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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

(from Levon)

After the New York songs and the Hipster songs, the necktie struggle and the peeling, eight years of loving and learning, the runny egg of insecurity under a vulnerable facade of tension (I could go on but should save it), and all the busted attempts to get somewhere or even somewhere that I could see somewhere; it’s a sunny day to write new songs in Mexico.

San Cristobal de las Casas and Let

Last year as we stepped into the Vortex, I remember saying that I’d rather be unsure about most things than sure I was missing it.  I didn’t want 28 to look like that, and it doesn’t.  But as predicted, I am unsure about a lot.  Our 19 or so roommates of last year will tell you, we’ve held some long faces at times in this scramble.  We’re far away from the noisy have-to’s, but they can’t be ignored.  We have broken focus on them, but they are real, and we’ll be back from Mexico soon.

This process of escape has helped me.  Songwriting has always been something I needed for myself… my clarity, my way to deal, my “on the side.”  What has happened is that the last few songs I’ve finished weren’t self narrative at all.  They pull from experience, but largely came because I wanted to write them.  It feels good to get past myself as material.  One’s deepest personal hour isn’t meant to treat like a photo album.  I read somewhere that people only care about your pain if it helps them deal with their pain, otherwise some songs would stay in the notebook as a memory of something I tearfully told Ashley one night.

Anyway, we got down here and bought some hand-stretched canvas and a Spanish guitar.  During the weekdays we have a nice Mexican house all to ourself with a parrot, a hammock, cheap avocados, and all the tortillas we can eat.  On the weekends we go on exotic trips with our friends, travel experts, and translators Jessica and Edwin.  You can stay in a hostel in San Cris for 60 pesos a night and it’s the best deal on earth (divide that by 13 for a dollar).  It’s easy to find inspiration in Mexico.

I wrote a song yesterday about a guy walking past a girl who is always outside in her yard.  As she reads or tends the garden he tries to talk to her, but instead walks down the lane thinking of what he would say.  It’s inspired by the Portuguese Bossa Nova “The Girl from Ipanema.”  I used to appreciate but never aspire to write of such a well worn subject.  But the girl and the garden are Ashley and Old North Knoxville, and it comes across in the song that these two things feel pretty good for me.  Even though it’s not my story.

I guess most writers start with themselves and then move outward.  Maybe one day I can crank out a love song in seconds like Paul McCartney, but I don’t know whether to respect the craftsmanship or miss the authenticity in such cases.  No, maybe he means it every time and has just thought of that many ways to say it.


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