…down, down, down, down, down. – Freddy King, “Going Down”
There are far worse things if you’ve decided to make your living as a blues musician than to have the last name King. You can ask Albert, (not really a King, shhh,) or B.B. (a real King). You can even tell everyone your name is, like, Wendleford King, and learn to play the guitar. You can hang out in the blues clubs and talk to everyone who’ll give you the time of day. You can ask them.
And you can ask Freddy.
Okay, you can’t ask the three Kings anything, because they’re all technically dead. But if they could talk with us… like if they showed up at the door with a case of very inexpensive beer… I don’t think anyone would say that Freddy’s song “Going Down” wasn’t one of the most iconic definitions of the genre ever performed. It’s just great. Go listen.
And while I don’t think I can improve on anything he does on that recording, you can drag me to hell and you’ll still have to listen to me tell you that I have felt every ounce of pain in the song. Many times. At one point in my college career I jotted down some notes for research that I never completed, or technically ever started, but my hypothesis has never begun to feel anything but valid.
The idea I had was that a lot of creative geniuses have historically been out of their damned minds. And I don’t exclude any group of artists from this. Musicians certainly number among the great loonies of the ages. Painters, sculptors, and writers… they’re all represented by frigging nuts. This last group, I represent… in regard to both my need to create and rubber walls.
You might guess – if you’re sharp enough, that the coexistence of creativity and madness will cause the ride to be less of a leisurely coast around a flat track and a little more of the most frightening rollercoaster ever imagined. The ups are lofty, and from the peaks, you think you can see forever. But the valleys are deep and dark, and there are times you believe you’ll never be able to see anything ever again.
But it seems I’m growing up. I’ve been proclaiming for a very long time that I would never let this happen, but here’s a real chuckle: life is filled with, and oftentimes built from, things you swore you’d never let happen.
And as another side effect is the onset of dangerous understanding, you quickly come to understand that the only thing you can do in response to unwelcome elements of life that have invited themselves to the picnic, is to refuse to be destroyed. Or defeated. Whichever Hemingway says you can’t be.
There seem to be several keys to this understanding, and I believe they conform themselves to the individual to whom they were assigned. So for me the understanding that a positive reaction to the stumbling blocks depends on the act of writing.
So, I’m writing. I’m seeing into the distance from the peaks. And although I know the valleys well, although I’ve gone down, down, down, down, down… I can still write. I can still do the thing that makes living feel like something more, something powerfully other than a bad decision made long ago.
To go along with the promise that I’m writing, let me share the cover for the book Craig and I are busily working through. Don’t drool on your computer.