Let me introduce my friend Toto: I’ve known him all my life, he’s relentless. Sometimes he walks erect, sometimes he slithers; he’s had gills, and I used to see him all the time – he was the lighter I used to smoke crack with. I hated him those fifteen years; he was so demanding, so exhausting. A hundred times a night I’d beg him not to burn the place down, and dash under the covers listening intently, rigid with a boundless fear in an endless situp.
To his credit he never lost his temper, not once. By dawn to calm down I would play Ockeghem masses at the softest dynamic so as not to attract attention from paranoia-induced persecutors. Addictions are a vicious cycle, but that doesn’t quite describe crack, though the consequences are certainly vile (how much does it cost? Everything you have). Smoking crack is a grossly irrational self consuming transcendent experience, like a snake swallowing its tail, or an Escher print.
Later, Toto was pieces of paper that the kind fellow would write prescriptions on – the man with the pad! I thank him for treating a lifelong anguish that allowed me to disentangle myself from the crack, though he proved an irresponsible doctor. I saw Toto less then, but he resurfaced as the needles that drew my blood for them to analyze the count of my T cells. Walt Whitman once had a friend like Toto: his name was The Maya.
Now, Toto is finally an adorable terrier that with an unrelenting pull drags me to a crossroads of my life. The sky darkens. A cold wind blows, we tumble in the air. What will become of us? Will we meet a wizard who with authority will tell us that the great is good and with dexterity why the good is great? Are there any visionary artists who more than make sense of a world and culture overheating, who can transform it?
At the shelter door, conscious again, we hear the same chimaeras huffing puffing and sucking.
Toto is bored with the zombies and the mechanicians, and so am I. There seems an unacceptably high degree of dishonesty with today’s reviewers; their pronouncements are hasty and ill-considered, their employers insist they serve up the artist du jour, or their resentments are baldly transparent. Whether their agendas are fashionable or not, or they write according to their preferential sexual predilections, or they are, in the end, sadistic wits; their malicious cleverness brings this, our most exalted art, to the gutter.
With an open ear, heart and mind, and intense listening focused through a lens cracked yet uniquely polished by peculiar experience, I hope to thank the musicians who fulfill my expectations of transcendence, of the fantastical, of the vividly and beautifully colored; of The Maya.