‘Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.’ Or so says Harvey Pekar, real-life star of the comic book, theatrical production, and now art house (but corporate financed) film, ‘American Splendor.’ I saw it tonight on Kurt Loder’s urging, and also out of a sense that, through witnessing another man’s transcendence of sadness, loneliness, and disappointment, perhaps I could better reckon with my own.
Which is not to say I am not happy, surrounded by friends, and contented. I am. Often. But I’ve been blessed, or cursed, by the tendency to seek epiphanies, meaning in things, understandings of seismic proportions. I blame ‘Pippin,’ the play I was in my sophomore year in high school. And my mother who said of it, ‘This is the story of your life, honey, you just don’t know it yet.’
The show begins with a monologue from Pippin (me) who is graduating university at the head of his class.
Fellow students, respected members faculty, I thank you for the education you’ve given me here at Padua. But I know there must be something more than what I’ve found in books…
Then I break into song, of course, one about eagles, nightingales, finding my corner of the sky — blah blah blah.
Instead, though — exit stage left — I find myself neither heroic, nor hopeless, but sitting in meetings, and ocassionally, playing guitar, or hacking at a laptop, lobbing my dreams and disappointments off into the ether.
Can you hear me? Do you care? What difference does it make? Do I need a biopic for validation?
The truly extraordinary news is (Mancini would say I’m burying the lead) that having spent the better part of fifteen years trying to put the songs in my head onto tape, I think I may have something here. Kevin and I had a remarkably productive afternoon in the studio, laying down basic guitars for almost every song. Along the way, we continued investigating ideas on instrumentation and arrangement, and even managed to listen to other peoples’ songs and find what we liked in them. It has been an almost effortless process. Almost too easy. We break for lunch when we’re hungry, and quit when it begins to be even a little bit of a drag. Most of all, we appear to be coming from the same place, sonically. Or at least a similar one: short, sweet, and to the point.
Now, it’s still to early to tell — we could over-produce, under-mix, or simply perform the rest of the tracks poorly — but this record really stands to be an artistic milestone for me. Not in some dramatic ‘Picasso at LaPine Agile’ sorta’ way, just in a ‘Getting there takes all the time’ sorta’ way. And for a second, you’re there, it flows, and it’s good.
Come to think of it, I think that’s what they call an epiphany.