Saturday, September 3, 2011

“Whistle Down the Wind”

Greetings to an introspective Saturday here on Robert Frost’s Banjo.  A bit of an update on things in the new Banjo Central here in Portland for those who are interested, & a great Tom Waits song for everybody.

I very recently underwent a birthday—a significant one, too, as it’s the first of a few that enable one to qualify for “senior citizen” status (double nickels on the dime, as Minutemen fans will understand!)  Now in practical terms, this is not all a bad thing: besides the fact that it very much “beats the alternative,” I’m all for discounts, & it also makes me eligible for some housing out here.  In fact, seeking housing on a fixed income is proving to be the most challenging part of the Portland experience.  Without going into the political realities that have shaped this, the fact is that subsidized housing is tight here & the system appears pretty well strained.  I’m very fortunate to have an ongoing living situation that should see me thru until something comes open—a lot of folks don’t have that.  I’m also beginning to look at situations with just a room or roommate needed, as this seems to provide a bit more leeway, while allowing me to keep within a budget.

But practical matters aside, a birthday is often a time to take stock—to look back on what he have & haven’t accomplished, things we’ve done well, as well as our errors of omission & commission.  Waits’ song interests me profoundly in this regard: it’s the wistful song of a dreamer who comes to the point of realizing that his dreams have always remained in his head & haven’t come to fruition.  It’s a profoundly sad song, but one I think that expresses something we all feel from time to time: regret, & perhaps an ongoing wish to grab for something while there’s still time.

It also interests me because I really didn’t expect to see my 55th birthday starting a new life in a new city—starting over from scratch in many ways, at a time of life when many are settled in the consolidation of a life built over years of a career & family life.  For various reasons, I eschewed those things.  I know there are people who don’t approve of the way I’ve lived my life—who think I frittered away talents & opportunities; & I certainly know very well what regret feels like.

Still, the life I’ve lived so far has been my own.  & for all the anxieties & worries, & even the physical problems associated with a chronic condition, I still can wonder at the sunlight in the garden out my window or marvel at music I hear or even thrill to be able to make music come out of an instrument myself.  Tho there’s bitterness & sorrow in every life, there are also an abundance of other joys, great & small!

& so I watch Portland’s late summer flowers blooming along the sidewalks & parking strips, & “I shall take the Marleybone coach & go whistling down the wind.”


  1. I missed leaving birthday greetings on your FB wall (it's been a busy week here) so here's a slightly late Happy Birthday. And thanks for the Tom Waits.

  2. Frittering away opportunities... I don't know. It's one of those things one inevitably reflects on in one's 50s.

    Regarding your poetry I can say this: you've done at least as much as Emily Dickinson did to promote herself during her lifetime. I'm not saying our poetry is up there with ED, but you write what you've got to write and it takes its chance. Mozart died a pauper. Success is more ephemeral than the things we make, what we do and what we stand for.

    Hang in there! We're still young.

  3. Hi Roy & Dominic

    Roy: Thanks, no problem! That's a great tune, isn't it?

    Dominic: Well, the folks who see me as frittering things away probably think pursuing poetry & music in the way I did was itself frittering away, & that only compounded by the fact that I haven't been very good at self-promotion. & yes, it seems the 50s, now half way thru, are most certainly a decade for reflection! Thanks for the kind & encouraging words!

  4. Keep on rockin' John. Mostly, those who judge and accuse you of 'frittering', are those who have been given cause to reassess their own lives in the light of your freedom.

  5. Hi Martin: Thanks for the encouraging words!

  6. I like the way Martin thinks. I also like your header, John. It looks as though you've fetched up in a place where art is busting out all over. I hope that the excitement of your new surroundings will see you through the trauma of dislocation/relocation.

  7. Hi Sandra: Thanks! Portland is an exciting place to be! It will take me time to get my bearings, artistic & otherwise, but I do believe it will be good in the long term.


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