Sink or swim
By Parson Thru
This week, following the departure from Madrid of my drinking partner and friend, Miguel, I found myself sinking back into a deep and dark place. It was like tales I’ve heard of drowning – there was something comfortable and welcoming about the sinking. The waters that claimed me were waters of deep and detailed introspection – a purple rendering of the emotional and existential world within and without.
One Too Many Mornings (live, Free Trade Hall). I’ve laboured this one a bit but, well. It’s carried me through Metro-rides this week, both to and from job interviews – brought me wandering drunk and innocent from bars en el centro del ciudad. I worked out that the song hinges on a moment. A single moment that gets the whole thing flying and keeps it there. Keeps me flying, too.
It’s just into the break after verse two – it took me until today to realise that. All I’ve been hearing for months is one beautiful noise. I didn’t know where the guitar break was.
Bob lets out a cry just as Robbie Robertson takes it. I guess after all those rehearsals and all the gigs, he knows what’s coming. The situation, of course, is that Dylan’s in a pitched-battle with a large section of the audience and has been throughout the tour. It’s the infamous “protest” by fans against his going electric / rock ‘n’ roll and allegedly turning his back on folk. You can hear that he’s weary, but determined to play his music the way he wants it played.
Robertson turns up the gain and lets go. But, in truth, the whole band picks it up – playing into the teeth of the mob. Bob steps back, Robbie steps up, and the whole band rises high above the stage. In that moment comes Bob’s cry, just off-mic, like the anguish of orgasm. It feels spontaneous, involuntary, climactic.
At that point in the music, the audience might not have existed. It barely mattered where the band was playing. They’d transcended into another hall. I’d have cried-out, too. If only. Oh, to be in that position just once. For a single moment. To have lived.
I don’t know how I’m supposed to concentrate on teaching English and learning Spanish with all that going on. Weeks of catching-up on Spanish, re-awakening to my newly chosen profession, trying to “be” a teacher again in my heart and head, reading, re-acquainting, writing a cv, applying, attending interviews, fighting bureaucracy, finally, finally, getting a job offer, now ramping up for lessons in January. It feels like revving-up the lunar module after days on the moon’s surface to aim it back across the long void to home.
In the last few months, I've found the space that I was seeking, but that space was warm, comfortable quicksand. Now, I feel it’s time to re-emerge. Time to re-engage with people and find that active part of myself. Leave the comfort-zone. I know I can, because I know I have.
The deep-dive from which I’m surfacing was a textured and highly-sensitised spiritual existence, swimming among naked and truthful souls. Back at the surface there's a harsh and lonely world. Maybe a sterile and dishonest one. But there are good people out there. They’re everywhere. There’s a layer somewhere between self-searching and sterility that’s where I need to be. For me, that’s where survival sits. It was always going to be a compromise. I’ll have to go with that: neither good, nor bad. Just getting by. Time to swim.