Work works if you work it.
It's sort of amazing that way.
I am deliberately avoiding the current horrifying (and completely predictable) news about our extremist Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, further proof that our nation is captive to a radical theocratic minority whose views are in no way popular.
I am deliberately avoiding the continued efficacy of our propaganda efforts on the right to pretend the United States is meant to be a white Christian theocracy in keeping with Putin’s vision of Russia.
I am deliberately avoiding the shittiest of shitty world news to concentrate on one small personal point of happiness.
On a gorgeous, warm Saturday evening in Palm Springs, at the house of beloved friends/producers, I played piano and sang for a full two hours — completely “off book” and with only a sketch of a setlist containing my originals and several cover songs — in front of a lovely audience of around 25 people, mostly strangers, and turned several of them, maybe all, into instant fans.
Truthfully I could have played another half hour or more before running out of prepared material. This is not something I could have done 12 months ago. But it was exactly my stated goal in winter 2021: to become the kind of musician who can sit at the piano and play+sing 20 or more songs in a row without breaking a sweat or referring to a chord chart.
I had the goal and I stated the goal and then I played and practiced toward the goal pretty much every day, but for a few forced breaks due to a gym injury of my wrists & forearms. Yeah, I’m bragging but not about the outcome—it’s the focused effort of which I’m ridiculously proud. Last year turned out to be the most emotionally challenging year I’ve experienced. Multiple types of Bad Shit hit the proverbial fan all at once. In the middle of fall, I ended up in the worst genuine depression of my life, as if weeping immobile on the couch for several hours at a time were an actual job I’d been hired to do.
And yet, I practiced. Bit by bit I did the work needed. As often as possible, I made a video or did a live stream of a song to my fan group in Facebook, then reposted something on YouTube. I wasn’t consistent, I wasn't prolific, but I kept doing it, kept treading the water to keep my head above it. My efforts occasionally felt delayed, interrupted, and half-assed. This was apparently an illusion. I did the work, somehow, despite my perception that I wasn’t doing enough work.
Then I arrived at the moment I needed the work to have been done, and it had been done. Like magic! Except not. Totally mundane magic.
Maybe that’s all I can do these days to /cough/ “help,” to be a “helper,” to be a point of light, or a source of inspiration and comfort, or whatever. Maybe it’s my only purpose, to be an example of Effort Rewarded By Results.
(I was so goddamn loose, confident, and in control of my act that at one point when I desperately needed a sip of water mid-song to keep from coughing, I improvised a left-hand-only solo section while using my right hand to hoist a water glass to my mouth. Did not drop a beat. I didn’t intend this to be a party trick or gimmick, but I’ll admit it was fun to hear a few people gasp with delight when they understood what I was doing. It’s showbiz, after all, and showing off is a legit part of the proceedings…especially if you’ve already earned the goodwill of the audience by giving them straight-up good music.)
What do we do when times are so troubled that we can’t even bear to look at them straight? There’s a great chorus in one song of Donald Fagen’s most recent solo album.
They may fix the weather in the world
Just like Mr. Gore said
But tell me what's to be done
Lord 'bout the weather in my head
I have no answer for you, Donald. All I can say is (echoing Pete Townsend): Keep on working. Keep on working. Keep on working. Etc. ad infinitum.