Is This Thing Still On??

Hey Markesters,

I almost forgot that I even have this thing, this floating internet island I call my own, with my own e-message-in-a-bottle delivery service. Five years ago I launched this website, and this is only my third-ever blog post. I was pretty active with everything on here for awhile…but then I just kinda stopped.
Why? Not sure exactly.
Well ok, that’s not entirely true. Basically, in the last five years my life has taken a whole new, rather drastic series of twists and turns, “detours” if you will. My “speed dating” romp of 2013 led to a long-term relationship in 2014 that came with a “starter family”, which led to a consolidation of lives and material possessions and a couple big moves. Once in October of 2014, to Mount Prospect, and another just six months later, to Rogers Park, Chicago where we remain today. I did keep music alive, though I started to move away from the acoustic singer-songwriter persona and into a more electric, jammy, hard rock one. I even got a band going! Two But Not Two, with drummer and good friend Sean House, started in the Fall of 2015. Billed as “Chicago’s Premier Two-Man Jam Band”, we developed a sound and style of jamming with our chemistry and a lot of electronic help. (Some of our videos are posted on the site.) I got me an effects rig and everything! Sadly, things came to a screeching halt with that this past August with Sean’s departure. In a lot of ways I don’t blame him; in others, I still have unanswered questions.
In addition, I took care of my sick Mom for a couple months in 2017, as in-home caregiver, and partly due to my longtime company’s less-than-sympathetic reaction to my circumstances, I left them in March of 2018. She passed away in May of that year, and I have not gone back to the workplace regularly since (save for a part-time teaching job I did for about three months). I have been doing freelance data administration and graphic design work, and recently I got the idea that maybe I could do this as a type of self-employed contractor, hiring my services out to different companies and individuals. I haven’t quite gotten that off the ground yet, but part of building my skills for that is brushing up on WordPress, and this blog is part of that “dusting off”. Plus, I just needed to get something written.
Finally, that long-term relationship turned into a full-blown marriage this summer, as part of our trip out to the Hi-Desert of Yucca Valley for Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker’s Final Campout #15. We wanted to go and support the last one, see our friends, and since it’s easier to get married in California than Illinois and one of the fans of the band had a wedding service of her own, we just did it in her backyard. It was fun and we got a lot of nice attention for it afterward. But since coming back, everything’s been a struggle.
I suppose, if Buddhism’s taught me anything, “nothing worthwhile comes without a struggle”, and so here we are. I’m trying to carve out a new career and still keep music alive, wondering how to re-frame my recent developments in sound and my changes in persona. I’ve still got that damn album I hope to finish one day, though I made a lot of progress on it during Spring and Summer this year. Oh, and I almost forgot, I even went back to school! I got two more classes towards my degree done online between Fall of last year and Spring of this year, until complications with that ensued and things fell through. Temporarily, at least I hope. I’d like to, it will increase my hirability and plus, I’m only 3 classes away!
I may have lost the battle, but not the war. That’s the story I’m sticking to, anyhoo.
So, that’s what I’ve been doing and partly (mostly) why I haven’t done much with blogging or the site in general. That’s gonna change real soon, tho – as I get more skilled in WordPress and the other different tools I need, I’m going to be adding more content and even revamping a thing or two on here. It’s long enough overdue, right? So yeah, stay tuned for the next chapter in this crazy little Universe of mine! Thanks for reading, and “bye for now”.


Spring Awakening

Spring – I never thought it would get here. Feels almost like summer today. But a few months ago, our house and land was covered with snow as far as the eye could see. I wrote a song for something called February Album Writing Month (FAWM) inspired by this Tundra called “Winter Turn To Spring.” The title is taken from a 13th century writing by a Japanese Buddhist Monk called Nichiren. The entire quote reads, “The believer in the Lotus Sutra is as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring.” Nichiren, a Buddhist reformer who declared that chanting this Sutra’s title alone could bring one enlightenment, regularly encouraged his disciples to endure and overcome any hardship faced in (and brought about by) this practice.
At this time in my life, I was as if in winter – literally. Me, my girlfriend and her two daughters, plus our dog and cat, were completely snowed in inside our rented house that sat on an acre and a half of land that was covered in at least two feet of snow – three in some places. We didn’t have any shovels because I lost the key to the shed behind the house that had them in it. We were snowed in for five days before we were able to get a kind snowplow owner to do our driveway at half the cost most people were charging. (I fashioned a makeshift shovel to get us from the walk to the driveway.) During this time, as in several winters past, I felt a sense of powerlessness, of being buried under the thick of it, and that it would be an aeon until it all melted away. My girlfriend and I were also going through a rough patch, and there’s a line in there that speaks to that feeling: “Despite the deeper layers/Our hearts must be a place/We can’t let freeze.” The struggle wasn’t just to dig ourselves out, but to stay warm and positive within as well.
So many times I have seen my environment reflect my life-state EXACTLY – and have felt it change when I determine a new direction to win over my present circumstances. Nichiren’s Buddhism talks about “Life-conditions” – ten worlds which we inhabit at any given moment, here and alive on this Earth. They include Hell, Hunger, Anger, Joy, Tranquility, Learning and Realization. The highest ones are Bodhisattva and Buddhahood – two conditions that are everlasting and not affected by the lower ones. Nichiren also taught that each world is possessed in the other ten – so Buddhahood, for example, inhabits all of them. It’s a hard concept to grasp – that Buddhahood is innate, that we “reveal” rather than “earn” it – but eternally hopeful. There’s kind of a “fake-it-til-you-make it” stage in the beginning but after that it gets better.
This May, I am in a new house in a new neighborhood in the City, with music and art happening all the time, and I’ve just busted out my guitar and started to feel the call of the muse again. The snow has melted, Spring has returned. But the Spring in our hearts is the most important. Seeing all that snow, one can feel discouraged, or immediately run out and build a snowman. Summer can be outside and one can still be huddled under blankets. Seasons are just as much conditions of life as they are of our environment – which, after all, are interconnected. I am excited to be here, and out of the wintry feeling inside. It is a constant struggle, but thank goodness I have Nichiren’s words to revisit and the title of the Lotus Sutra (Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo) to chant.

Being Marke


So, hey there! I’ve never had me one of these website-thingies before, and I see I’ve got this bloggie thing that I oughta start using. The site’s not quite active yet so I’m just blogging to imaginary friends at this point. But soon, I will have a real, live audience at my disposal, and I’ll have to entertain them with some semblance of wit and wisdom. Or at least a good string of smart-assed jokes. I’ve got those in spades-somewhat.

Well, as with my songs, my journal and “blogging” has stayed mostly hidden; a feeling of an underlying inability to capture and sustain and audience lies at the core of my body of work. And it’s a sizeable one, as bodies go. If a song is sung on the internet and there’s no one being driven to your page, did it make a sound? That’s some profound metaphorical mularkey right there. I could care more or less if someone hears my things while passing through; but I err on the side of the former. I’ve been writing these songs of heartache, remorse, frustration and revolution for some twenty years, and I hope you all get to hear them the way I first did in my head. I have been hesitant to recruit a band because I’m afraid they won’t capture what I hear in my head, but more so what I hear, or have a sense of, in my heart. I feel nature, I feel the desert, I feel the ocean breeze, in my music and lyrics. I feel the abandoned, cavernous places I would love to play alone to, opening up the echo of sound to the spaces of my imagination, but I would also like an audience to feel it. To be there, and not be there. That’s my dichotomy.

This year, I do intend to be much more than a tree falling in the forest. I want to be the bulldozer that knocked down that tree, the tree being diseased and manifested with bugs and dead roots, and opened up the fresh ground to new life and freshly opened minds sharing their unheard concepts with the world. I want to be a divining rod for ideas, thought, and wonderful sound. So, I write this in anticipation of getting this “out there” for you all to enjoy.

But for right now, I’m enjoying blasting my Marshall stack to the canyons, as it were.