Uncomfortable Listening

There are certain albums that are the comfy ancient levis jeans of my listening habits. My nerves frazzled to within an inch of giving up on me entirely, my head hurting with a stress headache, I need to blur out the yelps from the street tent encampment and the shouts and bangs from some of the other MALE residents here. None of the women here cause issues, they just don’t. They talk about “being in this together” and offer air hugs. Then men get hyped up and start banging and smashing and shouting and fucking whoever they drag to their rooms (where ARE the children?), the men smuggle in margaritas, us women are just trying to survive with our family’s intact. Not all men. Man, it gets tiring saying that. No, not all men. There are good male residents. Why are some men so fragile about women’s reaction to the men that are not “good” that hurt and intimidate and harass and rape?

These are days for things which make a statement, things which comfort in their familiarity. Songs to survive to. I have Let it Bleed on right now. The guitar player is wasted, Jagger is at his swaggery best. The music is deep southern rhythm and blues by way of London, England, but more than that it is familiar and comforting. You can blast out The Stones and it says “I am not broken. I am alive!” Earlier on I played Transformer end to end, Lou Reed’s voice and mannerisms so familiar, having been through a lifetime with me, that I felt like I had invited a friend over for a chat. The choir is singing to me about not getting what I want, but not what I need. I’m not so sure about that one, boys. The drugstore is outside my window, and this is not the Chelsea Hotel, this is the ‘Loin. In the room next to me a man is winding himself up into paroxyms of rage, beating on doors and walls. I can’t take much more. I want him to stop. He has to stop. I need him to stop. I need him out of here, away from me, I need to feel safer than this. I am not going to get what I want or need.

I look for Asian Lives Matter marches to go on with the Boy, trying to show him the community has his back, as we have theirs in return, that he is not alone. There is nothing really happening. He insists he doesn’t want to protest. He says it is too dangerous, people might want to hurt him. I can’t tell you how sad that makes me. I’m too tired for anger today, I am just sad.

People always tell me I am strong. I’m not strong, I’m bloody minded. There is no way I am letting life beat on us again and again. I will not give up without a fight.

It’s the Boy’s turn to put on music of his choice. He chooses Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd. Shine on You Crazy Diamond. He likes Roger Waters. In the absence of male family, he has his musical heroes. Uncle Thom Yorke, Uncle Roger Waters. I am Team Roger in the whole Pink Floyd band break up mess. The Floyd would have not been what they were without Roger pulling them out of whimsy (apples and oranges, anyone? It’s a good song, but it is no Shine on you crazy diamond) and into experimental genius. An elegy for the still living, the longing poignant drip dropping of Gilmour’s guitar, the album is pure genius, and not one I can ever listen to comfortably. As David sings “how I wish you were here…” I think about people I have lost, and my heart breaks. As hard as this is, as scared as I am nowadays, how I wish they were here.


  1. rebecca s revels

    When I went through my breast cancer fight at the same time my husband was searching for a job, when I went through his death and the battle to get his body home, people kept telling me I was strong. Everyone has their own battles. Everyone has their own struggles. Yet we keep going. Not so much because we are strong, but because there is no other choice. We do what has to be done. You have your son, you do what you must for him. Because you must. Is it strength? Is it determination? Is it stubbornness? Is it all of that and more? Yes, it is. Listen to the music, allow it to take y’all away at least for a while. Escape into the place it can take you. Find a moment just for you. Much of society is being driven mad, creating a battle for the sane. You are warrior, you can do this. You and the boy, can do this.

      1. rebecca s revels

        It is so much more difficult when you are facing the monsters alone. Crying is a release. From what you have been describing, it is no wonder you are a physical, mental and emotion jumble. Much love returned, I believe in you.

  2. R. Cross

    It’s a bittersweet feeling, seeing someone open up about how a band like Pink Floyd makes them feel. I’ve read about your struggle and, though I may be a little walled off emotionally, it moves me. I endured a couple of bouts of homelessness a few years ago, during which I was robbed repeatedly and once had to physically fend off a flasher, but I think what you’re going through is tougher and I applaud your resilience.
    Pink Floyd dealt in universal themes, with lyrics that managed to be specific yet left room for the listener to apply personal meaning. There are only a handful of recording artists I’d put in my personal stratosphere along with the Floyd (one of them is The Church, whose “Starfish” and “Heyday” albums I highly recommend). Anyway, I’m rooting for you and I look forward to your future posts–I hope your writing benefits you, because though my struggles are more internal now, it does good for me.

    1. The Paltry Sum

      Hello R. I have the most awful headache, I can’t even see straight at the moment. I was just feeling a little sad that I didn’t put more into that post, because I do love Pink Floyd dearly, especially Syd and Roger Waters.

      1. R. Cross

        I did a little exploring and was not surprised to find your “Mother” Roger Waters entry. It’s plain to see that you have got their history down cold! I’ve read a few of their biographies–even a huge, track-by-track analysis that contained more studio data than anyone needs. It was a struggle, busing home with more library books than I could read in time under one arm, and that monstrosity under the other!
        Good to meet you and looking forward to reading more — RC

      2. The Paltry Sum

        RC, I am just working on a Meddle post right now. It is a bit hot in the city tonight, I have a stress headache to end all headaches and can’t see straight. I used to have that track by track monstrosity, it is great fun to dip in and out of, but not an in one go kinda read for me. I am a bit of a sucker for studio data. I love to record, and play guitar, so that stuff is fascinating to me. Did you know Gilmour has Hendrix’s old guitar strap? The one with the crosses on…he actually USES it! Man, what it would be like to be that rich!

      3. R. Cross

        I love Meddle; it’s the sound of them coming into their own. I too am a recording guitarist (I sing and play a bit of piano too–and have good, organic drum sounds imported to my Mixcraft DAW. I’m still figuring out intermediate stuff on it, but have some passable stuff accumulated.
        I switched from drums to guitar after high school, learning classic hard rock stuff like Metallica, Iron Maiden and Rush, but in college shifted to more neohippie stuff and blues. I learned to solo playing along with the Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Floyd, jam bands, etc. Since then, as my musical interests have diversified, I’ve picked up bits of influence syncretically, here and there; I like playing along with various Indian/Pakistani artists, for example. I’ve been into a little of everything stylisticalIy, I guess. I became primarily a 12-string player for many years, but had to sell it during that tough time.
        I now am about to try an old studio trick: I bought a second 6-string acoustic–a cheap Epiphone–and put Nashville-tuning string gauges on it. It’s the same gauges as the skinny strings on a 12, and you overdub it in conjunction with the main 6. Because the strings have more room to vibrate than on a 12, you supposedly get a big, bright sound altogether, if played accurately.
        It would be fun to hear some of your stuff–here’s a link to a couple of home tracks of mine, if it works. Well, cut and paste works. Hope you got over your headache!

      4. The Paltry Sum

        Session guitarist! Very cool indeed! I would love to hear how that Nashville strung acoustic sounds, I bet there is a knack to getting it to sound good, but once you do….I’m just listening to “Seen it Coming” on your soundcloud, you sound great! Nice guitarwork – you get a really lovely sound – what do you play? Really clean recording. I am not entirely sure I want to show you my songs on a two track with my acoustic – it is all I have left after the 2020 had its way (didn’t sell them, I left and my ex insisted I was not allowed to take my own guitars) – I lost my Martin, my electrics – I had a 69 mustang, a red mexican tele, and my beloved old DanElectro. I didn’t have a guitar at all for months, but got hold of a discounted guild acoustic, which I learnt to love. Im wittering on now….You sound great, absolutely fabulous!

      5. R. Cross

        Thanks a bunch. Funny enough, my main Yamaha Strat was in the shop thst day, so I recorded the solo on a 3/4 scale $20 Goodwill kiddie Strat! Luckily it had thickish strings on it so it sounded ok.

      6. R. Cross

        Yeah I briefly had an old black/white Danelectro in junior high ,before I really played. I had to plug it directly into my dad’s old reel-to-reel preamp, which was horrendous when distorted. I’ve been interested in getting a baritone guitar–I think Danelectro makes one, with the trademark bright lipstick pickup. Great for Americana stuff, like old Neko Case. Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys uses one, which is funny because he’s a little guy and baritones are outsized.
        There’s also an 8-string acoustic baritone out there–they are like a 6 but with the D and G strings paired up in octaves like a 12-string. It gives you a really cool low sound with high accents. Taylor makes one for a few grand(!), but Alvarez has one for about $575. Stimulus money is burning a hole in my pocket, but I’m trying to be good!

      7. The Paltry Sum

        I have to admit I am not keen on Taylors. I dont much go for the brightness. I had a lovely older grand orchestra body Martin for a long time, it was my baby, my go to guitar, rosewood solid back and sides, that lush resonance was something else. The 8 string baritone would be fun. Have you tried it out yet? I am a small 5 foot tall woman, it would swamp me. I played a bit of bass back in the day, but not for a long time. Are you working on something fun right now? I just set up my two track tascam…forgive me, it wont’ be great…

      8. R. Cross

        Oh, do you have one of those oblong recorders with the stereo mics sticking out of the end? I thought maybe you had written about that. And that was you noodling on one post!? I was blowing through pages the other night and thought maybe I saw that elsewhere. I wouldn’t mind having one of those for field and club recording, and they’re only a cool hundred bucks, i think. I read that the mics’ sensitivity is something one has to get used to and adjust for, but worth it overall…

      9. R. Cross

        Nobody in town has the 8-string; I would have to mail-order it on faith. But there are youtube video demos; check one out if you can. Again, Alvarez is the affordable one. I had a Taylor 12 for a while, and yes they are on the brighter side. It’s on my Soundcloud recording “To Be in Your Eyes”, jangling away brightly.

      10. R. Cross

        True. I love alternate tunings. The old Soundgarden/Zeppelin fan in me. I think with this twin-guitar setup, alternate tunings, and maybe a capo on one, I’ll be able to get something timeless and/or spectral out if it. Like “Battle of Evermore” tyoe folky things, or cosmic country with full instrumentation

      11. R. Cross

        With that 8-string thrown in, I should get some unbelievably your lush sounds…Lush. Didn’t you make a Lush reference? Miki Berenyi & co. On one of the great labels: 4AD, which also had Dead Can Dance

      12. R. Cross

        I think my message just evaporated. I was saying that I love alternate tunings a la Soundgarden/Zeppelin. My twin-guitar setup should yield some interesting, spooky tones if I mix up the tunings

      13. R. Cross

        I always wanted to be in a band, but it never worked out for long. I think when Inwas younger I came across as impatient as I pick up things by ear quickly and after maturing a bit I wasn’t around any real “scene”. Since I can play all the instruments I need, I don’t mind farting around on my own. I have no delusions of grandeur. Or “banjer”–it’s not one of my instruments!

      14. The Paltry Sum

        That was very nice of you. I am just trying to work out how to transfer my old disc from my old psychedelic band onto my computer to upload onto soundcloud, if you might find it fun…

      15. R. Cross

        Did you transfer it? If you don’t have a ripping program, WIndows Media Player gives you the rip option for CDs. You may well already know this, but be sure to go into the preferences and pick a decent resolution like 320khz if you have room for the resulting file size. Otherwise, whatever the next one down is, is good enough–256 or 192khz. Not to mansplain–a lot of people neglect to check that setting…

      16. R. Cross

        Ooops — I forgot that instead of an mp3, a WAV file has less loss of quality and is the format Soundcloud recommends–but WAV files are huge, so I don’t know how much space a whole disc would take up. mp3 should suffice

      17. R. Cross

        Haha no, I was always trying to be considerate of bandmates, but I rarely play something the same way twice, which is ok when home recording but not so much when in a gigging band with methodical people, trying to get everything just right. I’ve got a little Grateful Dead in me that way. Jerry syndrome lol

      18. The Paltry Sum

        Ah hah! I see! I think in a band you would really shine, if you met up with the right people. You just need your Bob Weir! You do fabulously alone, though. I am incapable of playing nicely with others – it is my way or the high way, at least with lyrics. I may be more persuadable with lyrics…Hey at least I know I am impossible, and nowadays keep myself to myself!

      19. R. Cross

        I just saw an unintentionally relevant-to-Floyd picture on another blog that I wish I could attach. Do you have a convenient email address?

      20. R. Cross

        If you don’t see a Windows Media Player icon or Start menu entry, just type “windows media player” in the search bar at bottom left. That’s about the extent of my expertise lol

      21. R. Cross

        As far as playing with others, I’ve thought about it again, and there are a few open-mic jams around Seattle where musicians sometimes hook up–just been procrastinating. Plus I’d need a bigger amp unless one were provided

      22. The Paltry Sum

        If you are ever in SF let me know. There are a few good spaces here to rent out where they provide an amp. I would tell you a tale of woe about my mason boogie but I might cry.

    2. The Paltry Sum

      Hello R! I was just sitting here trying to recover from this awful headache that developed today after all the stress, and feeling a bit sad that I didn’t put more into this Floyd post. They are a band that means the world to me, after so many years together. I am glad you enjoyed reading it. Sorry to hear that you struggled with bouts of homelessness, though very glad to hear you came out the other side. That is the thing, sometimes some subjects are just too hard to bear, that reading about them is not fun, as it is just too close to home. It means a lot to me that you think I am doing a half decent job of writing about these things, as you know where I am coming from. I wouldn’t want to let my fellow travellers down! It is nice to get to know you, R. Stay in touch!

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