and other coping mechanisms for nooze
“… and I forget. Does that mean big … or small?”
I like a redemption story. And I liked the hell of out I’m New Here, and when it was first released I needed very badly both the thing and the meaning I would derive from the thing. The story of the album’s existence is as remarkable as the music that it contains. (link: this article tells that story more succinctly than I could.)
23 February, 2010. That’s what the “date added” field in my iTunes library has to say Gil Scott-Heron’s album I’m New Here and its title track. As best as I can recall, days earlier I’d heard a positive review on NPR (perhaps the very one referenced above) and decided to give it a go. I might have just as easily forgotten to look into it when I got home.
Before that, I couldn’t have told you fact one about Scott-Heron. I’m sure that I’d been tangentially aware of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” but I don’t think that I could’ve spoken with any authority on what it really was, or what it was really all about, and I don’t think I would’ve been able pull as tricky a name as Gil Scott-Heron out of my memory. You’d think that I, having taken a Hip Hop Culture course as an undergrad (yes, that’s a thing you can do, and you should), would have been able, but in all fairness it’s pretty remarkable that I remember much of anything from my college days.
In my mind, during my first mysterious skirmishes with “I’m New Here,” I’m driving strange circuits around the DC Metro area with no particular place to go and with the stereo very, very much up, dialed in to reconstitute mode. I’m trying to drive beyond something. And the windows are down and the heat and humidity are like birth.
But that doesn’t really sync with the reality of 23 February, 2010. High of 41 ºF. Low of 37 ºF. No rain, no snow. Maximum wind gusts of 21 mph. (link: Weather Underground History.)
My Facebook Wall tells me that I was in fact in town during that period and not doing much of anything in particular. It also tells me that I decided to post about a different song by a different artist and about how it was “_______,” but it did not tell me that I decided to post about “I’m New Here,” or about how it was presently disassembling and reassembling my constitution.
In spite of what my memory tells me, it was about as boring a February day as possible when the song punched me in the gut for the first time. That doesn’t seem quite right, and I’m glad it doesn’t, and beyond that I’m not sure what to make of any of my memories surrounding this man and this music and my then-endless driving or of my present telling of those things. But I do know that when I first heard the news late yesterday evening –– 27 May, 2011 –– that Gil Scott-Heron had died, my stomach was the first to tell my brain that something very cosmically unfair had happened. My brain hates this sort of narrative.
I felt compelled to write about it. I felt obligated to do so in this space, since I had just committed myself to writing little things about the nooze that mails my stomach these sorts of insider tips. But this is not nooze. Perhaps as we move along in this little pocket of the internet we will come to define nooze, slowly, by what it is not. And this is not nooze. This is a man, who through art, and though we didn’t know each other, healed me a little. And he has died.
As I write this, there is no word as to the cause of death. I suspect that knowing one way or the other wouldn’t really make me feel any better.
And that is because I also suspect that I will feel largely okay, given that it is always –– as I must eventually cotton on to –– cosmically quite fair for someone to die, second acts aside.
Gil Scott-Heron meant a great deal to many individuals and to disparate communities. If you didn’t know much about him before now, you’re forgiven. (See above. He did the things that brought him his highest accolades before I was worth engaging in conversation.) But he meant a great deal to me in a very particular way. A very simple song, barely sung, gave me a periscope.
Let’s begin by all agreeing that we are on bonus time. We are all very lucky ducks to still be alive and not –– at least, not in any sort of grand and apocalyptic way –– battling. I know, I know. It’s 5/27/11 already and Harold Camping’s prediction that the world would end on 5/21/11 is very six days old. “We have new things to worry about.” I know. Don’t worry. There won’t be very much of that six-day-old bombast –– not from me, not on this tumbl –– from here on out.
But in the light of the inauguration of this tumbl, I think that Robert Fitzpatrick, the Staten Island man who spent his life savings trying to save us, is not old nooze. At least, not until we are done making something of a mascot of him.
I do not mean to deride the man. Who among hasn’t spent our [things we care about] in order to [something we care even more about]? Jerks. That’s who hasn’t.
I picture Mr. Fitzpatrick there –– wheresoever he may have been –– wearing his overcoat that he really likes, smiling inside with a peace that few of us will ever know, and waiting to be taken away from a world that does not make sense to him. And since the world does not often make sense to me either, here is a poem I wrote (just now) for (from) Robert Fitzpatrick:
A couple of kids on their bicycle pegs
Started to circle and ask me the news
I told them I was waiting for You
I did not say it was a very good poem. It probably isn’t. Ask a poet. I don’t know if there were kids on bicycles. One (I guess two?) of the nice things about writing poems is that you don’t have to necessarily be good at them or get your facts straight.
So, that, in a sense, is what we will do here. Each day (most days –– we have jobs we hope), while we are standing around in our overcoat, which we like very much, and we are waiting happily to be spirited away but those damned kids on their bicycles and whatnots start circling, we will believe as (n.b. not “what,” rather “as”) Robert Fitzpatrick believes, that is to say, completely; and until the sun goes down and we’re still here; and in our overcoat and sleepy-eyed; and always with the promise that we will reassess all situations in the morning; and if only just the one more time.