The suggestion to start this blog came from my brother Tom. For a couple of weeks we were both back in our home town of Marquette, Michigan, working side by side on different projects in the basement beneath our Mom’s piano studio. I had recently run back to Michigan from my life in New Orleans with my tail between my legs, and was working remotely on a number of NOLA based media gigs. Tom was in the next room plugging away at his PhD thesis in Composition. It was a refreshing experience working in that space again, next to my little brother.
Years ago, beneath those dusty black iron pipes, we found our first breakaway from parental authority. It was a place where we could utterly explode and start grasping at the various creative itches that would eventually call us out into the larger world. The two of us, working there as adults now, fell right back into our old synchronicity, easily finding common ground as we developed the artwork for the cover of his PhD score (see below). It got a little creepy when we both started having the same thoughts at the same time. Then, in a fortuitous turn of events, on more or less the same day we both finished massive projects that spanned several months as if we had planned it that way.
That night we celebrated with some adult beverages at a local dive bar. That’s when I filled Tom in on all the details of my plans to return to Louisiana, sell off most of my shit and move into Mid City Zen of New Orleans. It’s the place where I was first introduced to Soto Zen, a very calm, rational, feet-on-the-ground form of Buddhism that I largely credit with seeing me through a tricky time in my life. 2016 was certainly a rough ride for me, as for a lot of people. Now here I am on the other side of some major life changes and it seems so appropriate, almost inevitable, that I would put in some time as a resident at Mid City Zen. The decision was further cemented for me when they agreed to let me rent out an extra room to serve as my studio space.
Tom, of course, immediately grabbed hold of the potential for an interesting story to unfold; one that people might like to read about as it takes place. Michigan expat moves into Zen Temple in New Orleans to study The Mystery and work on creative stuff. Well, that does sound intriguing, but for my part (being a generally shy person) putting out this journal feels a bit odd. Am I falling into another ego-trap of the Me Generation? Don’t we all have better things to do now that these frightening changes are sweeping over our country?
Well I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I am genuinely interested studying the effects of an individual's surroundings and spiritual practice on their creative output, and who better to experiment on than myself? Will the work take on a different aesthetic as I leave behind the familiar overhead pipes, cement floor and unfinished walls of my basement studio? Will meditating on an increasingly regular and dedicated schedule increase efficiency and insight? Doesn’t that sort of miss the point of the meditation itself? (It does.) Will any of this help me pick one craft to focus on at the expense of all others? Even if no one else reads it, the simple act of keeping a public journal should at least be instructive for me as I continue puzzling out what it means to be a creative polymath in the year 2017.
On a personal note, although I’m not sure how much of this will make it into the blog, I’ll be addressing the issue of home. After twelve years in New Orleans, I still feel like a foreigner in that city, despite my deep affection for it, and despite the depth of connection between myself and scores of amazing people that I have met there. The word “home” always conjures back images of people huddled around blazing woodstoves, the smells of orange leaves and melting snow and the sound of that familiar Fargo-esque accent - among a million other things. In any case, I am trying this new approach, and will try to keep everyone updated. Stay tuned and we’ll figure this out.
For now, it's farewell to the basement!