From the recording Above Beneath
There is a line in this song mentioning a “bitter-coated sugar pill”.
I stole this concept directly from Kurt Vonnegut. Or more accurately, I stole it from literary critic Robert Scholes who described Vonnegut’s writing as putting bitter coatings on sugar pills. I am drawn to that idea because I think it describes me fairly accurately as well. I’m often accused of writing a lot of sad songs. Guilty, I suppose. I also don’t smile for photographs. My parents should make me repay them for all the money they spent on braces. Between my songs and the photographic evidence, the historical record of my life may indicate a view that is really just a small part of me.
But don’t mistake that proclivity to mean I’m an unhappy man. I am incredibly blessed, and I know it. I have a wonderful woman, the best and most tolerant friends I could ever ask for, a supportive and fantastically colorful family, and an awesome 100 year old house that I’ve torn down to the studs and lovingly restored, creating a home I never dreamed of having. This home sits in my favorite neighborhood in San Diego surrounded by a diversity of neighbors whom I love and am fortunate to call friends. I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world and have seen places so beautiful they seemed torn from a story-book. But San Diego is such a great city, that whenever I come home, no matter how exotic the location I’m returning from, before I’ve even driven through the nearest Roberto’s, I know why this will always be my home. Anyone who knows me also knows that I love to joke and laugh and be the life of the party. I’ve heard Franz Kafka was the same way.
So what’s with all the bitter-coating? Part of it is the nature of the creative process itself. When I’m happy, I’m out on my boat, soaking up the sunny days (of which, San Diego has plenty) and frolicking with the dolphins under a rainbow backdrop while unicorns fly through the sky. Okay, maybe there are no unicorns. But I’m serious about the dolphins. Check my facebook feed. But who the fuck wants to hear me sing about frolicking with dolphins? I sure don’t. It’s bragging, and it lacks class. Plus, in those times, I’m too busy enjoying life to stop and work out its mysteries on my guitar. But when Alison and I get into a fight, or some tragedy strikes, or I’ve watched some heavy as shit movie, or read an emotionally crushing book, I hole up in my home, draw the curtains and write.
When I was younger, the signature scowl in my photographs was a bit more prevalent in the real world. Aren’t many of us that way during our teenage years? Obsessed with morbidity, and the over-wrought emotional dramas that we seem drawn to like a moth to flame during our adolescence - this should have been a field ripe with prolific creation for me. But it wasn’t. Because being wholly consumed with sorrow is often too debilitating to gain the perspective needed to write. So you need to find the golden mean. Today, I’m happy and secure enough in myself, that when I travel through these dark lands, I have enough confidence in its impermanence that I can take the time to mine those lands for creative drive. I can wallow in the depths without worrying about getting stuck in the morass. I have Alison and an embarrassment of riches in friends and family, and the safety net of our lovely home to keep me grounded. It was the tension between those two things that inspired this song. Alison and I had just had a particularly ugly fight. She stormed out of the house, and left me alone with nothing but my frustration and my guitar. Encased in irrational ill-temper, sitting in my beautiful home, I was cognizant enough to appreciate the dichotomy of the situation. Writing this song helped me work through the emotions I needed to deal with before Alison and I could sit down and work our shit out rationally. Which, obviously, we did.
So despite this emotionally dark creative front, don’t worry about me, folks. When I write songs like this one, I am under no serious threat of pulling my car into the garage and hooking a hose to the tail-pipe. Besides, my garage is too full of musical equipment to fit a car, and even if I could, our car is electric and has no tail-pipe.
Looking out the window, it’s a bit cloudy today. But the minute those clouds clear up, I’ll be out on my boat, looking for those damn dolphins.