t's so pretty out right now, on this New Orleans night. Some clouds scuddling across the moon, the lightest of breezes, and the quiet that's about as quiet as you get in Uptown: just the occasional rumble of a streetcar on St. Charles Ave., or an occasional late-night car; a cat or a dog. Seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit. Just about perfect.
Tonight had felt a little comparatively lonely after my unexpectedly back-to-back dinners the other night and with the absence of any sort of deadline hanging over me. I was sitting on the steps of the house as Yihan came out, dressed in an evening-out dress, and introducing me to a pair of similarly-dressed girls who were visiting her, and enjoying their first time in New Orleans as they headed out to Bacchanal. I was tossing back a couple of business/writing messages to Kevin, and that was pretty much the social side of my evening. Then, a little while ago, I felt a long-absent urge and picked up one of my guitars for the first time in I-don't-know-how-long, and stepped outside, starting to clumsily play quietly and to sing softly to that cloud-streamered moon. Never much good, I was now also long out of practice, and my fingers couldn't last too long before the pain of no longer having calluses set in. But the music that was there was quiet and just for me, and so that didn't really matter. I found myself first playing the gorgeous themes of Andy and Doug's "Me To You," as far as I knew it, before moving on to my "Requiem" and then "What They Have,"
both of which also lent themselves to a quiet night. (Though, to my utter annoyance, still with hideously distorted samples on iTunes
.) Yihan's flatmate Meghan came back while I was out there, so we spoke for a few moments, which sort of bookended the evening neatly.
I wonder whether I'll ever really ever again have the time to play with music as much as I did, even songwriting as a hobby once again. Without being surrounded by Freeks and Folkheads as I was in Notre Dame/South Bend, I've long noticed that the music just isn't drawn
out of me in the same way: we provoked one another into writing. I don't hear melodies in my head nearly so much any more. But I suspect that that was a choice, no matter how unconsciously made. I turned a corner somewhere that was going to leave me really only having time to be teacher and theologian – and not always nearly enough time for that. So I played on the porch, walking back and forth, half thinking about trying to get my fingers on the right strings at the right time, and half thinking about how maybe there are eras in our own lives that we can't revisit or reclaim. Obviously that's the case in some respects – we no longer live in a certain place, or with the people we once did – but even when we have what we had before, like time and a guitar, we still have nevertheless made some irrevocable choice toward becoming someone else, having taken passage from one era of life into another.
I watched The Social Network
for the first time the other night, after a long telephone conversation where I was trying to help my technologically
defeated father figure out what was wrong with his DVD player, and I couldn't help but be struck my memories of being in college and the sheer energy of creativity possible within a group of friends living in close quarters. This then somehow reminded me of Kevin Coyne's book Domers: A Year at Notre Dame
, which was written and came out during my time at the University. I think at the time I was rather dismissive of it, having glanced at it and (if I recall correctly) concluded that it missed most of what I was experiencing at the University, much less missing most of the people I was impressed by. But now I'm curious enough to perhaps track down an old copy and read it in an idle moment, to see whether I might get a different taste of that sort of time passed, different than what I can find in old journals or correspondence. Like a song, this life and its eras only exist in time: needing time to be first one thing, then another, and then not to be, in order to have been. In their songs, all of the Freeks kept coming back to the strangeness of living in time: at one point or another, it seemed that that experience plagued each of them, and it came out in their lyrics. That was a significant part of the mystical sensitivity of the guys that so struck me about their music in the first place.
So time has gone by, one era has followed another, but time is apparently no less an awkward part of our living. It remains half-foreign to us, which is, of course, perhaps indicative in itself....