I am a part of all whom I have met. I’m a little bit of everything that has happened to me. 5 days. In 5 days, if I make it, I’ll have 2 years clean and sober.
Now I have to say that God, through music, has revealed to me that staying sober isn’t so much about getting new things, perspectives and habits in my life as ridding myself of old ones. And little by little, bit by bit I have become aware of those things and after hearing and then knowing, it’s up to me to accept and discard these things. Whatever stands in the way of my Higher Power’s use for me, and therefore my growth as a man has to go. Eventually, at least. And as always since I put down the bottles and the rest of it, music has brought me answers. I mean that either God has spoken directly to me in lyrics or via some musical experience.
I took off for Austin, Texas, last weekend on a pilgrimage to see DAWES, a band I was introduced to right after getting clean. The song that hooked me with them, that opened up my heart was “If You Let Me Be Your Anchor.” It inexplicably lit a fire for all things anchor-related in my life. Everywhere I looked from that point on were anchors, ocean and sea metaphors, Captains, Sailors and ships. All 3 of their albums, much like the 3 Young Man albums (who I headed to Denver to see in May) were lyrical roadmaps to where I was and where I am heading.
“I spend my whole life moving forwards but understand it looking back,
Like watching last night’s tapes
in the middle of a game
I should know how this thing works now,
I should accept it as a fact,
That there’s really nothing out there I can blame…”
Dawes, “Just My Luck.”
So I went to Austin to see Dawes, even though I am seeing them again this year at Newport Folk Festival, where I return in July. They were opening for Avett Brothers, who sing one of my favorite sobriety songs, that I have blogged about before, “When I Drink,” and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. I took the MegaBus up and after decamping at a friend’s house, I drove out to the Austin 360 Amphitheatre. With my single pit ticket, I made my way down front. Looking around at all the cute, younger, hipster kids, I thought to myself “Hmm, I wonder if I am the only queer guy out here?” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just curious. I mean we don’t all listen strictly to Daft Punk and Gaga, right? Right.
Looking around, I finally spotted a gaggle of gays, all at the front of the stage. Actually a Bushel of Bears is more like it, but still, I saw them and felt a little solidarity. Then one of them, with a smooth, shaved head, purple t-shirt and round, thin framed “Lennon glasses” with the most beautiful blue eyes I had seen in a long time, looked back at me. I noticed suddenly, he was really fucking cute! I kept his look and smiled. Then he smiled. It was, I must say, much like him, adorable. For the next hour or so before the show, he’d turn around and look at me, I’d smile and he’d smile back. Even though I have sworn off relationships for the rest of this year, even though I now understand that I don’t need any man, even though my last relationship and its hard-fought lessons was still fresh in my mind, it was fun, flirting with this guy. As soon as Dawes rolled onto the stage and stood just a few feet away from me and the Bushel, I felt a peace come over me. I was so incredibly grateful to be there, seeing this band I love, who I had learned so much about myself from, with their sage lead singer, Taylor Goldsmith, just feet away from me. Wow. Thanks God, you never cease to amaze me.
The band ran through songs, not enough of them for my taste but as they were only the opening act, I was still thrilled to be so up close and personal. I noticed Mr. Blue Eyes, was equally excited to see them, maybe more so than I was. Maybe. I knew “Anchor” was an unlikely song for them to play, too slow… But then I heard the first cords to “It’s A Little Bit of Everything” a song that is devastatingly beautiful, sublime and haunting in its content; about life and death and all the little things, happy and sad, all the love and loss and everything in between that makes life, life. I feel acutely connected to this song. Tears began to well up in my eyes, and soon were running down my face. I stood there, remembering how sick I had been just a few years ago, incapable of leaving my house, much less voyaging to another town to see a band.
“All these psychics and these doctors
They’re all right and they’re all wrong
It’s like trying to make out every word
When they should simply hum along
It’s not some message written in the dark
Or some truth that no one’s seen
It’s a little bit of everything.”
And then I noticed Mr. Blue Eyes. He wasn’t facing me, his face looked up towards Goldsmith but I could see him wiping the tears from his eyes, too. Swaying to the song, just caught in the moment, I felt a connection to him, another pilgrim come to pay homage to this band of sages, and offer our tears up like incense to the King. Dawes finished the song and played an acoustic version of “Peace in the Valley” and eventually left the stage. I stood there, glued to the spot, grateful, spirit-filled and emotionally drained, but refreshed, too. I felt renewed and free. From the little bits of everything that had been holding me down and back. Mr. Blue eventually turned around and after a while looked me sheepishly in the eyes. I felt it right away. A Kindred. Family. It was more of a “It’s nice to see you again, stranger” feeling. More gratitude, knowing I am not alone.
After a few minutes, he began making his way towards me and I knew I would speak to him, not knowing what he would say or do. “Where are you going?”I asked. “To find a place for us to make out” he replied with a winking, crooked smile. “Let’s go!” was all I could say. And so, off we went. Introductions were made and we made our way to the top of a hill where, off to the side, we sat down on the grass. And then, like we had known each other forever, we kissed. warm, tender kisses at first and then harder, beard scratchy, lip biting, deep kisses. I laid back and looked up at him. His eyes were the same color as the sky above him, and he smiled back at me. We made out like teenagers, even as Grace Potter took the stage. Even as people made their way past us. Even as I could feel his excitement growing against me and as goosebumps crawled across my neck. I gotta say, it was awesome.
Eventually we kind of cuddled and looked at the setting sun in the distance. Plans to meet back in Austin were made and we walked down the hill and waded back into the crowd. We stood there, back to front, listening to Grace Potter, holding on to each other, so familiar, even though we weren’t, rubbing back and forth on each other. Just like the other hipster kids around us were. Potter sang her hit song “Stars” and I looked up at the now brightening stars above us and prayed a prayer of thanks. That even though God had certainly revealed so much about my own strengths and weaknesses this year, how I could not fill the hole in my heart with fucking or shopping or art, that it was indeed a little bit of everything that I had learned… every decision, every lesson, that had led me right here into the arms of this handsome stranger. I believed, I was alive and buzzing with the energy of the Universe and music and the very stars above us.
I wish I could say the story ended with the two of us together, in one way or another. That the things God had been removing from me and my life, the people, places and things stirring in my mind and my heart were to make way for Mr. Blue Eyes. It would be the best end of the story, wouldn’t it? Alas, it was yet another lesson. That even though I had professed that I was done with hitching my serenity wagon to a man I still wasn’t “entirely ready” to give up on this distraction of the heart. This dream of looking across a crowded room (or crowd) and locking eyes with a stranger who turned out to be the kindred spirit I was afraid to admit I still looked for. I’ll save the wild and naive conclusions I drew from meeting this blue-eyed stranger to myself but let’s just say, when I say I made out with him like a teenager, it’s because below this 47-year old form lies the heart of a 17-year old. And he’s still learning to be a man.
So, in 5 days, I cross into year 3 and if it’s anything like year 2, well, then I can’t wait to see where I am a year from now. Because it really is a “little bit of everything” that has brought me to this place today. A little bit of seeking, a little bit of running, a little bit of crying, a little bit of lying, a little bit of dreaming, a little bit of believing, a little bit of heartbreak, a little bit of healing, a little bit of everything I have written and everything that I have read. As Dawes says in “My Way Back Home”
“And in my constant quest for truth
I am condemned to facts alone
And though my dreams all lead me nowhere
I won’t forget my way back home…
I admit that these answers that I seek
Are all to questions I’ve never known
But I pray to keep on looking for as long as I can roam
And when the world finally fulfills me
I will not forget my way back home”