Let’s talk about change.
The first and most obvious change this week was the arrival of Spring (none too soon here in the Northeast). After copious amounts of snow (which so many people found remarkable, but really had me thinking “Wow. Just like I remember it as a kid.”) and devastating floods, the warm weather has arrived, as have the songbirds, tree buds, and allergies.
The second was the untimely death at age 59 of Alex Chilton — singer, guitarist and songwriter extraordinaire of The Box Tops, Big Star, and a wildly uneven but always engaging solo career.
Chilton — along with perhaps Robyn Hitchcock, the dBs, R.E.M., and The Replacements — personified that part of my life that was devoted to what came to be known as alternative music during the 80s and early 90s. Hell, I had a cat named after him. For me, the whole scene seemed to revolve around a binary star that consisted of Maxwell’s in Hoboken and freeform radio station WFMU.
I first heard Big Star (“The Ballad of El Goodo”) on WFMU and it stopped me in my tracks. A short time later, my brother Joe and I asked Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo about Big Star, and he was kind enough to give us a cassette (remember those?) containing their first two albums. We were hooked forever. If you’re not familiar with Big Star, you really do owe it to yourself to seek out their work. Two of their songs — “Watch the Sunrise” and “Try Again” — are part of the playlist on Instant Dharma, as are Chilton’s solo song “Dalai Lama” and bandmate Chris Bell’s “I Am the Cosmos.”
But back to change. I still enjoy the music, but it’s been awhile since I was a regular at Maxwell’s or any other music club for that matter, and certainly the Hoboken scene I loved so dearly is long gone (boy, do I miss Pier Platters). Chilton’s death just seemed to close the door on that part of my life.
The final change for the week was being laid off from my job of 23 years.
It was not a complete surprise, but it was still a bit unnerving to actually hear the words. Now, I don’t know if it’s directly attributable to Zen, and I don’t really wish to over-analyze it, but I have to say I was much calmer about the whole thing than I thought I’d be.
I’d thought about freelance graphic design for years, but with a family and a mortgage, I wasn’t going to walk away from my full-time paying gig. But now I’ve been pushed, and my honest first reaction was that I’d been presented with a great opportunity. Sure, I’ve had some sleepless nights as part of this transition, but on the whole, I love the idea of working largely on my terms, doing something I enjoy, and having the flexibility that allows me more time with my family. I can also honestly say I ‘m not angry with anyone or anything because of this change.
And there’s something else. I never considered this before, but there’s a wholeness about my entire life now revolving around my home, as if having a job to which I had to commute was some unnatural disconnect in my life.
Sounds like Right Livelihood to me.