stop playing. If I take my hand off the guitar the noises start pounding hard enough for me to fall over. So I play through the slowly accumulating blood. Like I said I’m guided by a force much greater than good and sometimes I have to take it.
But then a string breaks. I can’t play the notes I’m supposed to. I’m strumming along and trying my best to recreate sounds with ⅚ strings but everytime I’m off. Something isn’t right and I’m not matching the guitar solos in my head. Every missed note screenches. My vision starts to blur. My bleeding hand is now slippery and I’m losing control. ⅚ strings is like a cruel joke. I need to play. I agreed to play. I picked up the guitar and they punished my tardiness with blood. But why did they fuck with my strings? Why are they ramming my mind like it's the gate of a medieval castle?
This is the fucking problem. Control. I can’t be controlled by anyone. Fuck this noise in my hand that is crippling me. I’m taking back control.
Wood pieces explode around me. The whole room vibrates. I start kicking the larger pieces of the guitar, throwing them across the room. I’m taking control. I scream louder than any voice in my head could ever be as I jump stomp onto the body. I take a butchers knife from the kitchen and start chopping up the fretboard like it's an oxtail. I’m breathing hard and grinding up this guitar. After a few minutes I catch my breath. The room is destroyed. My blood is all over the carpet. The sliding glass window has been shattered by a hefty chunk of guitar. The only sound is the patter of rain outside. The voices have left me. I’m in control.