unrecognized legitimacy

i'm not sure i like that title. i'll explain in a minute, but first, here's something truly legitimate: ? cappelino is now her very own seperate entity in this world. the "?" is because she doesn't have a first name yet. she weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces--like most good babies do. she probably weighs a little more today. i've been pushin' "reeves" as a first name, but neal and linnae will probably not go for it. congrats linnae and neal and mercy!

now, about the other legitimacy thing: i have some news, but before i toot my own horn, let me debunk it some (just so i can be sure to undercut my own sucesses in life, you know). i wrote that title without thinking about the implications. the implication? that connection to power is legitimizing. it simply isn't true. being self-actualized should probably be the litmus test for legitimacy. ofcourse, i'm not fully self-actualized, so, meanwhile, i have to let this news stand in as a proxy for that. anyway, it's still pretty cool.

i'm having a meeting with the mayor.

lord, lord, what's the world comin' to? they're lettin' me in to talk to the mayor. at first, i didn't really think about this--it was like, writing on my calender
pick up some kitty chow
make hamburgers one night this week
meet with the mayor...

and then i recognized, wait a minute, pickin' up kitty chow is not quite the same as meeting with the mayor. what the hell are those people thinking?

but then, i was all like "hey, i'm legit. i'm a grown human being, i've almost got myself an mfa. i'm doing some cuttin' edge artwork here. art forum recently said community-oriented/activist art is 'the closest thing we've got to an avant garde right now.' i should be meeting with the mayor."

but now i'm scared. should i iron my shirt?

in other news (and thematically related, if you're hip to my tangents), i went and sang some songs at an open mic last night. an associate was hosting it and i went to hang out and watch--and then got asked to play. i sang "stuff," "here she comes," "hot corn, cold corn," "naked walter" and played an instrumental called "the beaumont rag." when i think about it these days, performing on a stage is really traumatic for me. well, performing even for myself in my own living room is traumatic...

one night a few years ago i got out my guitar and was playing along and happened to look up into a mirror. i saw someone i'd never met before. or more accurately, just another example of thousands of people i'd met before. i saw some vaguely unattractive, pasty-faced, middle-aged guy with a guitar in his own living room performing a lack-luster version of an outdated folk song. i saw a person that sings a line in a song, and then suddenly stops to squint down at their left hand as they slowly--finger by finger--form the next chord...and then go on as if there weren't an interruption. he was kind of stoop-sholdered and looked like someone that might disappear into the wallpaper at any moment--an impression thrown into even higher relief because there wasn't any wallpaper to disappear into. i heard his voice--like an under-rosined fiddle bow pulled across the edge of aluminum flashing, a right hand beating out something that only resembled a rhytym. he was a vague shadow of a person, like what's left on a wall after an atomic blast.

up above i said "when i think about it" because i usually don't. if i think about it, i remember meeting me in the living room that night, and it hurts too bad. but still, for a person that doesn't think about it and isn't pursuing music professionally i sure do seem to go play a lot of gigs. most of the time these gigs are with a band. playing by yourself, in a loud bar, however, is a totally different thing. the only charisma up there is YOU.

it was terrifying. seems like back in the day--when i was nineteen and twenty--i developed a real command of a stage. and then, with a band i got into, my confidence started to wane. i started to stare at my feet. i wished i wasn't there. i didn't feel like i deserved to be there (a total kiss of death for a performer, you know?)

i stood there and played, though. in the corner a big screen t.v. with the sound down was showing an espn boxing match featuring a new bedford kid. he took a dive--i saw it in the replays. the knockout punch missed him by inches. someone at a table spilled a beer and a circle of people jumped skyward, the backs of thier knees propelling chairs outward with a hollow wooden scratch. just for a moment they were all frozen in space, like a gathering of scarecrows, staring at their feet, their arms held limply aloft and out of harm's way.

i missed chords and words and heard my voice reflected back at me from a chalk board announcing they were out of killians red ale. but i stood up there and i tried to stand up straight. i tried to pretend that the mistakes i made were supposed to be there, and reminded myself i was going to meet the mayor on thursday.


The Mom said...

Wow, Walter. I'm beginning to think you need to write a book with all your deep, deep blog entries. I really admire your ability to just put yourself out there for everyone to see and know. And I am very glad I have been given that chance.

I wonder how many performers have those same feelings. I imagine more have them than don't. It's so easy to think they have it "all together" because they look like they do...but performing of any kind has a certain amount of acting in it, and part of the measure of your success at performing is your success at acting as if you are worthy to do so. And the ability to go on and perhaps make fewer mistakes is the ability to let go of the mistakes you have made as soon as you've made them. Dwelling on them even a little pretty much ensures another mistake on its tail.

You probably already know all that, and here I go disclaiming any wisdom I might have, because I'm putting it "out there" for you and whoever to see. But then, you know how insecure I am!

Love, The Mom

christiemckaskle said...

I think yours is an extraordinarily apt title for this post. I'm going to zero in on the mirror thing, because it's timely in my day-to-day circle.

I have some friends (and daughters, for that matter) who struggle with the pain they feel when they catch themselves in the mirror not posing. It's a real challenge, I think, to accept that there's not something objective in the mirror causing the pain - what hurts us, really, are the lightning quick thoughts that are critical and unkind. Who's side are we on when we talk like that? Who are we agreeing with that we are illegitimate? Who says there's anything wrong with being pasty-colored? :)

I don't claim to know the answers to these, but I think these questions matter. Because I know I've had loving days that I see myself unexpectedly - and I see all the "flaws" - but my response is more like "isn't that cute?" instead of self-loathing. That doesn't happen every time, but it has happened enough to teach me that it's not what I see that makes me want to turn over and bury my face in a pillow - it's the judgment.

And I'm so glad to know you've accepted an assignment to be of service to your community by meeting with the mayor!

Anonymous said...

Yea Walter

First, congratulations about your meeting with the Mayor. A Mayor is just a person who has earned the right to be where he/she is, just like you have earned the right. You have some information that he/she wants.

Second, yes clean clothes would be a nice touch. Make yourself neat but don't "reinvent" who you are. Once again, you have an earned right to be there.

Third, you, of course, are now seeing how true talent in several areas, along with persistance, can open doors.

The Dad

Cate Bush said...

Powerful stuff. It's interesting how I have to fight my own personal narratives of the person I see in the mirror. To give myself permission to accept ... it seems like an easier path than criticism, but changing that pattern is tough stuff.

jaz said...

Out of Killian's Red?????

...mild panic attack... deep breaths... it's only a blog... it's only a blog...