July 09, 2006

Home In America's Dairyland

God help me, I’m in Wisconsin. The circumstances that led to Pixie and me escaping Chicago for the greater Madison area are unexciting; I was sick of traffic, pollution, and the biggest collection of obnoxious human beings west of Fenway Park. Seriously, you can only live in a city teeming with self-absorbed, chronically depressed, insecure, hateful people for so long before you either become one yourself or flee in terror. I haven’t had a drink since New Year’s Eve*; facing The Hog Butcher sober is a challenge for men stronger than this weary grunt.

I had almost forgotten the joy of being able to run errands after 2:30 p.m. - or on a weekend - without ending up snarled in traffic. Only a vague memory remained of falling asleep at night without the sounds of sirens, drunken hooting and pounding rap music assaulting me through the walls. And, I’m sorry to have to say, I am only now becoming reacquainted with what had become almost mythical concepts like politeness, courtesy and common human decency. Our first week up here was spent in and out of various stores and, upon close observation of the locals, we soon found ourselves playing “Friendly or Retarded?” though I hasten to add the game wasn’t really mean-spirited; we were delighted to be playing it at all, as opposed to our usual Chicago game: “Drunk, High On Crack, or Crazy?”

There are an unusually large number of blondes up here, owing I suppose, to the many people who claim Scandinavian heritage. There are also, as you might imagine, a rather small number of dark-skinned people in the area. This combined with a lack of sleep can lead to some scary parking lot scenes in which one becomes momentarily concerned that one might have tumbled down the rabbit-hole into some Aryan/zombie utopia**. But such moments are rare, and in any case what we lack in pigmentation we make up for in white men in short pants, mullets, and unicorn tattoos.

A mere two weeks into my life in Wisconsin I find myself with a deep, dark tan of the sort I haven’t had since I was a child. Lots of yard work and long runs up and down the hilly streets have given your working boy quite the healthy glow. Frankly, I’m feeling about a trillion times better as well; until I moved, I hadn’t realized how physically tense my body had become. The health problems I’ve been dealing with for the past few years haven’t magically disappeared, but the fresh air, quiet, and slow pace of Wisconsin are agreeing quite nicely with me; for the first time in a long time I really feel like I’m on the mend. There’s nothing like wrestling around with the lawnmower and building up a compost pile to give yourself an honest workout and to get the good ideas percolating.

That said, I’ve completely given up on the novel, at least for the time being. I’m tired of fighting with it. I’ve written roughly seven to eight versions of the opening 70 pages and it’s not getting any better. I can’t take it anymore. I’m back to writing in my journal, going to Mass as much as possible, working out, working around the house, and putting the finishing touches on the last of the songs.

That, at least, is still coming along quite nicely. My producer, Mike Kennerty, has given me exactly the shot in the arm I needed, exactly when I needed it. The album is coming together in a way that actually exceeds my hopes which is a first, though I’ll allow for the possibility that years of failing to even begin to approach my aspirations may have lowered the old expectations a smidge or two. In any case, the demos are outstanding and I can’t wait to make the record.

As for writing, the journaling will have to suffice for now. There’s always plenty to write about, and it not only helps me sort things out, but also keeps me in practice so that my writing gets a little bit better a little bit at a time. The writing is primarily of a spiritual nature and I imagine that my new surroundings will take things in a slightly different direction. We’ll see.

Lest everything sound all peppy and cheery, rest assured that all isn't sunshine and lollipops up here. The car was totaled after being hit by a tanker truck (nobody was hurt), more than halfway through the year I've earned very little money (I would've made more working part-time at a McDonalds), and while the outdoor life is mostly fun, I still find myself screaming like a girl and running from various unidentifiable bugs and assorted wildlife whenever they cross my path, which seems to be about every three and a half seconds. You never realize how pussified city life has made you until you start to notice that you're the only guy in the neighborhood without a pick-up, a gun-rack, a freezer full of venison and and a fridge full of Miller.

But even that makes for some nice fish-out-of-water moments in the old journal. So what the hell. Life is good and if we end up going broke at least we’ll do it with smiles on our faces.

*For health reasons, not alcoholic ones…

** I mean, of course, that it would be a utopia for the Aryan zombies. For us it would be totally bogus.

Posted by benweasel at 06:14 PM