One For The Money

Even The Greatest Paintings Are Flat

“Take no prisoners!” That’s what legendary singer Billy Paul used to tell his band right before going on stage.

I’ve been a performer all my life, singer, poet, comedian, lecturer, maniacal street celebrity. (HIDEOUS DETAILS AVAILABLE HERE).

For much of what I laughingly refer to as “my career” I regarded assassins as the apex of professionalism – heartless and methodical, all business, all technique.

Over the years my attitude about performance has transformed, closely tracking my recovery.

At first I thought of “the act” as a mask I clung onto with white knuckles, until one could not tell where it ended and my face began.

As I became more comfortable and facile in front of a crowd, moving with glib, even condescending confidence, I polished the mask until it shone so brightly even the people sitting in the very last row needed sunglasses.

Then something happened, I grew more confident still and suddenly craft and “art” became less fascinating.

I must credit a few very special people for carrying me across the river; by watching these world class artists perform I discovered that craft is only a tool.

Real art, I came to understand, lies in opening up your true self and sharing what you have, whatever it is that makes you special, whatever it is that’s unavailable anywhere else.

Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor, Keith Jarrett, Sarah Vaughan, Sun Ra, and Jimi Hendrix.

When these people left the stage they didn’t take anything with them, they gave it all. All of them shared one essential quality; fearless generosity.

Craft is just something you internalize until you can forget it altogether and be yourself – cool, relaxed, smile on your face – bathing in the spotlight’s unforgiving chill.

The Best Present Ever

Share Your Self Unavailable Elsewhere

They say that, for alcoholics in recovery, every morning is Christmas morning and every evening is Thanksgiving. If that sounds like a wonderful way to live, trust me, it is. We start the day delighted – even amazed – to have a day at all, and close it out in humble gratitude – no matter the challenges rained down upon us.

Christmas – that Winter Wonderland of Dysfunction – that Tournament of Neuroses parade – is fueled by an intense concentration of wildly unrealistic expectations arising from what we hope to get and what we believe we must deliver. Resentments fly and pressure mounts – those of us still drinking enter a hideous, toxic fog from which we emerge only after the last dreary scrap of cretinous Super Bowl commentary has been shared.

The best policy regarding gifts is – assume you will not get any – concentrate your energies on giving them routinely – with no quo on the quid’s other side. 

(This mirrors your reality, since you receive gifts daily which are offered with no expectation of return.) 

One of the reasons Christmas is the most dreaded and despised time of the year is that presents – things – are expected to redeem a year of disappointment. This is a curious bit of idiocy, one wonders how it can survive.

When you give, give of yourself. As the great Taz Mopula reminds us:

“Give yourself. That is the only present you can give that is not readily available elsewhere.” 

Give little gifts every day; don’t focus on one behemoth at the glittery time of year to save a lost cause.