Sad Eyes & Second Tries

I had a totally different post planned for this week. Then Jeff Franklin, who produced Something Like Paisley, my old CT band, sent this recently unearthed photograph, taken during one of our recording sessions. 

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 And it hit me hard. I think it’s the eyes. They just seem so … sad.

sad eyesAin’t no mystery. I was a sad fucking kid. Even now I’m not entirely sure why. I mean, every Monday I replay the past and my shrink tries to pin it down. Beyond the very-tired (and played out) “Daddy didn’t love me” card, I’m not sure we are any closer to the answer. 

bernieIt’s become a bit of a running joke, now, my miserable disposition, and am a card-carrying curmudgeon. I sneer at laughter, hate gestures of good will; I loathe the idea of fun. But mostly because I hate people so goddamn much. Not the person. In fact, almost to a man, I like everyone I meet. Which I suppose makes me a Republican. (They say that a Democrat loves humanity but couldn’t care less about his neighbor, whereas a Republican doesn’t give two shits about the world at large but will bend over backwards to help a friend. Like George Clooney’s Ryan Bingham, I stereotype; it saves time. And if I am a Republican, that explains the self-loathing.)

We become comfortable with persona and perception, and I really do grunt any time I move, because it fucking hurts. The motorcycle accident left me with so many broken parts and so much chronic pain that whenever I sit down I feel like Ed Norton after a shower in American History X. Overall these days my mental state is pretty good. I don’t rah-rah much, but I’ve never been a cheerleader. I’d rather be alone, working, making art, being productive, than out at a party. The thing is, I don’t suffer the existential angst anymore. At least not in the weight-of-the-universe-crushing-my-soul sense. When a light bulb goes out, it doesn’t feel like my life is over. I change the fixture. I move on.

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Not when Tom Brady steals your job and wins the Super Bowl you never could.

Not sure when it happened. I know I still carry the anguish, and that strife is visible in my countenance. (In grad school, I remember Campbell McGrath explaining the concept of American Male Despair, a distinctly American brand of burden, ardor and woe, and someone in class shouted out, “Oh, like Joe Clifford!”) I don’t mind being perceived this way or that, especially when I am the one who perpetuates the idea. But, fuck, I am tickled giddy that I am not that guy in the picture anymore. Even if I can still feel it.

Like recollecting any distant bad dream or memory, its sensation dulled, though the raised ridge of scar remains. I’m glad Jeff sent the pic–I don’t have many of them; my history fits in a shoebox–but it makes me want to shake the shit out that kid. Toughen up, son. Knock some sense into his dopey face before he heads down that dark path.

Life has turned out pretty fucking OK for me. In fact, I am not sure I could’ve imagined a better outcome (the lost ’90s notwithstanding). Sure, there’s the chance of being a Leonardo-like movie star, or the next Mick Jagger–I could’ve won the lottery. Hell, maybe even banged Kate Upton. But those are one-in-a-million shots, and considering the number of people miring in despair, the quiet and not-so kind, I’ll take the long straw I drew. Most would. I do what I want every day. I have a gorgeous, loving wife and darling, delightful son. I write books. They publish the books I write. I hurt, but not for money. Life is a pretty sweet fruit.

joe nowI suppose it’s natural to want to do it all over again. I am 43. There’s no way around it. Best case scenario, half my life is over. I have to get up to take a piss six times a night. And, yeah, I am still good looking. But for how much longer? I can already see the wrinkles, the gray (the dark circles have always been there). My hair? Brother, I’m on borrowed time. But, shit, I’d like another crack, even if I couldn’t do much better. I want to try. Maybe this time I’d have confidence with the ladies, wouldn’t awkwardly stare at their shoes and mumble. Maybe I’d avoid the drugs and heartache. Maybe this time my mom would be able to stick around long enough to see my kid. Maybe I would, I don’t know, enjoy it more. Take more chances. Dance. That kind of shit. I want to try again even though I know I’d probably end up with the same hat; and I’d be damned lucky if I did.

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You see a picture, like that one where I’m 18, and you can’t help but to feel a modicum of regret. If only because you didn’t realize how precious youth was when you had it. You waste so much time on the inconsequential, the bitching and complaining, wishing instead of doing, that you miss the good parts. At least I did. And now that I can recognize them, I am too damned broken to truly appreciate them. And my prostate is the size of a grapefruit.

Reminds me of that Baz Luhrmann song. 

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never-mind.
You will not appreciate the power and beauty of your youth
until they’ve faded. But trust me, in twenty years you’ll look back
at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now
how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked….

Ain’t that the truth, brother.

 

New Website and My Fake ID

I’m going to try to reel in my disgust over the Super Bowl and not subject you to a rant about how my friend Mike in Miami is right, and after Brady went all Hollywood, he hasn’t won shit.  On the biggest stage, with a chance to seek revenge against the Giants and that mole-faced little bastard Eli who ruined his chance at perfection four years ago in the desert, Tom Terrific was anything but.  I am sickened and disgusted, and reminded of something my granddaddy once said to me and one of life’s great truisms: sports will only break your heart, boy.

(Oh, and fuck you, Wes Welker.)

But the good news is…the new website is here!  The new website is here.  And here it is: http://www.joeclifford.com/.  Very important.  Starting tomorrow, this is where you’ll also go to find the blog.  You can still type in the old address, which will direct you here anyway.  The only issue might be if you use an RSS Reader (whatever the fuck that is).  My webguy says that if you do you’ll want the new address.  So there you go.

Pretty cool new graphic, eh?  (Thanks, Zenaida!)  Don’t worry.  The content is not going to change.  Candy and Cigarettes is still committed to bringing you the very finest in goofy You Tube clips and funny cat pics.  But we wanted to look, y’know, more professional and shit.  Some of the features should make your life easier. Like, for instance, you can just leave a comment now without having to sign up with a Google account.  Which is pretty cool.  Gone, too, are some of the bells and whistles, the MySpace-like glitter of a tweeny girl heavily crushing on the Beibs. Which is long overdue, really; we’re all supposed to be grownups here.  (Though I am sad to lose the flames.  Fire is cool.)

So take a look around the new site.  Let me know what you think, or what you hate. I think it should be a lot more user friendly, with greater accessibility to my work. Hope you agree.  If not, I can fix stuff, since it’s all been converted to WordPress, which means I no longer have to rely on others to do my updates.  It’s all about self-sufficiency.

*

We had a Super Bowl party on the hill yesterday.  Lots of people.  Tons of food. Which might’ve been cool if the Pats won.  But they lost.  What could’ve been a joyous celebration quickly turned into: Who the hell are all these people and why are they eating my food?

Got a couple cool mementos from my past, though.  One, Noah, who played guitar in my first band in CT, Something Like Paisley, brought a burned disc of our long-lost college rock classic So It Goes (still one of the best memories of my life was driving down the Berlin Turnpike at 18, flipping through the stations and hearing one of my songs [the cringe-worthily titled…”Electric Sun.”  Good tune.  Awful title] on the radio.  Trinity College’s WRTC.  But still).

I’ve been getting the rough mixes of these from our old engineer in Connecticut, Jeff, who has been painfully pulling the songs, track by track, off nearly 20-year-old, disintegrating 1/2″ tape, importing the tunes into some modern, space-age software for a later mix down (it’s like living in the future).  But what Noah brought over is the original record, in all it’s intended, power pop shimmery glory, which he dug out of his mom’s attic on a Christmas trip back east.  It’s the first time these songs have been heard (as originally mixed) in probably close to a decade.  I am going to remaster all this shit later and put it up on iTunes.  Best music I ever made. Seriously.  Which is really, really depressing if you think about it.

The other trinket delivered was further proof that I, too, was once young.  My first fake ID.

                                                                 Now that is a crisp, flinty glow!

Rich found it in his stuff at his house.  He must’ve used it too at one point.  (And, no, we never really looked alike, except in the way that all clean shaven, angelic 18-year-old boys all look the same.)  The funny part about my having a fake ID is I didn’t drink.  Like, at all.  Didn’t touch a drop of alcohol until I was 21 (and within the year I’d be addicted to meth.  Which is a lesson to all you parents out there.  It’s all about moderation). What did I need a fake ID for?  Fuck if I know.

The name on the ID belonged to Chris Judd, my co-frontman in Paisley, who would go on to develop schizophrenia and swell to close to 400 lbs., becoming a shut-in.  I haven’t spoken to him in over a decade either.  It’s a shame.  He was a great songwriter and singer, and more importantly, he was a good friend.  A much better friend to me than I was to him.  (What else is new?)

Finding old pictures of yourself like this presents a weird sensation.  On the one hand, I am obviously younger (and ridiculously feminine looking.  I mean, seriously, I’ve dated women who weren’t as pretty as that).  Yet…this is still what I see, for the most part, when I look in the mirror.  Sure, I catch the wrinkles and gray, the ravage of the hard years, but when I look into my own eyes, I still see a 16-year-old boy (or 18, in this case).  And I don’t feel much older than that.  It’s like in many ways I remained trapped in this state of perpetual adolescence, angst and violent mood swings very much included.

It’s also a bit like The Shawshank Redemption.  Remember the part where Red finally gets his parole?  They ask him if he feels he’s rehabilitated, and he delivers this great speech about how that word doesn’t mean anything to him anymore.  But is he sorry for what he did?  Not a day goes by that he’s not sorry.   Most of all though he wishes he could go back and talk to that crazy, angry kid?  Save everyone a lot of time and hassle; get another chance to get it right.

I guess in way I do get to do that.  Maybe that’s what being a dad really is all about. As my boy, Holden, grows up, I get to impart wisdom and share my life experience, point out the potential pitfalls and how best to avoid danger.  And he’ll think (or say) I don’t know what I’m talking about, and set off to discover the answers on his own.  We’ve been doing this dance since the dawn of time, right?  If it wasn’t true, it wouldn’t be a Cat Stevens song.

And on that note… Don’t forget.  Starting tomorrow, you can find us here: http://www.joeclifford.com/candy-and-cigarettes-blog/.  Same Bat-time.  New Bat-channel.  Bookmark us!