Saturday, July 16, 2011


I wake up slow. My wife has brought me bacon donuts and is making me an espresso. I am groggy and torn between the certain deliciousness of the donuts and espresso and the potential comfort of sleeping a bit longer. I close my eyes briefly and feel my body, relaxed, creaky, a bit sore. I weigh my options, considering multiple variables.

The espresso wins. I pull myself up and into some clothes. By the time I've made it to a comfy chair in the living room, Fennesz/Sakamoto on the stereo, she's got me covered.
Does it matter where you're going
Or where you're coming from?
Or is your life just like a grain of sand...
(Love and Rockets, "Sweet F.A.") 
42 today. 

"Seven times six is times six is forty-two..." I am 7 years old and hopping around the dining room table, holding my left leg. I am in the second grade, having recently been moved from one second grade classroom to a combined 2nd/3rd grade one next door. My school desk is full of crumpled-up math homework which I have no intention of finishing. Long division is hard and boring.  I am having trouble memorizing my multiplication tables. 

My mother has decided the fastest way to get me to remember is to do this. For better or worse, it works, though I will think of hopping around this table for the rest of my life when multiplying many numbers. And will always have an easier time with 7 × 6 than 6 × 7.

A few weeks from now I will empty my desk of all the failed, incomplete homework and start fresh. At the end of this school year, my parents will argue with my teacher about whether or not I should be in a gifted program. Tests will be taken. Shrinks will be seen. Parents will win, Mrs. Weimer will lose, and I will spend the rest of my school career working hard and going to different schools every year or two.

"The answer to the life, the universe, and everything." I am 12 years old and sitting in the small TV room in the Great Oaks Way house in Fairfax, Virginia. I am watching the end of the BBC "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" show on PBS. 

I've enjoyed the show, even if the reception is poor and I haven't been able to catch all of the episodes. I love the multiple smaller characters and throw-away bits. "Disaster Area". Marvin the mopey robot. 

I want a Hitchhiker's Guide for myself some day - a handheld computer with all the world's knowledge at my disposal.

Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect have landed on ancient Earth, in a kind of time-travel apocalypse, and have apparently ruined the purpose of the entire planet. I am only slightly amused by this finale, and more bummed out. Seems like a terribly lonely and awful way to die, trapped in a prehistoric past with a bunch of telephone cleaners. And a pointless existence for an entire planet. It will take me many years to realize this may have Douglas Adams' point about life, the universe and everything - something about "there is no point" and "it's kind of sad" and "it's a bit silly."

I am a nerd in a world that does not yet appreciate them. I am a rather lonely and misunderstood kid. I spend a lot of time on the Apple ][ in the attic or sitting in my room listening to music. I have recently discovered rock music and am learning as much as I can. My favorite records are Tomita's "Kosmos" and Jean-Michel Jarre's "Oxygene". Next year, my parents will ship me off to North Carolina for the summer to attend something called the "Duke University Talent Identification Program".

I was rolling down the window of my car
And I was thinking where the game had got me so far... 
(Love and Rockets, "Sweet F.A.")
21 × 2. I am in a car, heading for California and my future as a rock star. A beautiful blonde girl sits next to me. I graduated from college with an economics degree three months ago.

All of my worldly possessions are jammed in the back. A guitar. A stereo. A P.A. Some clothes. A desk. Music. Some hand-me-down cups and dishes. It seems like a ridiculous amount of stuff to lug around, and yet it will only take me 90 minutes to unpack. Except the music and a microphone, all of these items will vanish from my life in the next few years.

The girl and I pass through multiple states each day. We stop at Graceland to pay our respects to Elvis, drive through lightning storms in Oklahoma, and eventually alight in Santa Fe, parting ways before I head for Los Angeles. Against all odds, she will remain a part of my life and become one of my best friends. 

I am certain I will succeed in the music business. I have no idea what's ahead of me, what the music business means or is, or that by the end of the 20th century, it won't exist in the same fashion. And that all of that is probably the best thing that could happen to me.


I have lived in San Francisco for 11 years. California is more home than Virginia now, San Francisco more home than L.A. or DC or Fairfax. I look out the window at the gray July skies. Sip my espresso.

The news says the 405 freeway is closed this weekend. Only people who've lived in L.A. know what a big deal that is. I used to live right off the 405. Fucking Sepulveda, indeed. I don't miss being in L.A., but I think fondly back on my youth there. Floating in the pool at 3 am. Laughing with my brother and my bandmate. Z, before, during, after. "Days filled with music, nights filled with music, music all the time". Massive fires, turning the sky gray and orange with the ashes of trees and homes. Earthquakes. Floods. Riots.

The memories flow, converge, and split off, like L.A. traffic through the freeways and city street grid.

And, as the song goes, I remember leaving, and the feeling of a great weight lifting from my shoulders as I drove up the 5, the city shrinking behind me in the rear view mirror. I will return to visit friends, but probably not as much as I should.

I sip some Pellegrino, hoping to take the edge off the vague, floating headache lurking. I flip through the self-portraits I shot yesterday. I think I look like my Dad and my brother more each day. I particularly like the mutiple images caught at different angles in the mirrors. My wife says they're incredibly unflattering. I say they look just like me, and what I see in the mirror. I suspect we're both right.

Next week I'll return to DC to visit some family, and see Claire's baby, the vanguard of the extended family's new generation. My brother and his wife will be contributing before the end of the year. More multiplication. I'll see my Mom, perhaps a few old friends, and see how the place has changed.

After that, I return to Duke for a "30th anniversary reunion" for TIP. I've been asked to give closing remarks. I'm looking forward to the trip, if a bit apprehensive about the numbers involved. I suppose I could say the same thing about this birthday...and life in general.

I glance at my email. 5 birthday greetings, all from robots. A sign of the times, I suppose. I'll take some ibuprofen, hit the gym, play some bass. Nice dinner with Iran later. Nothing too elaborate. At this age, I find I enjoy giving presents to others more than I enjoy receiving them, and that I am buying myself tiny presents all the time. My father and I have agreed to some birthday gift d├ętente this year.


I have learned much. I believe I have changed, or at least the knowledge I have won informs my decisions and behavior.

I know I am incredibly lucky - not just in the usual "born in upper class white America" ways, but in other more significant and personal ways. I have a wonderful life and a wonderful wife. My body is a little banged up and imperfect, but for all the years and miles on it, it's in pretty good shape. I have a good job, and one I really enjoy, and one with some very cool colleagues. I still work in the music business, having more of an impact than I could have possibly imagined in my youth. 

I'm still making music, too, and feel that my recent work is by far my best. I have 2 completed albums ("Reflection" and "The Ghost Town") in the pipeline waiting on artwork. I have a new Captain Kirk album underway. Plans for the next Anu album. I'm also helping my friend Sid with his next record.

I'm imperfect. I wish I was less of a jerk, less impatient with myself and the world, less prone to being lazy. I am trying. Every day. I expect the people who know me best would both laugh at these statements.

But I also have great appreciation for the progress I've made, for what I've got in my life, and for who I am. In the last decade I've learned to enjoy life moment-to-moment. To savor the delicious certainty of now while still planning for the uncertain future.

I am grateful to be here, for as long as it lasts. At this point, I've probably got more days in the rear view mirror than on the road in front of me. That makes each memory and each new second precious, valuable, special.

I review what I've written this morning. I don't think it's gloomy - it's like the weather outside. These clouds are what July mornings are like in San Francisco. It won't last. It will get better. 


It's going to be a nice day. 
There is always sunshine above the gray skies. 
I will try to find it, yes I will try

My mind has been wandering
I hardly noticed
It's running on its own steam
I let it go

Oh, here comes my childhood...
A penny for your secrets...
It's standing in the window
Not out here where it belongs

There's a fire in the forest
It's taking down some trees
When things are overwhelming
I let them be 
I would like to see you
It's lovely to see you
Come and take me somewhere
Come take me out

There is always sunshine far above the gray sky
I know that I will find it
Yes, I will try 
 (David Sylvian, "A Fire In The Forest")


vz said...

Happy Birthday. You have achieved so much, and if I am reading this correctly, have found a sense of contentment. Thanks for the new appreciation of my I phone as the Hitchhiker's Guide realized, and for your support during a pivotal and intermittenly difficult time of my life. Wishing you, and your family (Ryan a dad - stunning because I think of him as being 12) many great years to come. With love, Velouette

Anu said...

Hey Velouette! I was just thinking about you yesterday (back in DC for a bit). Drop me a line, I'd love to catch up. I'm anukirk at the gmail!