The following is an excerpt from my memoir, “The Kid Who Got Away.”
They say that the only heart worth having is a heart that’s been broken. My heart and soul have been broken, shattered, crushed and beaten to within an inch of existence. They, like so many, have been battered to the point where thoughts of suicide begin to linger instead of passing through like a wandering salesman of death, seeking out a new opportunity to ply his wears. There have been times when my head has proven to be not such a good place to go at night. Often, it was not a safe place to hang out during the day, either. I have been taken to the edge on more than a few occasions. I have peered over the precipice and carefully weighed my options. I have always chosen life.
One of those times found me sitting alone in a strange city I knew very little about, in a single room in a huge apartment I felt unwelcome in, with a bottle of wine (and another on deck in the fridge), a single candle, my guitar and a tape recorder. All I could do was write songs reflecting my emotions in a cathartic way. From this came my CD “More Than Life Itself.”
I had written the title track before I left a number of important relationships behind in New York. My family, my friends, my band, my animals along with the woman I loved so deeply and had shared so much of my life with. She didn’t know about the song I had written specifically for the going away “celebration” planned at New World Home Cooking in Saugerties. The dance floor was full. I asked her to step forward and played it for her. We were both in tears. So was just about everyone there.
As I drove away from our house in a valley nestled in the Catskills of upstate New York, the heartbreak turned to agony. After fourteen years, I had romanticized that some day I would die in this woman’s arms. It was not to be.
As I poured my heart out onto that little tape recorder, I had no idea how many, if any, might hear these songs someday. I just laid my soul bare, fighting through the gristle ’til I struck bone. There was blood and tears spread liberally throughout each song and on every page. The artistic life is not an easy or simple. You can hurt a lot of people along the way, none the least of whom being yourself.
Friends ask me why I never listen to my own music. My friend Teeta keeps them in regular rotation on her playlist. She knows that if I’m in her car and one of my songs pops up, she needs to hit the “skip to next” button ASAP. Last night, I played a couple of songs from “More Than Life Itself” that are online for a friend here in San Miguel. Those songs took me back to that lonely time sitting in that little room in New Orleans with a bottle of wine, a guitar, a single candle and my shattered heart. As I sat there and listened with her, it took all the strength I could muster to hold back the flood. After saying our good nights, I watched her walk down the quiet cobble stoned street I live on in Colonia Guadalupe. She turned the corner. The flood came.
I guess it’s official now. I am an expat, a resident of the United States of Mexico, not the United States of America. I have been in San Miguel de Allende for one year now and don’t see myself leaving anytime soon. Sure, I’ll take my excursions to far away places. There’s still a lot of world to see out there. But San Miguel is now home.
It has caused me see the country of my birth in such a different light. Some of the things that were important to me back there are not so important to me now. So many of the things that seem to be so important to so many back there that they are willing to hate and spit their bile at each other, seem so trivial to me. The people of the USA are very willing to jump into the “divide and conquer” trap set for them long ago. There don’t seem to be any Americans left. It’s either “us” or “them.” You’re either on the right or the left, religious or secular, conservative or liberal, black or white, gay or straight.
Moderation, debate and the consideration of new or different ideas is frowned upon. Social media has become a place where you can preach to your choir and hate the “idiots” on the other side. The other side has no intention of ever listening. Meanwhile, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Each day, America devolves faster and faster into a nation of haves and have nots. Meanwhile, the most import issue of our lives, climate change, threatens their very existence but gets short shrift from those with the ability to make meaningful change.
Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.”