Hello, spaceship here. Today I received an envelope in the mail from hitRECord, and so decided to record a fun video of my opening it and my saying thank you and so on. Needless to say, I was very excited, but also very, very nervous. Not long into recording that video, my anxiety got to be too much. My heart was racing, my mind was spinning, and I froze. I kept repeating, "I messed up. I'm not saying it right. Can we start over?" I then asked Koura that we stop.
So instead, I'm back with the above goofy animated .gif and what may turn out to be a soul vomit that no one will want to read. But still, I write. This is related in large part to my Impossible Dream essay, titled "I. Quit." If you could read that first, then trudge through this, you have my thanks. <3
First off, I'm very, very thankful for this check! Thank you Joe, Jared, Matt, Chris, Jeff, Dr. Gory, Rebecca, Jen, Edward, and anyone else on the staff I may be forgetting in this whole thanking process. So again: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! And also a big thank you to the community, without whom none of this would be possilbe I know my voice is like so many in the already established choir of fellow artists, but I'll say it again: Thank you!
And thank you, Koura, of course. <3
I once wrote a text record regarding thoughts on money for Season 1. I wrote: "Money should be a means of communication." This check communicates a lot of things to me. Like, for instance, "Six and a half pages of line-itemed contributions? Do you not have a life, good sir?!"
But in all seriousness, there's no easy way to go about saying the truths that I feel need to be said. They say that the perfect is the enemy of the good, and so, if I had my way, I would simply stop writing this very instant and start over, and then start over again, and nothing would be said, and I would develop carpal tunnel syndrome, and then I would have to type with my toes. You wouldn't want that, would you? Of course not. Then I would need a toe truck. (But in all seriousness...!)
This is the part where I take a deep breath, and try not to turn into a teary-eyed mess, because I would like for everyone to just assume I have my act together, and that I don't lose my cool. Well, just keep reading.
This check represents so much work, so much art, so much happiness, but also, ultimately, a lot of heartaches. Why, you may ask? Well, this check represents a choice between the life I have now and the life I once knew. I was born into a non-demonimational fringe Christian group, the youngest son of nine children altogether, though only a handful of us kids were ever in the group at one time or another. My mother -- and I will cut in right away at this point to say: My mom? Best mom in the world, no doubt about it -- for reasons only she can explain and rightly so, joined the church in the early 1980s, before I was born, and when she finally divorced my dad (Note: My dad did not - and does not - think too highly of the church, nor the pastor Doyle Armstrong, who still leads the group to this day,) our lives then began to almost revolve around dissembling and evasion of one manner or another. As the church moved around, we -- my mom, my two sisters, and I -- moved with it, leaving behind my older brothers. My dad would try to follow us. After awhile, he got tired of the ordeal of trying to be in our lives, and soon moved back to our original home turf, nearly a thousand miles away. Granted, there are good reasons for why my mom divorced him, and he was certainly very aggressive about exercising his rights, but thinking back, it all seems as clear as crystal what the underlying cause was for this.
At this point in my life, at the age of 14, I had already been keenly interested in the arts. I was a compulsive drawer from a young age, and had by then taken some classes, resulting in some pastels and charcoal renderings I was especially happy with, including one of a seagull against a sky blue background. I had also discovered what would become my biggest passion: music. Using a guitar my oldest sister gave me, an old Sears Globe acoustic guitar, I began learning by ear and soon began cycling through not only guitars -- buying them in-store and selling them online, in search of just the right instrument even then -- but also cycling through music. The Beatles, obviously. Then, inexplicably, Oasis. Then, the Beach Boys. Then Frank Zappa. Then Nick Drake. And so on.
Not long after my dad moved away, my brother Ronnie came to live with us. I will not go into a lot of details, except to say that he had his own secret sorrows. Sadly, at the age of 26, he took his own life by overdosing on pills. I was 15. I still see him in my dreams today, and probably will tonight.
Then, not long after that, an opportunity arose through what started out as just a few of the church members gathering together to practice songs, and then became a major component of the church's outreach work. I threw myself into the music, playing acoustic rhythm guitar, primarily. Then, we began putting on shows for our congregation. Then, we started playing in local auditoriums and at state fairs. The shows, first starting under the name Rockabilly US, then eventually, 24K Gold Music Shows, went on for almost 9 years. During that era, on my own time, I was beginning to write my own songs (in the sense of music and lyrics, verses and refrains) for the first time, and also beginning to experiment with recording techniques.
I will jump in here and answer a question that perhaps you have asked yourself: "How did you end up finding hitRECord?" That's a good question, as it seems like, more or less, it found me! At that time, I was a member (in a mercurial, on-again-off-again nature) of the Sean Lennon forum group, which included current hR members such as bellaarts, monkeychow, and, well, Sean Ono Lennon. Someone had posted that Sean had posted a song on hitRECord called Nebulullaby, and so on and so forth. I didn't really pay much attention to it, as I had discoverd it after the 'deadline' had passed (which, obviously, I now know means nothing in the grand scheme of things -- no project is ever 'complete' on the site, of course!) and so joined with the idea of posting some of my own demos. I then forgot about the site for a long while until I heard that a remix I did of Joe's Nothing Big song was being released on a seven-inch red vinyl record. (I still remember Joe saying: "It's gonna be RED!")
So another question: "This all sounds fine and dandy. What's the big deal?"
This is where I have to bring out the finer points, despite my druthers. In my experience, I have always been...different. When I was in public school for a short time, as home school is encouraged if not strongly suggested within the group, anytime there was any events having to do with Valentines Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Halloween, or Christmas, we were not allowed to participate. Obviously, I could care less now about such, as every day to me is a holiday. But then? It was an awkward experience, to put it mildly, to be set aside in an invisible box apart from your classmates.
But even beyond that, I was always...different...even in the church. My hair was always a bit too long. My taste in music was always a bit too worldly. And not having a dad in my life, any events involving Father's Day celebrating was always painful. And suicide was a sin worthy of hellfire. And no one who is not a member of the group is allowed to attend any meetings. And, above all, deep down, I knew quite palpably that, if for whatever reason, I were to not be in the church anymore, none of the people whom I considered my friends and family would remain so. I had seen such happen with people who had left the group. I had even behaved that way toward my own friends and family. Excommunication, or shunning, was the means of maintaining solidarity and unity among the True Believers.
Recently, many moving parts came to a breaking point. I was trying to make two halves of my life work: the half that (for reasons too intricate to unfold in a concise manner) agreed to just shut up and played his guitar, waiting to move along like a jigsaw piece with the entire church puzzle onto a small piece of 500 acres of off-the-grid church-controlled property in Belize; the other half, making art as spaceship, expressing parts of myself kept quiet and dorment during everyday life. No one in my family knew then about my art, especially my music, my songs, my singing. I thought for sure that someone would see the first season of hitRECord on TV during much of 2014, but nope. I was also losing interest in the work I was doing for 24K Gold Music Shows, as well as the outreachs sites being developed, with names such as HeartCHEER and Inspire4. But during all that, in the midst of the confusion, came love: I met the (and now I'm crying) most wonderful girl. Koura, for me, was and still is a beacon in the shroud of uncertainty around me.
And so, I married Koura, with no advance notice given in particular to anyone in my circle of family and friends, save my mom (I'll say it again: Best mom in the world, though I do wish I had confided in her sooner than I did. To think my own mother would hate me was a construct that seemed such a real possibility. To discover that the opposite would occur gave me such a humility and gratitude that words cannot capture.) We traveled to Belize for our honeymoon, in the hopes that even then it might all somehow work out. But we tried it, and we decided: not for us. Not long after, the pastor, Doyle Armstrong, wrote to me that he found out about my work on hitRECord, then lumped in the Dick Guns segment (which I didn't work on, and am not a big fan of) into a tirade against me, Koura, and the site, saying that "JGL" (his words, not mine) was being used by the devil, and that I needed to write a letter of confession to the group. (Did I forget to mention that any work related to the outside world is strongly suggested to be kept at a mere minimum, and certainly not in a way that makes any of the church members "visible"? And oh yeah: everything I've told you so far? Everyone is told in the group to keep such secret, or else they will suffer great eternal punishment.) The thing is, I did feel badly, and I wrote a letter. But I guess I didn't write a good enough letter, because he wrote back with some coaching as to how to write more in detail about how sorry I was. That was the nail in the coffin.
So here I am, writing to you, feeling on some level a profound sense of loss. 30 years of my life are now gone. Almost a third of a century spent following the decisions of higher-ups and elders. There were times of real and terrible upheaval -- my dad leaving us for good (note that, after being kicked out of the group, I called him up and a nice chat with him; my mom told me he even called her about it, and said it was 'like old times,' which made me happy and sad all at once,) my brother's suicide, and so on -- when I would throw myself into 'church life.' Mostly, all that consisted of was chipping away at who I was until all that was left was someone I didn't like, let alone recognize as me.
Group identity can be quite pervasive. We all, for the most part, see ourselves here at hitRECord as a 'community' more than a 'company,' and yet it is both. So for as long as I've been on the site -- almost 5 and a half years now! -- I have kept my distance at times from the goings-on, coming and going, and have therefore been depriving myself of being a friend to people who may have needed one. And not only that, from having friends. Every single day, I grapple with the idea that I may never have a true friend, apart from my own wife. And if so, perhaps it's because I'm afraid to talk about my secret feelings, the sadness that plagues me, the doubts that stifle my creativity, the paranoiac notion that no matter what good I will do, I will burn in Hell. There's a sign near where we live that I sometimes drive by, and it says: "ETERNITY IN HELL IS A LONG TIME." I think now to myself: 30 years was a long time. That was my hell. And now it's time for a different kind of hell, which basically is the uncertainty of my future.
I never used to have much in the way of goals and dreams, outside of mere survival. But now I do. I have so many now that I can hardly imagine being able to accomplish them all. Perhaps someday soon, I'll do a live performance of spaceship songs. Or maybe I'll make a documentary film and submit it to a festival. Maybe I'll do a lot of things. It does help to have my wife be there for me, even though I can be a real pain sometimes, as evidenced by this puerile stream of consciousness. (Please don't agree with that, because it will wound me to my core. ;) )
I guess what I am trying to say is, if you feel that something or someone in your life is preventing you from making the truth evident -- your truth, your way of seeing things, your experience, your perspective, your -art- -- then may I suggest you take this as a form of encouragement. It is a paraphrasing of something I once heard John Hodgman discuss. (Koura and I had the pleasure of meeting him in person, and he was very kind in telling me, in regard to my asking if I could open for him at the venue: "Absolutely not." But in the nicest way possible, I might add!) Anyway, it was along the lines of the following, and again I'm paraphrasing: You must tell the truth in life. And then, tell the next truth. Tell all the truths you have to tell, and let others worry about their reaction to it. Maybe someone has been waiting to hear -that- truth. If by telling the truth, some people want nothing more to do with you, forget them. Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Because good things come from the truth, and bad things come from the non-truth. (End paraphrase.)
So maybe you needed to read this. I don't know. All I know is that I needed to say it.
I love you, guys! :')
Again by heart...