It’s odd to me that in an era of my life, when I would expect to value the more objective signs of success and failure, like the ability to pay my mortgage, that I really don’t care about that, any of it. At my age and station in life, I should have already begun the turn towards more realistic pursuits, with more measurable gains in maturity. You know, like real grown-ups do. I should already have a stable relationship and a house with a white-picket fence. I should have investments in an IRA (not the Irish Republic Army kind either) and be able to dole out wisdom from a long list of smart decisions. I wish I were at least embarrassed to say that I don’t value those things at all. I know I should, but I really don’t. I am as lost in the dream of a creative, unconventional life as I have ever been. Probably more so than I was when I was young enough to take advantage of it. I am not haunted by my lack of conventional accomplishment. I am haunted by song lyrics and melody. I am stalked by books and all manner of the written word.
It’s still a great mystery to me, and a bit mind-blowing, that the perfect song shows up on the radio or on my I Pod, just when I need it the most. It used to be a casual expectation of mine. Now it’s just plain weird. These days, it seems to happen all the time, though maybe it has always been that way. Maybe I’m more sensitive to it now because of my desperate attempts at prolonging this renaissance life of mine. Hell, I have over six-thousand songs in my collection, so I guess it should be written off as a numbers game that my favorites keep showing up. But when I’m driving late at night and I’m tired, the finest road songs ever made just seem to appear out of nowhere, and in the right order. Jim Croce’s “I’ve Got a Name,” John Denver’s “Back Home Again” and Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans.” When I’m sad and need to feel every bit of it, I am bizarrely assisted with the same songs over and over. There’s Dan Fogelberg’s “Leader of the Band,” Judy Collin’s version of “Amazing Grace” and Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle.” For my every emotion and need, there seems to be a cadre of songs hovering like little angels, waiting in the wings to envelope the moment. I know how each of the songs makes me feel, what they look like and even how they smell. If I didn’t think you’d call the white coats on me, I would describe each of those attributes to you for every single song that I know. They’re alive in me and each time I hear them, they instantly transport me to the first time I ever heard them. The right song just always seems to find me. The same has not been true of the right woman, the right lottery ticket or the right career decision. But that’s a whole other haunting, awaiting a yet unwritten song or perhaps freaky Ouija Board session.
Forget about floor creeks, flickering lights and odd orbs. To be haunted by songs and the written word is far more otherworldly. I swear the other day that my guitar was sitting upright in my office chair. I never put it there! I mean I never put it there, because my clueless fat ass would sit on it without even a second thought. But there it was, begging to be picked up, or at least not to be squashed. I must have left it there. I mean it can’t crawl out of its custom-made case and onto my leather-backed swivel chair, can it? Either way, it wouldn’t leave me alone. It was like the peacenik, paisley shirt wearing version of the evil clown in a kid’s room. It demanded my attention, so I gave it my attention.
I think I’m even hearing the voices of spirits. Just the other day, I turned to a friend and asked, “What did you say?” He of course said, “Nothing you idiot. You are hearing things.” I am indeed. I am hearing words and phrases that are screaming out to perfectly fill the voids in my nearly finished book and the rhymes in my half-written songs. Lately those words and lines have been pretty damn good, so I don’t think they are of my own creation. I’m frankly not that smart or so finely attuned. Maybe they are coming from some dead hit songwriter who didn’t get that last song written, or a long gone, much heralded book author with one last ending to write. Perhaps they are suggestions from God, or maybe now, whispers from my father.
Before you call an 800 number, or for that matter 911 on me, know that these haunted ramblings and ghostly references don’t scare me. They don’t unhinge me or make me dysfunctional. They instead form the essence of my new normal. I am driven to, in an almost possessed way, dedicate the second act of my life to all things creative. On second thought, go ahead and make that call, because I’m clearly “One toke over the line sweet Jesus.” No don’t, I’m fine!
Maybe it’s out of some communal hope that I will have others to walk with me on this acid-trip-like-journey through an unconventional life. I mean, if misery loves company, then the passionate surely longs for similarly afflicted souls. I do hope, in the best sense of the word, that all who long for their dreams to come true get the opportunity to be haunted by them. To me, being haunted by your dreams is what it must feel like to be normal in a paranormal world.
Mark Elliott – Runaway Home
“It’s the Music That Makes Us Smile”