Sunday, September 22, 2013

The annual birthday stock-taking

No, it's not my birthday. That was the 12th.  This is just the first chance I got.

Normally, I take my birthday to take stock of the past year, and to count my blessings. It's kinda my New Year's ritual - I just do it when my New Year begins....

Is this why I keep hearing I'm narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, and a pompous, egotistical prick?

I've gotten that a lot over the years, and been getting it a lot lately. Mostly from people pissed off at me, because I had to put them in their place. Thing is: Yes, I have an ego. Yes, I am narcissistic. I'm a performer and a public figure, even if my public is small. Still, this is how you play to the back row. As I told an ex-, "If you don't want to deal with narcissists, stop dating musicians!" (Or writers, or whatever artistic or creative types.)

I have to tune out this noise, which is perpetual. It's someone else trying to chip their way into my head and make me insecure and self-conscious, and I've got too much going on for that.

Which is the difference between a year ago and now: I've got too much going on.

At this point last year, I had just quit a band I didn't feel was working for me, was kicked out of a house I was living in after a month, was living in a motel room I could ill afford, and was scraping by working day labor - the only work I could find in Denver.

Not long after that, I was ready to put a bullet in my head. Literally. The situation felt hopeless.

It had been 15 years since I'd burned out on and walked away from my chosen profession, rock journalism. And try as I could, I could not find a new way to live and support myself. Nor could I find a town I could settle and fit into.

I was desperate. And none of this is an exaggeration.

Come mid-October, I reached out to my uncle and asked if he could help me get to Austin. 30 hours before I left Denver, I announced on Facebook I was homeless and at the end of my rope in Denver and needed to come home. In short order, the old community stepped in.

I came to Austin with a temporary place to stay and folks willingly loaning me living expenses for a few weeks. Come November, I moved into a situation similar to what I had in 1991, with the same landlord, and paying rent I could afford. Soon, I had a temporary job.

Then The Austin Chronicle reached out to me and asked me to come back.

And now? I am exactly as I was when I was young and thriving: I make my living writing for the Chron and a few other magazines and websites as a freelancer, and also earn a small salary to produce "RADIO NAPALM" as a weekly show now. I'm not rich, but I'm supporting myself and my art, as I did in the '90s. And I bought an amp on layaway and have assembled a new lineup of The Hormones. We are rehearsing, and will become public in December.

I may be abrasive when called upon or pushed, and I may have an ego. But no, I'm humbled and I'm grateful. Austin, you love to bag on yourself for the way you're changing. But you gave me my life back. And that's a gift I cherish. Thank you.

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