A constant reminder throughout the darkness that you are just a goddamn sinner.
When I am at my best, I can lose myself in writing. I am no longer a weary bag of flesh and neuroses when in the grip of muse – I become sounds and words and letters and the very punctuation of thought, the tiny impulse of electric fire that darts from neuron to nerve fiber to finger to plastic keys. Consumed by the wash of electromagnetic foam, springy globes of cognition floating in the salty brine, one shiny saliva bubble perched tenuously on the tongue tip of God – it’s the perfection of creation that thrills my gills.
That, I remind, is when I am at my best. That has not been the case most of these late days. Most of the time, when I sit down at the keys of my chosen instrument – a compact and extremely scruffy netbook of dubious origin – I feel like Bigfoot attempting a rendition of Moonlight Sonata on a Pianosaurus. Anyone remember Pianosaurus? What about Bigfoot? If not, then perhaps you see part of my problem.
I was born in 1967, but spent the bulk of my formative childhood in the 1970s. Richard Nixon, Sesame Street, Apollo 13 and the break-up of the Beatles were at the top of my hot cultural 100 just when cognition began to settle in within the confines of what would turn out to be a rather elastic mind of mine. Vietnam, Watergate, Cambodia and the Munich Massacre unfurled before my incredulous eyes and ears every evening around dinner time, usually after heavy afternoon doses of Leave it to Beaver, Lost in Space and Batman. A glow-in-the-dark Baby Jesus was my nightlight lamppost to salvation and Evel Knievel was my stunt cycle hero in red, white and blue. In my eyes they were probably about equal back then.
When I was a child it was easy to think of them as equal, because back then they were both very popular and equally ubiquitous, like Dick Cavett and Hong Kong Phooey, and it was easy to suppose they had similar or perhaps complimentary superpowers. Kneivel would smash his bones to bits attempting to jump a dozen greyhound buses, while baby Jesus could heal those broken bones and turn water into gasoline to power those greyhound buses, and perhaps they would tour together in a great bus caravan across the highways and byways of the land, righting wrongs and getting into adventures as they discovered Richard Nixon’s America.
These days it’s a little harder to find Evel Knievel’s toy stunt cycles or glow in the dark baby Jesuses on store shelves. Evel soared too close to heaven when he attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon in a slapped-together, steam-powered rocket cycle, and subsequently had his wings clipped. I’m not so sure why glow-in-the-dark Baby Jesus disappeared, except that the glow-in-the-dark fad went away with Pet Rocks and lawn darts, and by the time the 1970s ended I was well stuck in the muddy ditch of puberty, and you’ll note that the Bible makes nary a mention of the smelly, insecure, girl-crazy and Star Trek-obsessed teen-age Jesus. So perhaps you see another part of my problem.
Then we also had Bigfoot, that cryptozoological superstar whose own career peaked around the time he did a guest shot on a two-part episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, where it turned out he had a robot arm like Darth Vader, years before tall, dark cyborg anti-heroes became the rage. Around the same time he had a Saturday morning program in which he played single parent to an orphan waif known as Wildboy, again ahead of the single parent craze that seemed so cutting edge back then.
Now, of course, such cultural icons are simply nebulous, misty vapours of memories sloshing about in my brain’s chemical soup mix, and the simple joys they once engendered are as much a part of the past as my virginity, my appendix and a simple faith in a better world to come. Not all of these things are bad to lose, but it’s a shame nevertheless to brush against those little hollow gaps in my soul they once filled up.
Those gaps are particularly keen on those days when the muse won’t come, and the feeling of Bigfoot uselessly mashing his fingers against the keys of a dinosaur-shaped toy piano comes again to mind – which is not such a bad thing as it could be, when you get right down to it.