Well, this is it, the last chapter.
I can see from the document history on my hard drive and that I actually started what morphed into this blog back in January of this year. This is a 2021 baby. In a New Year’s phone call, my friend Alan Martinson, a writer and all kinds of literary scholar, challenged me to write about my first records and my love for rock blues (i.e., Freddie King, Johnny Winter and Cream). Sometime between February 7 and February 23, something happened. I began thinking, hey, this is a memoir; forget my parents and grandparents, I have perspective at my age too.
The skeleton of the entire blog began to emerge. On February 7, it clocked in at 1,676 words and was simply called “Ruminatin’ the Blues.” By February 23, the word count was up to 6,362 and the title became its current “Mental Anguish of a Would Be Rock Star.” I was astounded that I could write that much.
From that point, I reached out to friends to fact- and style-check the content, and by April 25 I had roughed out chapter headings. However, armed with only the desire to get my story down and get my music “out there,” I realized I had written something chronologically incoherent and rambling. I was all over the map. Through May, I coaxed order out of the chaos, expanded, split, merged and rearranged chapters, and created an introduction. Then I started working on an actual website, which I had never done before. It was going to be a blog with chapters rolled out weekly, a Christmas tree with the music and photos hanging on it like ornaments. By early July, I had 19 chapters (Later consolidated and reduced to the present 16). Not to be outdone, I then proceeded to devote that entire month to agonizing about whether I was too presumptuous to think people would be interested in my….I believe the technical term is “self-serving shit.”
My diabolical mind.
I went live with the first chapter on Monday, August 1. Including today’s chapter, I have written exactly 25,545 words, and have held myself to a schedule of publishing one chapter every Monday from August 1 through November 15. Patty, in her inimitable style, simply says “It shows how much you have on your mind.” Other people have told me they are amazed by this output, to which I respond 1) thanks!, 2) I like to write, 3) It’s easy when you find something you like to do and 4) It’s even easier when you get to talk about yourself. Nonetheless, each week was literary bootcamp. I gave myself rest days on Tuesday and Wednesday and then starting in with polishing and rearranging the next Monday’s chapter and picking out photos and music that best supported it. Even though I had written a lot of the words back in the late Spring, it still took considerable work to put meat on the bones, rearrange the text, move things to other chapters, or delete stuff outright. Sunday evenings filled me with terror, like those nightmares (which I still occasionally experience) of having a final exam the next day and suddenly realizing that I never attended any classes.
Since today is the last chapter, that begs the question, what now? Well, I don’t expect to write so often, but I don’t expect my mind to shut down either. So I’ll probably come up an occasional topic to cover (full disclosure: I already have one more chapter nearly written, stuff I saved from earlier versions of the other chapters). We’ll see how I do. As soon as I can figure out this computer Garage Band gizmo thing, I want to record. And pandemic-willing, I would like to actually jam that rock music again with live people.
I swing between seeing myself as dust in the wind, ashes to ashes, etc. versus needing to have my life mean something. (As R. Crumb asks: What does it all mean, Mr. Natural? Mr. Natural: It don’t mean shit.) I see my own mother, in her 90s, wanting to stay relevant, and while I’m still only in my 60’s (by the skin of my teeth), it is jarring to be perched at the beginning of the same cohort as a 93-year-old. As if I need a reminder, there are a LOT of documentaries and docudramas cropping up today about the 1960s/70s/80s scene; I suppose we’re all grown up now, with enough disposable income and time to support these things.
So, what’s next? A KME COFFEE TABLE BOOK!! I’m kidding; I need a living room and a coffee table first.
While I appreciate new stuff and try to stay current, I do understand that I’m from a different era. New things are a young person’s game and energy level is the primary factor. Everyone’s either crushing it, max-ing out, engaging in extreme what-not, or just plain talking super, super fast. Personally, I feel that everybody needs to just calm the fuck down. A lot of pyrotechnics and hyperventilation. As is the case with any generation, though, and not just My G-g-generation, the cream rises to the top, although there appears to be a lot of spoiled milk in this one. I’m sure the commercial, one-hit psychedelic bands with Roger McGuinn glasses and bowl haircuts must have looked that way in the 1960s. For me, music and art have always been about (besides heart) politics, and not just the “fuck this and that” kind. I understand this is capitalism, that there’s a marketplace for goods and services, and that people have to make a living, but IMHO there’s way too much soulless hustling and precocious business savvy and not enough innocence.
I know, get off my lawn. While I like to think that I have a lot of energy for my age, and I might engage in some late game heroics such that people say that the old Ken Moss is back, the fact still remains that Ken Moss is…kinda old. I write music when the mood strikes me, but with the pandemic and relocating to Los Angeles, I miss the community I had in DC. Everybody’s hurting everywhere for sure. With each new song I write, though, comes the satisfaction of crafting a piece of art. I can’t help writing songs or humming sweet melodies, that old “nasty habit” of writing new songs. My narrative, that I discussed back in chapter IV (guitar player, part 1), was that my family was not particularly musical - just a lot of Sigmund Romberg, Mitch Miller, and light opera. I guess I had the image of everyone else’s mother listening to Patsy Cline or Hank Williams or Miles Davis on a transistor radio in the kitchen. I just remembered, however, that my paternal grandfather loved to sing songs from the 1910s - Come Josephine in my Flying Machine, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, K-K-K-Katy, Over There, and Give Me the Moonlight, Give Me the Girl (and leave the rest to me). So, I’m changing personal narratives. I am a tunesmith - I can thank my grandfather…..and Paul McCartney.
I am a peerless shower singer. Ideas come to me from the sound of a washing machine, windshield wipers, or my wife working out a classical piece on the piano. I’ve still got a ton of lyrics and poetry, good and bad, to sift through. I imagine by age 67, oops, 68, I have collected a lot of everything. A number of people have told me, now that I’m retired, “You’re lucky. You have your music,” but it’s not all that it’s cranked up to be. It can be more like an obsession. It’s difficult to be a mere mortal with some modicum of talent. If I practice more, I’m never going to be good, only better. Now I’m playing sweet little songs on acoustic guitar for my 2-year-old granddaughter, a couple new ones but mostly the very same ones I used to play for my daughter (song 1 and song 2).
Perhaps I undersell myself, and maybe all people with a bit of a creative streak feel this way. I know I have touched people with my songs but that I tend to look for approval elsewhere, among people I perceive to be hipper and out of reach. So, one of the motivations for writing this is to get it out of my head. I am what I am and no one else can match it. Do I deserve to be taking up your time? Is there a point at which desire really should not trump quality, or is everything of (good) value? I mean, do we applaud heart alone, like the unpolished or downright bad films The Room by Tommy Wiseau or Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space, or America’s Got Talent?
Or maybe, just maybe, I should consider shutting the fuck up and simply be grateful for what I have done. So let me simply say thank you for reading and listening.
Enjoy this recent song, called Down This Road.