Monday, October 27, 2014

Food, Music, Home and Acceptance

I have an obsession with two things - food and music. When I’m dead and gone my life’s work will have been dedicated to the incredibly visceral combination of the two. This is the kind of thing where level of intelligence is absolutely moot. It’s about that deep inward feeling that consumes us when we’re experiencing it. They are truly original forms of therapy. The heart is made up of four chambers and I’m apt to say that music and food are two of them.

Every Sunday, a tiny “Rustic American Eatery & Bakery” known as Salt of the Earth hosts incredibly talented guests for their music series. This restaurant is located in Fennville, MI which has an approximate population of only 1,400 people. You could miss driving through it if you sneezed and you certainly would regret it. This tiny town is the buckle to West Michigan’s agricultural belt. To quote their website, “Salt of the Earth celebrates the bounty of the Michigan farm, beverage, and roots music community.”. They actually partner with farmers, growers, brewers and distillers within a fifty-mile radius to provide a long forgotten quality of freshness in today’s food and it’s perfect partner-in-crime... music.

Last night we experienced, local to West Michigan indie-folk sensation, The Crane Wives for an unexpected feeling of euphoria (at seemingly the world’s best venue). They usually play to much larger crowds, but Salt of the Earth is a very special place. Their genre is outside of my go-to-music, however their enthusiastic passion still invoked something in me. They introduced The Diving Bell as their only “happy” song and then laughed because it starts off by referencing drowning. Their metaphors were raw and perfect as if they were lovingly ripened and picked from the garden of life.

I don’t mean to misquote one of their singers, but she said something to which I directly related. I wish I had it recorded, but I believe it was along these lines, “These songs are from our own personal experiences and anxieties. We interpret our emotions through our music. And that’s hard to do when you’re happy because when you’re’re distracted.”. I’m telling you a huge gong crashed in my brain after she said that and life made just a little bit more sense right then.

Here we were in this perfect sized room with probably less than seventy-five people. On the table sat a bottle of Bordeaux, handmade aged cheddar pierogies with buttered red cabbage, a sweet-smoky wood-fired pizza and the best damn s’more on the planet. The timelessly enchanting melodies of The Crane Wives brought the whole experience full circle, making our toes tingle. Our server said they were “just the cutest band in the whole world”. She may have been right, but they reminded me more of a wolf-pack howling at the moon in perfect three-part harmony. Maybe a cute wolf-pack, though.

The Crane Wives @ Salt of the Earth - 10/26/14 - (photo credit: ShantsBySchantz)
The truth is our food came from the surrounding fields and our music came from our neighbors. This was more than the essence of Americana. This was more than a campaign known as Pure Michigan. This was more than West Michigan, even. This was the pioneering spirit of our home and all of us there accepted that we were a part of it together. Which reminds me, those other two chambers of our heart are exactly that - home and acceptance. Damn, that was delicious.

Scotty J ~ "If we can focus on living and loving locally, we can lead by example globally."

Check ‘em out here on the web...
...and find your way to ‘em in person!!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mutual Weirdness

For those of you that don't know me personally, I'm madly in love with a woman named Jessica. Aside from how much we laughed, her hazel-green eyes hypnotized me the first time we met. They seemed to sparkle and change shades every time she smiled, it made my heart race. I'm not exactly sure if she caught me staring at her that night, but I tried like hell to keep it chill around her, uninterested even. I didn't want to be overcome by the nearly uncontrollable notions I was feeling for her. It wasn't infatuation. It wasn't love-at-first-sight. I knew it was much much bigger.

That night, I had a forty-five minute drive home and spent it chatting on the phone with a different girl I had gone on a few dates with at the time. She drunkenly talked about herself and eventually stopped making sense altogether. It didn't matter anyway, I wasn't paying attention. I still couldn't get over the feeling from meeting this beautiful green-eyed woman from earlier in the night. A feeling that's only grown since then too.

Jessica and I started seeing each other just a couple of weeks later and I'm not even sure how. My beard was the bushiest it had ever been, absorbing everything it had come close to like a sea sponge - it literally reeked of buffalo chicken dip and campfire. However I wasn't embarrassed by that and she certainly wasn't deterred. It wasn't long after that we realized our favorite view is the one we share together. Since then it hasn't mattered where our adventure has taken us, as long as we experience life together.

For the record, my beard actually did smell like that and I know that sounds weird, but I've learned that true love exposes every part of who we are. It conquers fears, energizes the spirit and feels like flying. Simply put, there is just no hiding from it. True love occurs when two people take off their "cool" with a willing vulnerability and let their naked hearts beat in unison. They never hide from themselves nor each other. I really believe Dr. Seuss said it best...

I knew nothing about love before meeting Jessica. I had only experienced lust, loneliness and lies. All of my prior relationships were just novelties lining my shelves like trophies for confusion and heartbreak. I'm not even mad about it though. All of those mistakes of the past were really quite the contrary (and Jessica's too.). They were exactly what lead us to one another and I wouldn't dare change that for the universe.

She fits perfectly into my big bear-hugging arms, as if we were a two-piece puzzle made to only fit with each other. In fact, she even calls me Bear. Every time we touch, it feels like we melt into one another. Honestly, it's the most selfless and giving feeling in the world. Like me, she loves children's books and the other little things life has to offer - like basking in the sunshine, the waves on Lake Michigan, aromatic candles and fresh cut flowers. From a friendly tennis match to a long walk through a vineyard with a kiss under a shade tree to a night of making dinner with old and new friends - every single day is an adventure worth every moment of our time.

We even share a journal to write each other uplifting notes and reminisce about our inside jokes from each little moment we've had together. I gave it to her for coming to spend my birthday with me, eating pizza and drinking wine on a sunset boat cruise. In my first entry I confessed my heart and told her I loved her. I knew it was fast, but at thirty-one years old I knew even better that life was too damn short. In one of my favorite entries from her she copied a poem by R.M. Drake that read...

We are magic.
We are moments.
We are dreams and we are memories.
We are everything.
And in the depths we swim deeper
to discover that we are not born whole
so we cannot be broken.
We are born in twos, and
we are searching, searching for
the other piece,
that other person to guide us home.
A year ago at this time I had nearly severed ties from everything I knew and took off for an unknown destination. I had thought that maybe true love wasn't for me this lifetime, but I never stopped believing in it. I don't know why, I just couldn't. What I didn't understand then became perfectly transparent the day I read that poem. See, she too had gone through some heavy-hearted changes at the same time. It really felt like braving the darkest storm on this sea of life. Apparently though it was just the wind catching our sails, steadily pushing us "home".

They say... home is where the heart is. Well I don't know who "they" are, but they couldn't have been more right. Though the future is unknown and life is full of surprises, being with her is the happiest I've ever been. Something tells me if you asked her, she'd tell you the exact same thing. True love isn't something we bellow from a mountain top, it's the strength and motivation behind our climb up the mountain. Love defines us, never stop believing in it.

Scotty J ~ "No matter how inexperienced nor how broken, the heart knows best."

I love you Jes!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Gales of November Came Early

Last month I traveled with my girlfriend to Chicago. While she worked at her office in Ravenswood I took the liberty of meandering my way downtown and checking into our hotel. I was tired and needed a nap, but the Windy City was stirring and I just had to immerse myself in it. After a lengthy walk and a salty snack, I needed a toke and casually strolled back toward the hotel.
During my pursuit for a discrete location to "partake" I came across this perfectly nestled courtyard. It was a beautiful hardscape with a massive trellis built out of timbers. The stone planters had hard angles and a checkerboard symmetry to their placement. Their flamboyant green and pink foliage had a majestic vibe among all of the concrete in the city. The shadows from the trellis seemed to be perfectly painted on the solid ground. I looked around and counted..1..2..3..4..5 bums sleeping in the late summer sun.
Not really sure of what my immediate future plans were, I opted to join these bottom-feeders. With my bag as my pillow, I slept for a bit and dreamed of nothing. When I awoke, I looked around and realized that my new acquaintances had not dreamed in years. They stalk the night diving in dumpsters and living off of the scraps of others. It's a lifestyle so grueling they shamelessly sleep it off surrounded by the loudness of traffic, construction and sirens.
Who were these guys? Had their whole lives been on the streets? I thought maybe one of them was a washed-up stock broker who (at one point) had everything he could have imagined. Then after some sort of tragedy he realized all of the things he had were truly nothing. That's when self-actualization set in and he slipped through the cracks. Regardless, all of these guys were fast asleep and I certainly wasn't going to interrupt their much needed rest before another night of urban foraging just to get their story. I slipped my arms through the straps on my backpack and carried on with my adventure.

I don't know why, but as I reflect on this today it came to me that these guys made a gallant abomination of the status-quo. Who am I to refer to these guys as "bottom-feeders"?? At that very moment in their lives that was their destiny. Just as mine was to lay among them then, realize that today and write about it now. Perhaps one of those guys in the courtyard had achieved an incredible level of enlightenment that I may never reach in a thousand lifetimes. They had not given up, these men weren't dead. They were genuine survivors and now I find myself admiring them.
The day we're born we start to die and that's the truth. We live in this society that is obsessed with prolonging our mortality (if we can afford it) and then wonder why we can't find happiness. Abraham Lincoln said, "In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.". There is no fucking point in living longer just to be miserable longer. We actually have the audacity to find a way to be offended by anything and people band together in this sad prideful hatred of the human essence.

It's amazing what you can find under the tracks. - Lincoln Square - Chicago, IL
I love street art because it defies the bullshit to which we're regularly subjected. We are all too shamefully influenced by the diabolical "mad men" of the world with their toxic slogans and fictitious imagery. Everywhere we look there's a creative reference to someone being more productive than ourselves. We try to ignore it all (or at least pretend), but to our avail it catches up with us from time to time. Hence me writing all of this.
Brass-Knuckle Love Butter. RAWdio Podcast. Producers United. Interestingly Human. These are the four projects to which I creatively contribute and channel my soul. In fact, Producers United is the only website that's really all put together with regularly updated content. It also happens to be the only project for which I am NOT the administrator. I know that intention is meaningless without action. I'm not doubting my ability to achieve my heart's desires, I'm just calling myself out right now. Holding back is starting to make me feel sickly and gross. It's like the world's cruelest form of suicide and I think most of us are suffering from it in one form or another.
Thanks to my friends in the courtyard, I realized we all have an unfathomable durability as humans. Though death is always out there lurking in so many forms, we can still live through so many unimaginable circumstances. We are all destined for something and it doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks of it. Maybe mine is leading a renaissance of new age creators with old souls. Better yet, maybe it's helping people listen to their hearts. Who knows?? It could be creating a jankie knock-off version of Mr. Potato Head called Dr. Pineapple Face or perhaps it will just be impoverished squalor. Hell it could be all of the above, but that's neither here nor there.
Luck, circumstance and timing come and go like the wind. Sometimes it's at our backs helping push us along; other times it's right in our face pushing against us; and occasionally it's just stagnant, nowhere to be found. We have to remind ourselves to put into life what makes us feel alive. See, each day we are living our destiny. It transcends through our experiences, our actions and even our intentions. Destiny isn't something we choose, chase or avoid. It's constantly molding throughout our lifetime. It's a part of us...always.

Scotty J ~