I swear that in a previous life I was a poor black man. Seems every blues song I've ever heard has been familiar in that way that only songs you grew up on are. Of course, I was raised on mid-Western country music AM radio so that doesn't explain it (apart from the obvious debt that country owes to the blues).
But that's neither here nor there. For the last few days, even as work has been frustrating, music has been springing into my head regularly. From the Tim Malloys version of "The Boys From County Hell," (...I wish to Christ, I wish to Christ, that I had fifteen more. Lend me ten pounds...) to Fred A. Levy Haskell's rendition of "Gambler's Blues" (...When I die, when I die, please bury me/in my high-top Stetson hat...) to The Replacements "Valentine" (...If you were a pill, I'd take a handful at my will and knock you back with something sweet and strong...). I've had my own personal soundtrack running almost without cease.
My next personal splurge is going to be to pick up a CD-RW drive in order to actually create some of these personal soundtracks. Tack on a portable CD player with car kit and I'll be ready for my next road trip. I have several cassettes that serve this role now; made for me by my late friend Lee Pelton. They have served me well for hundreds of miles but are starting to show it. The hardest thing will be finding some of that things Lee put on those cassettes to transfer them to more permanent media.
I think a big part of this latest musical jag is the swift approach of Minicon. This next weekend, some of my best friends from across the world will be coming to Minneapolis. We'll hang out together in a hotel downtown. We'll talk and party, sing and drink, eat and chat, dance and laugh. Heck, we might even mention science fiction. It's a big party, to be sure, but it's more than that. It's a family reunion for people who have chosen to be my family, as I have of theirs. Like all families, we don't always get along and we definitely don't agree, but there's enough we have in common that we get past that. Year after year, we show up and do it all again.
Probably because we're at least as close as family, we have a great capacity to hurt each other. More than a few people have been burned badly by this gathering. I've seen friends reduced to tears, driven to anger, driven away. Working on Minicon can eat you up, spit you out and then pull you back for another course. Been there. Things got so bad a few years back, that a group of folks got together and proposed some rather extensive surgery to save the convention and those running it from further harm. Things look better to me, but I'm told there's still some rough patches to work through.
If we didn't care, it would be easy. We could run the gathering as a commercial enterprise. Make money for the club that sponsors it. Treat each other like employees and managers. Just do our jobs. But we do care. This is our family, remember. If someone tells you they don't like something about the convention, it's like your aunt saying you'll never amount to much. The attachments run deep, and so do the wounds.
In spite of all that, it's worth it. Like all great loves, the danger of pain is always there. When it hurts you, it cuts deep. When it touches you just right, however, you're riding in the clouds for days.
I'm going to Minicon with love in my heart this week. (While "Radio Free Blues" is playing "I got a ring in my pocket. I got a hole in my heart." Ha ha.)