"Tradition is what you resort to when you don't have the time or money to do it right."
I feel like I can breathe.
After a week of going from work to work, from the restaurant to the computer and back to the restaurant, I feel for the first time this morning that I can catch my breath. I work tonight, which is a pity, but at least for a few hours my time is my own. And of course what I want to do with that time is write.
More than a week ago I posted a song without comment - and it received no comment, which isn't much of a surprise. There's no real way to talk about music; we feel music, and how it strikes us, motivates us, inspires us or sustains us, those things are almost impossible to articulate.
These last three years of putting together projects for publication have been instructive as to how I function as an artist. After a certain point, as I near each deadline, the effort and the stress begins to overwhelm me and I begin to reach for crutches - anything that will help me limp across the finishing line.
I'm not sure I mentioned it at the time, back in 2014 . . . but when I was making myself get up and face How to Run each day, struggling to get it right and terrified of getting it wrong, as I knew how harsh the gaming community can be, the song that got me through that dark time was Sara Bareilles' Brave. For, as I try to explain, writing is an act of courage:
"You can be the outcast or be the backlash of somebody's lack of love - or you can start speaking up."
I'm going to talk about music a bit. I find it very strange what the fellows at the restaurant listen to for music. Whereas back in the 90s, when I worked all the time in kitchens, the music was all radio. Now, of course, it is a speaker and a competition for whose Ipod will be connected to it.
I work with three kinds of guys, regarding their music - and let me just make it clear that I like these guys, whatever their motivations or their proclivities. They're not especially bright, none of them are educated or even imagine they will be educated, but they're brutally honest and up front about how they feel about things. This is what I've always liked about cooks; there's none of the dissembling, passive-aggressive shit that turns up in office work. These guys are straight up aggressive.
First, there are 18-22 year old white kids, all Canadians, fresh out of high school, complete with pimples and baby fat. Every one of them, without exception, listens to black male hip-hop, exclusively. They don't listen to music from white men (with the exception of Eminem's Slim Shady period - that earlier stuff, never) and they absolutely do not listen to any music with a woman's voice.
The second group are mixed-race Canadians, mostly white, in their mid-20s and early 30s. They don't mind the hip-hop but when they play their music it is all 1970s progressive rock or - believe it or not - disco. There's no early 80s new wave, no U2, no Def Leppard, no Guns & Roses, no metal and absolutely no grunge whatsoever. It is like the music invented between 1980 and the present never existed. To the negatives we can add in no punk - not even the light punk like Talking Heads. For 70s stuff, there's no Clash, no Boston, no Supertramp, none of the bands that invented the formula that U2 or Guns & Roses capitalized on. Oh, and no Bowie. There's a little Pink Floyd, lots of Led Zepplin (of course), a little Anthem and then after that it is mixed pop-rock like the Eagles and Jethro Tull. Finally, they absolutely do not listen to any music with a woman's voice.
The third group are all guys from overseas: Kenya, Sudan, India and Central America. These guys just don't care. They don't play their music - but I suspect it would be World Music if anyone gave them the chance.
This thing about women singers has always been there. Back in the 90s, when kitchens I lived in listened to Grunge day and night, with the occasional old-school rap, the ratio would have been 9:1 male to female vocalists. Now it is none. I swear. I have been paying attention and in four weeks of working in this kitchen, with about a dozen different pods attached to the speaker, no one plays anything with a woman.
It tells me that white boys have lost their voice entirely in the world of music. They've embraced a music from another time, a music that my own generation grew up with and rejected as they reached for something more personal and - dare I say it - sexual in content than the repeated propping up of the male ego to which bands like the Sex Pistols or AC/DC desperately clung. I was 16 when disco died, when for a year we went to the Death of Disco parties, rushing to the raunchy lyrics of the Cars, Blondie and Bowie. Progressive rock by then had become so over-processed we couldn't bear that shit any more - but of course by the mid-80s everything became so over-processed that rap was inevitable. So it goes.
Those white boys who can't relate to music that was old when their fathers were children are immersed in the music of black boys, like some weird parody of that scene at the beginning of Office Space when the white boy in his car, listening to rap, carefully turns it down when the scary black men walk by.
It's impossible to see the lack of women's voices in their lives as an 'option.' It's fear, pure and simple. As their lives are becoming more puritanical, between the hysteria of the feminist community and the toxic backlash of endless male pundits endlessly deconstructing every single thing wrong with women, ever, to hundreds of thousands of listeners, males are retreating. Whereas once these aggressive males I work with would have peppered their steady discourse (cooks never stop talking) with sexual jokes, innuendo, flirting (there are attractive servers right there) and ever-present homosexual accusations, said in jest or not, now the dialogue is all drugs, all the time. I need to get drugs, I need to do drugs, I've just done drugs, these drugs are better than those drugs, etcetera and etcetera. Drugs are safe, drugs are a retreat, drugs do not include recriminations and risk, drugs help. Women are scary and difficult to predict and it's probably just better - since we're all still young, dumb and full of cum - that we silence those voices. And since the front house servers are all trying to get on the good side with the cooks, they do their best to act like one of the boys or they don't talk to the kitchen at all.
That is a pattern I've noticed at the other kitchens I've worked in the past ten months. The division between front house and back house is more pronounced than ever - in part because of corporate-restaurant policy but I think it is also that there's less trust between the two sides. There are always male front-house servers, of course, but they tend to either be bartenders (in which case they have the same characteristics as the cook, just better groomed and less morlock like) or they're a bit gay and they tend to side with the girls.
Anyway, I just quoted a woman singer as the sustainer of my soul, so it's obvious I'm nothing like these guys. I live in a world - evident from my latest podcast - that has loud women's voices in it. I do my best to pretend, however.