The president, more than any other elected official, is America’s image of itself: the one who represents us on the world stage. It is the president’s job to embody our national character. The heart of that national character, borrowed from civilizations going back to ancient Greece, by way of the Enlightenment philosophers of France (although recently disparaged by one of our own Senators as “not the objective”), is democracy.
In the beginning, one of the things that set the United States of America apart, in a world ruled by monarchies, theocracies, and warlords, was the belief that the people, given a decent education and accurate information from a free press, have all the tools they need to rule themselves. Technology has changed how we learn, and what we learn, but nothing has changed the virtue behind the belief that we can know the truth and rule ourselves.
We were never a perfect union. That is understood. But I believe that most people, even those on the “opposite” side, want to make this union more perfect. More just. More honest. More free. And as close as we can get, in our time, to a perfection that will be forever out of reach. One way to do that is to vote for people who share our values. I hope everyone votes, and votes their conscience. It is a duty – not just as citizens of a nation, but as sentient beings on this heartless but beautiful planet – to make all of our unions as perfect as we can. Because no matter who “wins” on election day, nothing is going to change unless we make it. We are going to rise, or fall, together. E pluribus unum.
One thought kept returning to me while reading Love in the Time of Cholera: Gabriel García Márquez must have been a wonderful lover. I’m not talking about sex. I am talking about the spiritual side of love. Anyone who writes about love with the depth he does must have the capacity for an abundance of love.
He could be speaking of either side of love in this passage about those who have it and those who do not:
“He distrusted those who did not: when they strayed from the straight and narrow, it was something so unusual for them that they bragged about love as if they had just invented it. Those who did it often, on the other hand, lived for that alone. They felt so good that their lips were sealed as if they were tombs, because they knew that their lives depended on their discretion. They never spoke of their exploits, they confided in no one, they feigned indifference to the point where they earned the reputation of being impotent, or frigid, or above all timid fairies, as in the case of Florentino Ariza. But they took pleasure in the error because the error protected them. They formed a secret society, whose members recognized each other all over the world without need of a common language, which is why Florentino Ariza was not surprised by the girl’s reply: she was one of them, and therefore she knew that he knew that she knew.”
Love in the Time of Cholera is the most accurate depiction I have read of the secret heart of a lover, and of what a man does with his love when the person he wants to give it to no longer wants it.
It has been my experience that people’s capacity for love is as individual as our fingerprints. Many people find love a difficult concept, one that cuts to the core of their identity in uncomfortable ways. For some, a large capacity for love manifests itself as an unrestrained love for many romantic partners, for others it is found in the ability to love one person with incredible depth. The capacity to love can expand and contract as age and circumstance inspire, or discourage, the opening of the heart.
In this passage, Márquez explores the difference in capacity between the young lovers Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza:
“Florentino Ariza wrote every night. Letter by letter, he had no mercy as he poisoned himself with the smoke from the palm oil lamps in the back room of the notions shop, and his letters became more discursive and more lunatic the more he tried to imitate his favorite poets from the Popular Library, which even at that time was approaching eighty volumes. His mother, who had urged him with so much fervor to enjoy his torment, became concerned for his health. “You are going to wear out your brains,” she shouted at him from the bedroom when she heard the first roosters crow. “No woman is worth all that.” She could not remember ever having known anyone in such a state of unbridled passion. But he paid no attention to her. Sometimes he went to the office without having slept, his hair in an uproar of love after leaving the letter in the prearranged hiding place so that Fermina Daza would find it on her way to school. She, on the other hand, under the watchful eye of her father and the vicious spying of the nuns, could barely manage to fill half a page from her notebook when she locked herself in the bathroom or pretended to take notes in class. But this was not only due to her limited time and the danger of being taken by surprise, it was also her nature that caused her letters to avoid emotional pitfalls and confine themselves to relating the events of her daily life in the utilitarian style of a ship’s log. In reality they were distracted letters, intended to keep the coals alive without putting her hand in the fire, while Florentino Ariza burned himself alive in every line.”
This passage, written in the 1980s but set decades earlier, reveals the joys of anonymity that come from leisurely observation of a person, as we do everyday with film, or social media posts, in an age before such things were possible:
“One night he went to Don Sancho’s Inn, an elegant colonial restaurant, and sat in the most remote corner, as was his custom when he ate his frugal meals alone. All at once, in the large mirror on the back wall, he caught a glimpse of Fermina Daza sitting at a table with her husband and two other couples, at an angle that allowed him to see her reflected in all her splendor. She was unguarded, she engaged in conversation with grace and laughter that exploded like fireworks, and her beauty was more radiant under the enormous teardrop chandeliers: once again, Alice had gone through the looking glass.
Holding his breath, Florentino Ariza observed her at his pleasure: he saw her eat, he saw her hardly touch her wine, he saw her joke with the fourth in the line of Don Sanchos; from his solitary table he shared a moment of her life, and for more than an hour he lingered, unseen, in the forbidden precincts of her intimacy.”
The forbidden precincts of her intimacy? Who writes like that? The phrase lingers, and rattles, and leaves a hint of perfume in its wake. It is intimacy, more than anything else, that defines love and differentiates between loves. How much intimacy – physical, emotional, spiritual – do we allow ourselves to divulge? How much do we ask, or demand, from those that we love?
I expected this book to be a good one to read during a pandemic, and it is, but it is also a timely reminder that there is always a plague of some kind going on, and there is also always love.
“They were together in silence like an old married couple wary of life, beyond the pitfalls of passion, beyond the brutal mockery of hope and the phantoms of disillusion: beyond love. For they had lived together long enough to know that love was always love, anytime and anyplace, but it was more solid the closer it came to death.”
Artists tend to look at critics with a jaundiced eye, defending our excesses with a good review and licking our wounds over a bad one, but the fact is that musicians need reviews now more than ever since live music is locked down for the duration of the pandemic. Without that direct connection to an audience we crave the feedback that only objective opinion can provide.
My new album came out a couple of weeks ago and the reviews are starting to trickle in. I am grateful to everyone who has taken the time to listen so far and here are some of their reactions:
“I love the hints to old school punks Ramones, Clash and to the whole CBGB scene without sounding nostalgic and keeping interesting. I’ll share the whole album Spotify link on the ‘Our Digs’ section of our website at beatbuzznews.com/ourdigs“
Beat Buzz News
Felt some Neil Young vibe on some tracks, for example in “Ghost Town.” Really good production in all the tracks, and interesting extra instruments (Violins, Banjo, etc). If I have to highlight a track, I think Magdalena is the one that caught my attention. Lovely banjo!
MrLndr on Spotify
[Ain’t No Good To Me is] a chugging rocker with a lot of classic rock influence to it, with some groovy elements and really solid production. Well crafted and hard hitting.
We All Want Someone to Shout For
I’ll be adding more reviews and links here as they come in. If these reviews whet your appetite for some of my music, please give a listen on your favorite music provider by following these links:
The last song on the album is also the last one I wrote for this collection. It was written in the early days of the pandemic, when I was seriously quarantining. I didn’t leave the building for months. All the horrors of disease and death were so close you could hear the hoofbeats of the apocalyptic horseman. It was fascinating that in the middle of such destruction there were silver linings everywhere. Including a glimpse of a better world. Something profound happened to society when we all stopped running on the treadmill for a moment.
Sometimes the dream that comes true is not the one you expected to.
Keep your eyes wide, my son
These days will only be here once
And sometimes the dream that comes true
Is not the one you expected to
Because dreams work that way
Because dreams work that way
I've had enough solitude for now
And enough staring at screens for the rest of my life
For the rest of my life
Keep your shirt on, old man
This is not the way to the promised land
But I can see it from here
Keep your eyes wide, it will become clear
Because love works that way
Because love works that way
I've had enough solitude for now
And enough violence and hate for the rest of my life
For the rest of my life
One afternoon, around 3:00, I was home alone, with that weird combination of boredom and anxiety that rears its head on the lost days, and as I popped open a beer I thought,
I know it’s bad, baby
Baby, I know it’s bad
I mean no harm
but I know
people who mean no harm sometimes cause the most
I started to think about all the harm that is done by people who mean none. And other reasons for feeling bad. I pulled up a stool at the piano and this song came out. As the recording process progressed, the piano became a smaller part of the sound, as layers of everything from the holy rock’n’roll trinity of guitar/bass/drums to harmonica, handclaps, and tambourine piled on top.
Like the remote recording that went into this album, when I wanted to make a video for this song, I looked no further than my laptop in the Bronx and this time found a talented woman in Pakistan named Maryam who create this:
I know it's bad, baby
Baby, I know it's bad
I mean no harm but I know
People who mean no harm sometimes cause the most
I got it bad, baby
Baby, I got it bad
And there's no cure for it
Now that this absence has found a presence in me
I need it bad, baby
Baby, I need it bad
'Cause it's been so long
Since we went to that place where all the dreams come from