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The Friday Morning Listen: Tom Waits – Bone Machine

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“I’ll be a genius of some kind or other, probably in literature…Either I’m a genius, I’m egocentric, or I’m slightly schizophrenic. Probably the first two.”

The late poet Allen Ginsberg wrote that. When he was 14.

Ginsberg did have a kind of screwed-up home life, but did that squeeze so much extra egocentrism out of him that this proclamation felt logical? Very interesting. When I was 14, I was trying to deal with the combined intimidations of the scary teachers at school and the even scarier girls there. Genius? C’mon, I wasn’t thinking past Tuesday.

I suppose super-creative types are just wired differently. Though there are documented cases of creative later-bloomers, most artists/writers/musicians have their greatest productive years early on in their careers. I’d be willing to bet that most of them knew very early on what direction they would take.

Me, I had no clue. Statements from my friends made no sense to me. Yeah right, you’re going to be a fireman, a policeman, a professional baseball player. It was like they were speaking a different language, or knew something I didn’t know. I could see the words coming out of their very certain mouths, but the sounds coming out were all garbled.

It wasn’t so much lack of ambition or interest as the absolute necessity of spending all of my energy just coping with the present. The idea of looking that far into the future just never occurred to me. How was I supposed to know what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was so concerned about my parent’s imminent announcement that I was an orphan? Or that the doctor had some bad news…that I had a mysterious disease that would cut my tender life short? Or that test tomorrow that was sure to ruin my grades forever? Or that dark-haired girl who would surely reject me in front of all of her friends?

I was frozen between two worlds — the kid world was confusing and difficult and the adult world was one big, ominous mystery. Peter Pan didn’t want to grow up and I sort of understood that…and I didn’t too.

There is quite a bit of writing out there about how a life well-lived can be thought of as a work of art. Unfortunately, modern life has a tendency to crush that spirit. We get so caught up in dealing with our problems that everything else gets shut out. We forget to play. We work too much. We spend a lot of time staring at that blue light.

Long before I became that teenage neurotic, there were endless summers of baseball, bicycle riding, and the ice cream truck. I don’t really want to go back there but I sure could use a little bit of that carefree vibe that made it so great.



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About Mark Saleski

  • Josh Hathaway

    Long before I became that teenage neurotic, there were endless summers of baseball, bicycle riding, and the ice cream truck. I don’t really want to go back there but I sure could use a little bit of that carefree vibe that made it so great.

    Repeated for truth. I’m right there with you.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    yes. and i could sure go for one of those strawberry shortcakes on a stick right about now.