Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Love in His Fists

I'll try anything to get out of pain. I read recently that cannabis can be a great pain reliever and that it opens up our capillaries, both of which sounded good to me, so I visited a trusted pal who swears by the ways of the weed, and proceeded to take some home with me.

At first, I had some serious fears. Many MANY moons ago, back in high school and college, whenever I'd try pot, I'd get completely paranoid, I'd vomit, and it would take days to recover. But I was fairly paranoid in general back then, having been raised in a critical home where my every move was scrutinized.

As I've come a long way since then, I figured, "What the hell? What could one drag do to me?"

So I fired 'er up and took a short, wimpy drag, waited about five minutes, and upon feeling nothing, took another, then another, with each one getting longer and slower. All that seemed to happen was a complete loss of short-term memory and the eruption of ravenous hunger that led me directly to the chips and salsa.

There was no high, no euphoria, just a state of strangeness that even crept into my dreams. I had one where I was writing a song, and it struck me, even in my dream state, that the lyrics were quite good. The only problem is that when I forced myself awake, I could only remember one phrase: "...the love in his fists." Eee gats. There's a mind at rest for ya. Apparently, my Buddhist readings aren't taking root very well.

"The love in his fists." Whatever can that mean? I was never physically abused as a child, but I did live in holy terror. I know for certain that my dad would have died for me, but I also know for certain that his rage was uncontrollable--the kind that could be set off for no reason whatsoever and stay there for weeks on end. It was also the kind where his fists and face would turn so red in anger that I knew if he ever did pop, I was a goner.

I was an only child until I was 16, so I completely blamed myself for his rages, thinking I simply wasn't deserving of all the love and good humor he seemed to heap upon others. To the outside world, he was everyone's favorite uncle, and justifiably so, as he was a gas to be around. But behind closed doors, he could be someone else entirely...a dark, brooding soul who could hate indiscriminately.

I know now that my dad probably suffered from some type of mental disorder (most likely borderline personality disorder, which does damage not just to the patient but to all those in the patient's life). And I've forgiven him completely; I carry no resentments, and my time with him now is cherished, as he's much older, and as a result of a small stroke 10 years ago, he's much quieter. I miss the feisty party guy and all the good times, but I certainly don't miss the specter--that looming dark figure who could so terrorize my mom and me (and later, my sister).

So I suppose the phrase "love in his fists" is a good metaphor for how I feel about him. There was love and rage, always. Ben Horowitz at The Newark Star-Ledger once observed about my music that I create worlds "where joy and peril walk hand in hand." I've always loved that review, as I didn't see that in my own work until Ben did. That's the mark of a good critic--revealing truths back to the artist in a type of sacred dialog.

I also have a lyric in my song "A Better Haircut" that says, "Ya gotta stop popping me in the jaw." That line always startles people, because the song is a type of "East Village Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" (observed by another reviewer)--light, silly, glamorous and pissed. So what the hell is that line doing there? It seemed to fit the tone of the song in a James-Cagney-shoving-the-grapefruit-in-the-blonde's-face kind of way, but still, it's disturbing.

Fists, rage, hatred, terror, all mixed with love. No wonder I'm in chronic pain.


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