Sunday, June 8, 2014

Stuck in the same cage

June 12, 1980

It’s ten o’clock on Thursday and I’m just getting up. I’m still tired, and I still have two full days of work before the weekend and real rest.
I couldn’t write last night because I was too tired. I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep.
My eyes water with weariness even as I write this.
My back stings from the unaccustomed labor. A year and a half after leaving my last job loading trucks and I’ve become soft.
This working life can kill the artist in me.
And yet, returning to the working world has reminded me of what art is supposed to be all about, and allows me to meet real people I would not meet among the elite or even in some cases, the rock and roll night life I have at times worked at to pay my rent.
Tex, the singing cowboy, works beside me every day, wearing his jacket thick with rebel patches and truckers’ hopes.
He tells me he’s been to Nashville, a dream or reality, I can’t tell.
But he is just one more forgotten hero in a world where few respect a struggling artist until he stops struggling, and sometimes ceases to be an artist at all.
There is comfort in working beside him, in knowing that we suffer the same fate, fight the same war for respect.
He’s tough; and yet, he isn’t.
He strolls around the store staring at the walls the way prisoners might in walls of a prison, or one of Ellen’s pets, seeking a way to break out with violence if necessary.
But violent revolution doesn’t work. You have to graduate from this. Bursting out only causes someone to stick you back in and add locks to the cage. Somehow, you have to come to terms with the system, work within it without compromising who and what you are, until you see an opening in the walls you can slip out of – or until you’ve irritated the masters long and hard enough to cause them to spit you out.
If you can handle the rejection, being expelled is an easier route.
None of it is easy, and you can’t always do it all yourself.
For the moment, Tex and I are stuck, concentrating on the idea of survival, and even at my most frustrated, this is an idea I keep firmly in my head.
But physical labor steals time and energy, both of which I need if I ever hope to function as an artist.
I can’t force art to happen. I can’t drive it out of my with whip and chair. I can only wait for it to come. And it will. It always does.

I tell this to Tex, but he doesn’t believe it. That’s what makes us different.

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