I’m tormented by cologne right now. My car is at the shop getting an oil leak fixed (incredibly, under warranty), and I have a loaner—a surprising blessing but also a curse because its seatbelt is absolutely infused with cologne. The first few days I thought the car was just cleaned with some heavy-duty chemical. There were Clorox banners everywhere in the shop, bragging about their thorough germ-killing procedures. But when the smell followed me out of the car, into my house, into the studio, wherever I went, I realized the stuff is on me and practically in me now. And it has turned every social interaction into an anxious question of whether my friends think I suddenly decided to start smelling like a pickup artist YouTuber.
I’m kidding about the pitifulness of this situation but I’m not kidding about how intensely smells can come to define your life. Like a lot of people I’ve always felt like periods of time were distinguished more by their signature smell than anything else. The weird thing is, I don’t know where the smells come from. It’s not like I’m adopting a new laundry detergent or eating food with a new spice every three months or so. The world just evolves smellularly, and then when you think back on that part of your life, the singular smell of it comes back. It’s almost not a smell. It’s a feeling.
When I was twelve I called these feelings “grooves.” I had a really bizarre moment where it felt like the feeling-smell completely went away—like my mind went empty or blank, and then I didn’t feel as much for months or years. If that sounds like depression to you, yes, I think that’s what it was, and every adult around me identified it that way, too.
It completely freaked me out, this new way of feeling that was so much duller, and I asked my dad in panic if it was going to last forever. He promised that the “grooves” would come back, and he was right. Of course I don’t really feel like I’m pre-twelve again. Nothing can feel that safe (if you were lucky to have safety) and expansive (even though you really only spend time at home and at school). But much richness came back, and the months and seasons are defined again by those weird smell-feelings that most people seem to have.
This period will, no doubt, be defined by the car cologne on my neck.
Last Saturday I played drums with Matt Rizzo as part of his band Horizon of Darkness, opening for Eleventh Dream Day, his parents’ band, at Metro. It was so fun.
Matt and I got together for one session at the Loft last year and improvised music for about thirty minutes. I played drums in the booth while Matt played guitar and sang excerpts of his daily poems in the control room. Mark Greenberg chopped it all up, added more guitar parts, and arranged it into an album I think could go toe-to-toe with Public Image Ltd. We played versions of those songs on Saturday.
Matt’s mom, Janet Beveridge Bean, made a microphone holder out of a coat-hanger and foam so that he could play guitar and read lyrics without worrying too much about the location of the mic during the set. (He ended up improvising a lot of new lyrics anyway.)
We wore disposable, white painters’ jumpsuits, and goggles. Mine fogged up just a few minutes into the thirteen-minute set, which prevented me from seeing all but Matt’s hands when he would point to Rick and me to signal the end of a song.
Matt was recently interviewed by Maddison Hall at the Glut1 Deficiency Foundation, who had this to say about his poetry: “When he realized he could let go of the grammar and rules of writing, he was able to open up his mind with modern poetry and create a world of raw thoughts that tell stories from his perspective. With 900 poems in his arsenal, he writes daily and uses words as his own unique medium. The words he selects come from not only their meaning and sound, but Matt sees words in a light unlike anyone else for how they visually amuse him.” Some of those 900+ poems live on Matt’s poignantly named blog, How Will This Work, How Will I Fit.
Here are some of my favorite passages from the lyrics on Matt’s album, which you can listen to here. (Check out the music video that Mark made, too.)
I AM RUNNING ON A BRIDGE OF FORSAKEN DARKNESS
WHEN I DO IN MY MIND I WILL ESCAPE FROM WITHIN MY HEART
I CAN’T DEPEND ON LYRICS, BUT I CAN DEPEND ON YOU
I WILL RUN AWAY WITH MY GRIEVING THIEVES IN THE NIGHTTIME
IT WILL RELAX MY DAWN OF TIME
IT WILL KISS THE GROUND I STAND ON
I WILL DIE ON MY HEAVENLY-FORSAKEN KITCHEN ON MY GROUND
IT WILL DEPEND ON ME FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME
I CAN’T SAY WHY, BUT I CAN’T SAY WHY ENOUGH WHEN IT IS
WE CRY TO OUR HUMAN’S NIGHTMARE
WHEN WE SEE UNSELFISH ACTS
IN THE MEMORIES OF LAST MONDAY
IN THE GEARS OF THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN ON THE TRAIN
THEY CRY FOR HELP
BUT WE CRY FOR NEED
IN THE MEMORIES OF OUR KINGDOM
THAT WILL LIE FOR HELP
THAT WILL CRUMBLE DOWN DRAMATICALLY
WE CLIMB FROM MEMORIES
UP THE MOUNTAIN LIKE PLASTIC DOLLS
ON AN OVERLAND EXPERIENCE
FROM THE CODESHEETS OF MANY PIONEERS
IN THE WIND, IN THE WIND
WE CRY, WE CRY FROM TEARS
WE REMEMBER OUR PEOPLE
THAT WILL BE FALLEN
FROM GREAT WRESTLERS
THAT RUN OUR BUSINESS
“Through My Passion”
FROM MY SINNER’S DEATH WE WILL CALL US BLIND
BUT WE WILL CALL US
IGNORANT POETIC GENIUSES IN THE MIND OF TIME
IN THE DAYS OF THE CORPSE LIVING ROUND AND ROUND
IN A POETIC JUSTICE TO COME FROM PRIDE
FROM PLAYING A GAME THAT WE LOVE WITH A BALL
THAT WE CAN DESIGN
WE CALL US FROM THE DOOM, FROM THE DAYS WE RIDE
FROM OUR WOUNDS
FROM MY CONSTANT STRUGGLE
AND MY PAIN FROM MY CONSTANT SILENCE
OF THE WHISPER ACHE
FROM WHERE WE COME FROM WE WILL LIE IN OUR DECADES OF EMOTION
BUT WE CAN TAKE IT INTO CONSIDERATION
WE ARE KINGS THAT FOLLOW OUR COUNTRY TO THE END
THEN LIE BACK WHEN WE FALL TO PIECES
WE RUN THROUGH ALLEYS, WE RUN THROUGH FORESTS
WE LIE IN THE SUFFERING WIND AND RAIN
WHEN POETIC JUSTICE WILL BE A CRIME,
A CRIME OF PASSION
LIKE WHEN I DOMINATE IN THE GAME
IN MY LIFE I WILL FORGIVE FORGIVE EVERYONE FOR NOT HEARING ME,
BUT AS I WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH HIM HE NEEDS TO LEARN
TO HEAR ME FROM THE DISTANCE THAT I WILL CRAWL INTO YOUR SOUL
Rodney Crowell’s new album, The Chicago Sessions, is out now! Produced by my dad. I play drums on a few songs, including the first track, “Lucky.” I know this sounds trite, but it really was so thrilling to respond to the playing by bassist Zachariah Hickman and pianist Catherine Marx, not to mention the legend, Rodney, himself.
My friend Hayden and I announced earlybird tickets for the tiny music festival we produce on his farm, Avrom Farm Party. We’ll announce the lineup later this month and then tickets will go up a bit, so if you’ll be in the area this summer, now is a good time to buy them.
There are a few more days for Illinois musicians, artists, and venues to apply for this $50 million grant. Everyone who is eligible will receive money, so check your eligibility!
I wrote a guest post for my dad’s Substack, Starship Casual :)
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When I was in 2nd grade I took an empty bottle to school in my pocket. I opened it in the lunch line and then closed it quickly, hoping to capture the delicious smells of school lunch! I was disappointed in the outcome but I remember the look on the lunch ladies’ faces when I told them why I had the bottle. I interpreted their reactions as both laughing at me and touched that their food meant so much to me!