Men don't admit to be lonely, especially married, middle aged ones. But honestly, I can't remember a time when I didn't feel lonely. My ability to make deep, meaningful connections has never been the problem, it's the work that it takes to keep one going that eludes me. I have always filled that social development time with primarily solitary activities - as a young child it was reading, later it was music, and when my hormones kicked in it was punk rock, which was still very much a real thing, even in the small college town I grew up in. Nowadays, it's just music in general and frankly it feels like an addiction at this point in my life. I use a DJ set, playlist creation, or album listen as an opportunity for that perfect escape like the way a junkie checks out for an hour or so on a good batch of dope. It's clearly antisocial behavior as it detaches me from reality for long periods of time and it makes me feel mentally unhealthy. The time to build a loving marriage and a network of close friends is ridiculously small and yet I am bitter about my isolation, lashing out at those closest to me and generally cynical and dour amongst friends and well-wishers. I had never considered my overall bitterness about the friendship predicament loop I seem to be stuck in until I very recently watched the film Don Jon, by no means a great film, but still an interesting enough missive on those men out there who struggle with unusual addictions, which naturally are covers for much deeper issues, but they are addictions in that people don't mean to do them and feel miserable and trapped by their behavior. Worse yet, most feel like they cannot talk about these issues with friends or family in the fear of being found out or shamed, This is my attempt to talk about my struggle, to name the shame.
Most people would find a so-called addiction to music as laughable and I'm not saying that my consumption of media by volume or bank account status is alarming or that I am some sort of weird hoarder that needs an immediate intervention for safety reasons. I definitely live within my means. The issue at hand is the hours I spend researching, reading, downloading, cataloging, and critiquing. I am not living withing my means here. I have definitely drifted into the realm of pure escapism at the expense of the rest of my life. I spent most of my life, even before I was an adult, pursuing music. I had my share of successes and failures over the years before ultimately failing while bringing my wife & I to the edge of financial ruin in the process. I know everyone has their story about 2008-2009 but that was mine and it was painful. I no longer have the guts or financial resources to keep myself afloat in some sort of musical aspect and at my age I know I would no longer be happy about. Instead, I retreat to my office and listen to music for as much time as possible even putting real life on hold to work around my irrational desire. I feel trapped and isolated.
Not that long ago, I made the decision to change careers. The money and opportunities have been great but dealing with corporate politics and co-workers has been difficult and taken a toll on me emotionally. I definitely want to hang out with people much, much less and simply retreat to a peaceful zone to escape the more I work. Will it be Dance Spirit, the Saints, or Fats Domino today? What about tomorrow? it goes on and on and one. That's not to say a deep, headphone immersion isn't always a bad thing...I've had experiences with the first two Seeds albums and the third Brian Jonestown Massacre album that won't easily be forgotten even in another 20 years. The act itself is benign, it's the meaning and the time spent that are malignant. The question is, how do I stop retreating and rejoin life again?
Lately, I have been stuck on the third album by L.A. band Love. The album is called Forever Changes, it's a classic, google it if you think I'm lying. I gave always loved the energy, the flowery arrangements, and frontman Arthur Lee's Syd Barrett-esque worldview. I've been listening to the same 50 year old album for at least the last 25 thinking these very things since we discovered a beat-up copy of it in my friend's mother's record collection as kids and made the fateful decision to let the needle drop. What started as an opportunity to laugh at a parent's tastes turned out to be a life changing moment,. Minds were blown, fates were cast to the wind, it was epic. Certain assumptions were made and carried forward until they became a part of me. But listening again with fresh ears 26 years later has been another life changing moment with Forever Changes. Arthur isn't as hippie dippie as I once thought, he spends a lot of time talking about isolation, bitterness, and cynicism on the album. I am brought to my knees by this line in particular:
And when you've given all you had/And everything still turns out/Bad, and all your secrets are your own
The name of the song is "Andmoreagain", the only song on the album that the Wrecking Crew played on - Don Randi on piano and Carol Kaye on bass. It has the same effect on me musically as "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)" from Pet Sounds does. Like drugs and alcohol for most people, the song transports me to another plane of existence. At this level, Arthur is speaking directly to me in a way my 17 year old ears could never have heard, as a fully grown man taking stock of his life and finding himself awfully lonely.