Painting With Prine

After week of rain, another rainy, dreary, gray morning. I spend it in the basement, painting. I’ve got a drop cloth down, nice shade of left over paint, and John Prine in my ears. I am happy as a clam. I like the solitude of the basement, surrounded by tools and organized clutter. I also enjoy painting, simple but consuming, it is good for my brain. I am painting storage bins that will make the house neater and prettier. That makes me extra joyful. And of course, the fore mentioned Mr. Prine. Yes, aside from the occasional wondering about whether clams are really happy or if they indeed feel any emotion at all, it is about as perfect as a morning can get.

I am working diligently, making good progress for more than an hour. As I step back to assess the first coat it occurs to me that I have been gone for most of that hour. Gone. Transported. Taken for a ride. That is not something I do easily or willingly. But I had followed the songs where they took me, invested in their characters, saw every scene, felt all the things. The man can write. No extra words or ones chosen just to be clever, no rhymes forcing their way in. The sounds said something. Lots of musical and melodic interest but never musical glitter to make up for lack of substance. Room to breathe, room to think. It all sounded so easy.

The irony of the moment was not at all lost on me. I had sanded those boxes, filled each nail hole, making sure there was a good surface on which to paint, knowing no amount of paint will fix bad construction. The color was a nice bright bit of color that will make those boxes stand out just the right amount without screaming their presence. They looked good, but definitely, absolutely needed another coat. Standing there, in the basement, looking at my first coat of paint I realized I need to edit all of the new songs.

We have a batch of new songs. I’ve pushed a little make some of them happen, to keep the creativity flowing, and that is a good thing. I find that initial part of songwriting relatively easy, perhaps because it is exciting. The first flush of inspiration is exhilarating. Fleshing out a bit of a path and taking the first steps makes me feel powerful. But the craft of writing is an entirely different animal. I don’t enjoy that quite as much, so I know I don’t work on it quite as much. It is more difficult than the early stage, frustrating at times. Good songs are hard, but there is no reason to play a mediocre song. I don’t want to be “out there running just to be on the run”.

And now it is evening. The paint is dry. The boxes are holding the stuff and looking good doing it. My back is a little sore from the hours of painting and probably from caring those boxes upstairs. This evening I know, deep in my bones, things I didn’t know this morning. Build something useful. You might need paint it to make it look beautiful, but sometimes you might be better off with stain so some of the grain can show through. Repairs are worthwhile because paint won’t fix anything and truth be told it doesn’t do a good job hiding anything. Clams definitely feel happy. You should spend a morning painting with John Prine.


Peace, Love, and Music (sometimes best accomplished in reverse order)

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