On this day, the symphony kicked off its new season by playing the Italian Street Fair, its annual fund raiser which would only pay for about two rehearsals. This, my 16th year, would be my last season with the symphony. I should have quit 9 years ago after I played everything at least three times, but jobs become habits just like beliefs, and we never know what lurks ahead waiting for us. To give up our habits of work or thought requires faith, which is courage to face the unknown.


It did not require much faith Perhaps faith is simply an act of desperation? An escape to an unknown we cannot imagine as more horrible than our present circumstances? or courage, however, for me to quit the symphony. During the rehearsals for our last concert of the season, the conductor kept requesting more volume from my solo moment in Strauss's opera Salome. It began with a low rumble around contra C and shot up almost four octaves to a high Bb. I was playing the part of John the Baptist's head being cut off. On the night of the performance, as Salome belted out her demand for John's head, I blasted them all with a contra-bassoon screech heard round the world. Salome turned around and gave me that red queen look which said Off with his head, too! In the next day or so, I received a letter in the mail stating there would be auditions for my contra-bassoon position in the upcoming season 1976-77. At last, I had an excuse for quitting my job as a lowly plumber in an obsolete system of pipes and pulleys. Maybe I could do something else to make a living?


At the end of the concert season, Ms. E would die of a stomach tumor. Too many cigarettes finally took their toll. I moved to Atlanta for a few months to become a nanny, but I was not the nannying kind, so I moved back into Ms. E's for the third time and finally finished the sound track for that Pawn movie I started on the day Brooke Shields was born. I was assisted by the grad student Ms. Webster designed the Celtic backgrounds for the cryptic scenes in Chapter 6. to whom I wrote postcards from various spots in Europe; while downstairs, Tom Fox, the fellow who introduced me to Steffi in Marburg, typed away on his dissertation correlating European hostilities with cow disease, periodically interrupted by scampering tribes of cockroaches which he pelted with his BB gun. Although Ms. E's Floporium at 2004 21st Avenue South was condemned during the year we stayed there, it still stands renovated into offices for a group of environmental engineers; whereas the two perfectly adequate houses sandwiching our floporium were soon razed and replaced by buildings devoted to oral hygiene. Go figure.


After two years in Little Rock on a CETA grant paying off the Pawn movie's post-production costs, I returned to Nashville and began collecting degrees that would allow me to induct poor souls into the mysteries of numbers for institutions of higher learning. In retrospect, poorer but wiser about the artist's life, I see my capitulation to institutional education as a period where I lacked faith. Anyone can be an artist, and should be an artist. Now that painting is an obsolete art, the word artist usually refers to a poet of song. Our times are lucky to have so many artists. All that is required is ten years or 10000 hours to hone your craft. I only gave it five.

With a little faith, people from all over will come forth to aid you — much faster, of course, if you smile and look pretty. Such is the nature of a spiritual quest. Unforeseen events pave the way for you if you only have a bit of patience and the correct motivations. If your main intent, however, is for fame and glory, you will fail. Seeking fame is not a spiritual quest. Living in Nashville, you see seekers who do not know the difference, and they fail as they should. The sooner you fail on the wrong path, the sooner you can get back on the right one.


So what has writing this retro-journal taught me?

  1. Memories do not remain constant, and certainly do not last forever.
  2. 'Tis far far better to live in civilization than in the brambles, even if taxes are 99% of your income.
  3. There is nothing like writing a journal to make you realize just how menial you are. Small people are always making jokes. Bigger people know their existence cannot be expressed so lightly. Nevertheless, we little people have our moments of cackling desperation.
  4. We all descended from the same mama. She had to be tough, or else there would not be plus 7 billion of us now.
  5. Beliefs are habits. Faith breaks habits.
  6. As William James pointed out, however, without beliefs, we have no motive to act. But, Mr. James, without faith we have no courage to act.
  7. The purpose of life is to know AWE because we are the only creatures who can.
  8. We are each a wave in a vast ocean. We move in... condense... disperse... move on... recycle...
  9. Can wisdom actually be passed down from one generation to the next? Probably not. Look at all the distortions of religious founders by their followers. Every bible in every religion has been used to condone murder. But wisdom, as well as folly, is recorded in art, music, literature, and architecture; and we can read it if only we keep our senses open and keep asking questions.
  10. But what if they, the next generation, cannot read the past in any form? Or what if they only comprehend the comic book version. What if they must start all over from scratch and relearn everything on their own? Then the only wise axiom for them is Never Take Advice From A Dead Man!


I would like to acknowledge all the innocent and not so innocent people, mentioned or unmentioned, who played a part in the writing of this retroblog. You know who you are, specifically that little blond girl who kept pestering me about it, and always reads the last page first. I dedicate this log to her and her congregation. Call them The Troyans. I have imagined my audience herein to be that of a group of religious fundamentalists who wished to understand reality beyond its clichés and childhood metaphors. Consider it a lost epistle from a resurrected Paul.

I also thank the thousands of anonymous photographers who showed me what I missed or misunderstood on my journey through our ancient cultural past. If this blog goes viral, please don't sue me. Luckily, few people read anymore, so its chances of virality are slim.

So stay slim. Keep moving. Walk in the morning around the churchyard up the hill. Watch the sun rise. Life is good. Feel the awe.