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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

That was the month that was

After three consecutive months of 20,000 unique-visitors-per (oh, all right, I know some of you came back more than once), this humble little blog hit 44,000 visitors in May.  I’m amazed-- and appalled.  What to do next? It’s blog anxiety!  What am I doing with blog anxiety?! 

Well, first I guess I should thank everyone for stopping by, linking, passing along my Bush quiz and Lieberman rant, and other such things.  And yes, I know the Bush quiz needs more entries-- there are some great suggestions in the comments, and I should probably add one more of my own:

I like the graft and corruption! I pump my fist in the air and sing that Lee Greenwood song every time Halliburton gouges taxpayers and negotiates lucrative kickbacks or drives empty trucks around Baghdad to boost their fees and jeopardize truck drivers’ lives!” (Thanks to Eric Smith for the links.)

Second, I should meditate on anxiety for a moment. 

One day some years ago I was sweeping up around the house when I had a flashback to one of my college-era part-time jobs, cleaning the Terrace Restaurant in Morningside Heights (the Terrace is famous for its views of upper Manhattan; the job was a $4/hr gig, 7-11 am, which gave me plenty of time to make my class schedule from noon onwards).  Suddenly I remembered, almost viscerally, how much of my life at 19 was defined by anxiety, especially my (entirely justified) anxiety about finding part-time and summer jobs while I was in school.  I was so anxious about work, in fact, that I spent my first week or so on that job terrified that I’d forget to cover some part of the restaurant before the cooks started arriving at 11, and that I would be fired before the end of the day.  So I cleaned like a madman, which struck me (many years later, sweeping up around the house) as strange, since it isn’t as if restaurant-cleaning is ordinarily a high-pressure job. 

When I started to play drums with college bands, I would get all wound up before gigs, worrying (a) that I’d drop a stick or (b) that there would be other drummers in the house who knew that I was self-taught and still learning.  I remember that before my band Normal Men opened for the Ramones in 1982, I sprayed my hands with aerosol deodorant gunk to make them dry and sticky, thinking that the only thing I could do to screw up the band in front of a thousand people would be to drop a stick.  (Funny thing is, I still have a tape of one of Normal Men’s gigs at CBGB during which I did drop a stick-- and you can’t hear it on the tape.  It wasn’t that big a deal.) I even developed a Hierarchy of Musical Mistakes by which to understand my (and my band’s) performance:

E-level screwups:  so egregious that even the guys playing video poker in the bar on the third floor know that the band flubbed one.

D-level:  embarrassing and bad (wrong notes, timing errors), but can only be heard by people who are actually paying attention.

C-level:  can only be heard by people who play your instrument and know what you really meant to do.

B-level:  imperceptible mistakes in which you don’t play exactly what you want but manage to play something entirely passable instead.

A-level:  mistakes that are better than what you intended to play, and which you eventually incorporate into the song.

Interestingly, when I went to graduate school and, toward the end of my first year at Virginia, started playing with Michael Dean and Todd Wilson in a band called Baby Opaque, I never felt a moment’s anxiety about performing; I was so consumed with graduate-school anxiety that I didn’t have any anxiety left over for music.  I would show up for gigs, set up, sound check, play, pack up, and go home, all as if I were fixing sinks or something.  Then when Nick was born, when I was 24, I was so consumed with new-parent-anxiety that I didn’t have any anxiety left over for my dissertation, and . . . you get the idea.  By the same logic, surely one of the reasons that I didn’t have too many assistant-professor tenure-track anxieties in the early 1990s was that I was far more worried about how to take care of a newborn with Down syndrome.

Blog anxiety . . . what a silly thing.  Maybe I’ll go play some music instead.

Posted by Michael on 06/01 at 06:50 AM
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