Bush for President… Sam Bush
I apologize to my ever-skyrocketing cadre of devoted readers whom I had promised another slice-and-dice job on that person who mistakenly finds himself occupying the desk normally reserved for the President of the United States. Like him, I’ve been falling down on the job lately, but unlike him, no one dies, gas prices don’t rise and I tell you no lies by snoozing through a news cycle. Luckily, though, we now have Molly Ivins in this, easily the finest free weekly in the Triad, to take up my slack. My heroine Molly has turned Bush-bashing into an art form, and I will forever be in her debt.
No, the reason I had to change course this week is that I am dead in the middle of my busy season and my thoughts are drifting as far away from the DC follies as I can allow them to. There are two times during the year when I am able to turn my attention to more pleasant, life-affirming thoughts, and it just so happens that they fall on consecutive weekends: MerleFest and the Carolina Blues Festival.
Right now the only Bush on my mind is Sam, the only Rice, Tony. And next weekend I’ll concentrate on the blues, not blue states, on Son House, not the US House.
I had a brief moment of clarity last Thursday night at MerleFest ‘— early in John Prine’s set, somewhere between ‘“Paradise’” and ‘“Souvenirs’” ‘— when I realized that I have allowed myself to become a victim. I have become so consumed with partisan politics and the sorry state of our government that I’ve lost sight of the beauty, the gentleness and the inherent goodness of the world around me. I’ve let my political self take the reins of my life, while my higher self ‘— the self that loves music, nature, harmony, poetry and people ‘— has been relegated to the back seat. I’m missing the forest for the trees. Or, in this case, the Bushes.
And, as you can see by the introductory paragraph, that one glimpse of awareness has not slain the political animal that I seem to have become. At best, I suppose, that fleeting glimmer of hope can keep the beast at bay long enough to enjoy the moment, if only occasionally. But it’s always there, gnawing at me, mocking me, robbing me of the smile that used to come so easily and the sense of humor that I consider God’s gift.
Somehow I’ve got to get myself back to the garden, back to that place where I was able to wear the world as a loose garment. I’ve got to just let it go. But how?
What it boils down to is finding a balance. I’ve got to put the political animal back in its cage long enough to let the musical animal out for a breath of fresh air. While I can’t foresee a time when I would not bash Bush ‘— hey, I’m still bashing ol’ dead Nixon ‘— what I need to do is put him in his rightful place from time to time. A dear friend of mine characterizes my obsessive relationship with The Duh as letting him live rent-free in my head. And by doing so, I allow him to win. I go crazy old before my time ‘— and he’s still president.
So, here’s the solution. Tomorrow I’ll head back up to MerleFest like I always do, make out my little itinerary of which acts I want to see, and start meandering from stage to stage. My only concern will be how to cram it all in. Then next Saturday I’ll put on my boogie shoes, grab my wife and lawn chair and ease into Festival Park for a solid day’s worth of fine blues. And on both occasions, Herr Whatshisface will be a million miles away.
Of course, that’s but a temporary solution, but I may have figured out a way to deal with it. And it all goes full circle, back to the music. On the way back from MerleFest, my buddy, remembering that the band I was in years ago used to do almost all of John Prine’s catalogue, asked if I ever missed it. My reply was that I rarely did, that I was much better writing about music than performing it, but that every now and then I got a tiny twinge of regret.
He pressed, ‘“What about it do you regret?’” And my honest answer was that I regret not respecting the craft enough, that having a talent brings with it the responsibility to polish it with utmost care, to not take it for granted, and to honor it by becoming as proficient at it as possible. And I didn’t respect the gift enough to do that.
So, just for the heck of it, I think I’ll dust off the old ax that I pick up maybe twice a year and see if there are any tunes left in it. It used to soothe the savage beast; maybe it will again.
Ogi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, heard each Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on ‘“The Dusty Dunn Show’” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on ‘“Triad Today’” Friday at 6:30 a.m. on ABC45 and Sunday at 10 p.m. on UPN48. His blog is backtothegarden-ogi.blogspot.com.