Never the Same Day Twice
A Musing on Morning Routines (and Madness)
Today, I wake up early-ish and consider the possibility of a morning routine. Maybe tomorrow, I think. I make coffee and oatmeal, cut up some fruit and throw it in a bowl. I offer the food to my stepdaughter, and she declines. Nutella on English muffin is sufficient for her, despite my proddings that some grapes might help.
I put a record on and listen all the way to the end, whilst I scarf down the oatmeal. As I do, I consider why I sometimes eat so quickly, without thinking, without wondering what the point of rushing through another meal is. I slow my chews as best I can and try to be in this moment. It is so hard, sometimes. I sip the coffee, which I roasted myself in a skillet on Saturday. It’s not bad, just needs a few more days to ripen.
I spend the first hour of the morning or so writing, sort of. Is this a book? A series of essays? My next great work or another thing I will not finish? I find myself pulling out the laptop while I sit in the living room and Randy Newman’s “Little Criminals” finishes its Side B. I Google the “best albums by Randy Newman” and am pleased to see it is #2, at least according to someone. I never want to feel left out and always worry I might be making the wrong choice. It is so hard to decide anything.
This was, in part, why I enjoyed getting into vinyl. You cannot easily skip a song on a record player, and I like that very much. It’s also kind of rude to walk away when the record is still playing. This kind of music requires attention. You have to sit in a particular place in the room and listen intently. You have to make sure the volume and treble and that weird little knob called “Loudness” are all in the right places. It varies with each artist and album. Such listening requires commitment and awareness, and I am working on those things.
I take a break from my distractions and reheat the rest of the oatmeal in a bowl and bring it to my wife after she finishes her latte. We were out of milk so I mixed cream with water and hope she doesn’t notice. She always notices.
I put on another record. I should really get to work, go for that walk, move my body some. I need to wrap up that project for a client. And another one before I take the rest of the year off. But this is “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and everyone agrees it’s their best. When I first heard it, I wasn’t sure that was true; but now I like it very much. Some things take time, I suppose. The trick to Paul Simon is to understand he is always trying to surprise you.
The record pops and cracks before the music swells to the climax of the title track. At first, I found this extra noise endearing, a reminder that this piece of entertainment is over half a century old. Now, I wonder how I can fix all these noises under the surface. I have a suspicion there are improvements that could be made, and I am the kind of person who always wants to change everything. It can always be just a little better, can’t it? But, at the same time, who the hell has time for that brand of madness?
I once asked a group of colleagues what snobberies were ruining their lives to the point that they had to give them up. “Fashion,” said an ex-rock musician. He was wearing a pair of shorts in November, the same Nirvana T-shirt he’d had on yesterday, and a windbreaker. “Maple syrup,” said someone else who was not from Vermont. Which began a whole other discussion I can’t get into here. Mine was so many things, including coffee, but not music.
This is my latest fad, the thing I am obsessed with—not because I want to be but because I cannot help it—understanding how much I do not know and despairing of the time it will take to learn. I suppose every mastery is a kind of taunt, an antagonism about how far you have to go. What is the old Zen saying? “When you cease to travel, you arrive”? Something like that.
I write a poem. I rewrite it. Start it, abandon it, return to it. All writing is like this, a wrestling with what you want and what is possible. It’s not ready to publish, but, Jesus, is anything? I end up on Amazon searching for the best slip mat for a record player. Is it cork? Acrylic? One review says an old record of his crackled and popped until he made the upgrade. That is convincing enough, I suppose. I add a few to my cart, search some other sites, read more reviews, question myself, and wonder if this is the sunniest it is going to get today.
My search leads me back to myself. It really is a matter of preference, they say. No one can tell you what sounds good to you. Oh but I wish they would, because it is such a crowded place between my ears. I come to a site and ask the same question of yet another audience and am starting to feel tired. Confronted with how distant I’ve been to certain people who care about me, I soften. Maybe no one can tell you how to best spend your $20—or how to live. Perhaps, I should wait for Black Friday.
I’ve never kept a journal, except for that one time in college. Maybe I should. Maybe this is the start. But consistency is such a harsh commitment, and what fun is a life where you’re ever having the same day twice?
P.S. I wonder if every mind is as busy as mine.
P.P.S. Don’t forget this is happening tomorrow (details in the post):