There’s this 12-year-old kid who’s got his own bedroom and he’s lying awake on a mid-winter night. It’s probably, oh, around 1971 and he’s got a clock-radio on a bedside desk, and oversized Sony headphones are cupping his young head.
“What’s he listening to?” you might be wondering.
Well, I can answer that.
It’s late night FM radio and the DJ is playing The Moody Blues’ song “Question” (the long version). It’s jazzing the beejeebers out of this kid, like having the top of his head popped off.
So much coming at him. So much thinking going out.
It’s driven by those insistent, thrumming guitars backed by soaring voices, a roving bassline and the lyrics: “Why do we never get an answer, when we’re knockin’ at the door?”
Immediately, images fly past: a burning world of persecution, yeah, just like the Vietnam War on the TV news every night, backed by skeevy politicians and faceless corporations “burnin’ in its greed…”
But “the truth is hard to swallow…” The boy recalls a Bleeding Heart Jesus knocking at the door—an image from Indianapolis in the mid-1960s—then, just as suddenly as the torrent began, the song sags into something sorrowful and sweet and lost, making the boy feel lost, too: “Between the silence of the mountains and the crashing of the sea, there lies a land I once lived in, and she’s waiting there for me.”
“…Back in 1987, on a Wednesday at exactly 4:41 a.m., the boy eyes a streetsweeper pirouetting the intersection of Blake Road North and 2nd Street Northeast in Hopkins, viewed out the sliding-glass patio window of his apartment. A space he will never inhabit again.”
Here is where we pick up the story again. It’s years later and he’s on the verge of completing two new pieces to follow on the previous year’s work.
When I look at the The Question of Survival section from Vicious Frieze II (1988, at left), a lot comes back.
I was struggling in the late 1980s to figure out what I wanted to do, creatively and professionally. I’d finished the first Vicious Frieze and naturally 1988 would yield up a Vicious Frieze II. Heck, I might even have a Vicious Frieze III in me. Who knew?
But what made things work was to just settle in with what I had directly in front of me at the time. You see, I grew up around crazy-makers—you might not have thought so, but to a person such as I was becoming, it might be more accurate to say “others whose values did not reflect my own.”
As a kid, I always felt I was to blame for this predicament. Now I’m seeing it differently.
It was a question of survival.
The cool thing is I survived.
Ten days ago I moved all my planned Vicious Frieze posts on creativity off WordPress and over to Medium.
For the next 100 days, I’m experimenting with drawing again, once every day, accompanied by a 100 words-or-so blog post.
That culminates on May 4, 2017. Yeah, I know! Seems like forever from now. The world could be completely different.
I’m excited about this because it allows room to experiment while keeping CITD true to its somewhat original mission: Making sense of whatever remains after losing everything that mattered, or in other words, a place for long-form, more autobiographical, deeper-dive pieces. The Medium posts will be no more than 200 words and accompanied by new artwork.
Completely in the Dark begins its 7th year here on WordPress and I’m grateful for all the loyal readers who’ve stuck with me.
Thank you for your friendship.