My uncle is a judge. He’s also a beautiful writer. Which goes to show that you can do more than one thing well, something I did not used to believe. He came over last night to record the audio version of his latest essay, which is soon to be published in the Superstition Review, a rarified literary mag.
He came directly from court, tired, happy, tie off but suit still on, ready to record. As I was setting up, we talked a little bit about politics and the world, and what strange feelings are swirling around in the atmosphere. Then we sound-checked, I hit the spacebar, and Tony began to read.
It was a story about him at 16 years old, a junior at Beverly Hills High, in love with the popular girl who didn’t know he existed, playing Risk on Saturday nights with friends instead of dating, while the Vietnam War rumbled all around. But really, of course, it was about the riskiness of life. About what it means to be becoming — becoming a man, becoming afraid, becoming brave, becoming who we will be instead of who we wish to be. Being who we are while being in the world. And how do we reconcile that? How do we learn to be okay with who we are? How do we leave the definitions and wounds of our families, our peers, and walk into the great unknown of us? How do we walk forward with determination when we sometimes want to sit on the floor and cry “Uncle”?
It’s not a rhetorical question. I want to know. I have some tools I like to use — writing songs is the big one of course. It helps me figure out what I’m feeling in the world and where I fit. It helps me roar when I want to whisper and whisper when I want to roar. I mean, it’s a roar-in-training. My throat gets tight. My chest gets tight. That’s okay. It’s part of getting strong. Our muscles are sore when they get stretched.
I’ve been working on a new song this last week — called “Some of Us”. And the end goes, “Some of us see it all as just a part of it all / Some of us call it growing up/ Some of us admit that we’re thirsty / Please fill up my cup”.
Life is in the details. In playing games on Saturday night while we yearn for the world. In recalling it and rolling it off our tongues 50 years later, and then going out to dinner with our niece. That’s it. It’s as simple and as infinite as we want.
It was a good night.