Tag Archives: darkness

The Last Eight Minutes

22 Nov

Things couldn’t possibly get worse. The girl is totally alone, she’s stressed out at work, and even her plants are dying from neglect. But somehow circumstances do become much more dire, like cue the brooding overtones in the soundtrack dire, when she does something horribly clumsy and drives away her best possible option for matrimonial bliss. Suddenly he couldn’t be further out of reach, and she is totally ensnared in a death grip of lifelong isolation.

But the all love, all the time cable network movie is scheduled to end in eight minutes, when the next two-hour fantastical yarn is slated to start, so somehow the tangled knot must end up tied in a neat bow. And damn quickly.

So here I sit again, glaring at the tiny television screen at my mother’s apartment, and clenching my jaw. A crippling fear that this time might be the first time we won’t receive a flawless denouement overtakes me.

“Mom, how in the hell are they going to work all this out?”

She laughs and sweeps her arm over an imaginary landscape of smooth contentment. “Relax,” she intones, “it’s the Hallmark Channel! Everything’s going to turn out fine.”

It’s our ritual. We indulge in it every Saturday evening, and maybe a few spare weekday evenings here and there. Or maybe every time I’m at my mom’s house. Hey, I’m not ashamed to admit it. Especially because I’m learning some great maneuvers in screenwriting. With the precision of a Patek Phillipe watch, the plot always twists itself into it’s most disconcerting soul-deflating mess exactly eight minutes before the hour. And while the average human might safely anticipate that everything will of course work out fine, otherwise the happy-ending music couldn’t roll with the credits, I panic. I truly, truly panic. I worry that this time will be different and I will weep forlornly for the loss of love in my cinematic doppelganger’s heart.

Ohhhhh. Eight minutes. When will I get to that phase of my life? When things really are at their absolute worst, but the shift is made unmistakably toward my happy ending? No need to talk about darkest before the dawn and rock bottom here. Let’s just say I’ve stared catastrophe in the face hundreds of times and have yet to be handed my handsome man with a good job and infinite capacity for caring and popcorn-making.

Last night, I starred in a Hallmark movie. In a basement bar located beneath the cowboy dirt-kicking sidewalks of the Stockyards of Fort Worth, I stood surrounded by roughnecks of every variety: thugs, rodeo riders, and hipsters. And of course there was the obligatory guy in a kilt. Good gawd, that guy. I always picture him at home, making the vulnerable transition from standard male pants to the wild and eccentric kilt. “Tonight, tonight the world will see who I really am,” he thinks, smoothing the fabric down over his thighs.

Anyway, I was there to see a bunch of my coffee shop friends play music. Though I knew lots of people scattered around the room, my aimless tumbleweed wandering indicated I was totally alone. So alone that a young math teacher boy from Lubbock turned and ran in horror when I tried to say a third sentence to him. Really? A math teacher who might be half my age? Do you think I am going to sink my hooks into you and make you mine?

The eight-minute mark hit when I actually had to return to the bar a third time to evade the attention of a weathered thug who stepped in after the guy with the kilt felt my scorn. That’s right. I was actually tossed between the two worst options in the bar, while perfectly normal men circulated around me. Most of whom were married, too closely resembled ex-boyfriends from my recent past, or were simply half my age.

I decided to retire from concert-going forever. Clearly I am aged. I am infirm. I need to be culled from the herd.

Then, uplifting music let me know that I was being rescued. My text summons had brought one of my new male friends to the rescue. He appeared holding two bottles of beer. One was for me. He gallantly used the phrase “when you get to our age” more than once in conversation. He admitted that he had actual ex-girlfriends in the crowd, and being in this bar was murdering him. He walked me to my car. He gave me polite and considerate directions to another, better bar.

After we closed better bar, he walked me to my car again. Fort Worth is crawling with really scary random cowboy drunks and frat boys, and I have to admit, I would have been terrified to walk to my car alone. And cue the example, we heard honking behind us, and I thought it was just an impatient driver, but Rescuer informed me it was a honk of affirmation on my appearance.

“You just got your booty honked at.”

“What? No. No, that didn’t happen.”

“Oh yes it did. Look, he’s slowing down. He’s wooing you with the bass booming from his car.”

The driver parked and got out of his tinted bubble of bassness. He was a tall, tall muscle-bound man. Wearing a cowboy hat.

“That’s what honked at you!”

“That did not happen. And this is not happening.”

Rescuer was leaning against my car. He actually spat on the ground as if to declare his territory to the encroaching male. Then his smile wrinkled words into a wink. “I will never let you forget it.”

We laughed at the horrors of being me. And I drove home, bumping along archaic brick streets and smiling despite the mass of insults that clung to me like the second-hand smoke that wafted from my clothing and hair. I’m definitely still not in my eight minutes.

Mixing in the Dark

3 Oct

Often, when entering my apartment after dark, I let things stay that way. From the illuminated porch to the still dusk indoors, I cross the threshold. These rooms waited for me as the sun disappeared and was replaced by its mirror image in an orange harvest moon across the sky. Papers may have shifted on my desk when a breeze crept through the length of living room, and probably my electric tea kettle made that little snapping noise it makes hours after its use. The little whimsical fly-swatter-shaped clock in my kitchen ticked a plastic fly across a window screen and sky.

Then the air pressure shifts as the front door opens. I’m back. I put my tote bags down and press keys into metal dish near the light switch. But those lights stay off. I make soft steps into kitchen and pour water by streetlamp. More steps into bedroom and through the rituals of evening. Not a lot changes when I get home, except I do always thank the waiting embrace of my pillows and blanket.

Something we all know how to do is move through the dark. Ancient iris skills adjust and carry us past pieces of furniture mapped in a mental landscape. Move slowly, though, or you might misguess the number of paces toward the threatening coffee table lurking in the distance.

I always feel more calm and still when I move in the dark. With less visual perception to interfere with my thoughts, every gesture is more decisive. A sense of trust exists between me and that waiting glass of water resting on the edge of the dresser by my bed.

Last night I came in late, late, after spending the evening in the front-of-house mix position at a major arena rock show in Dallas. I was the guest of the sound engineer, a wizened surf punk from California who has been touring with one band since they came into existence three decades ago. Over the interim period, he’s also built a major sound system rental business, and he has a vast following of audio engineer devotees he calls “sound humans.”

This leader of the audio pack is changing sound in the dark. He never lights up his ancient analog console, and he doesn’t label any of the dozens of faders on the channel strip. He does everything by memory, by feel. “I’m working for musicians who play their instruments without looking at them, so why shouldn’t I hold myself to the same level of expectation,” he asks. “I should know what each of these faders does. And I can feel the difference between the heights of knobs and know what they are, and adjust them according to a certain number of clicks.”

Standing there at the center of an arena quaking with thousands, his white socks pad around a soft black carpet at the foot of the console. He has set up the rig perpendicular to the stage so that he can walk right up to the front of his mix position and be part of the crowd. Then he paces backwards and uses one of three little raised bumps, his “console braille”, to find each section of faders. From there, he adjusts in tiny increments the GIANT sound of an LA band that makes crowds of strangers sing in unison.

He mixes in the dark. Softly stepping to and fro, totally at ease and completely grounded. Crowd chaos all around him, he composed a mix of sonic clarity. His picture of sound, the one he described for me with big gestures as a painter would illustrate how he worked a canvas, is beautiful.

When I set foot at home in the dark again tonight, I felt even more secure in my position. Learn more, see more tracing your way through dimly lit scenery. Don’t expect immediate illumination to signal your every move. Feel first, listen, and find soft sheets and a pillow to put beneath your head.

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