The Box

“So, that’s what was in the box!”

– Perplexed Spouse

…I’m sure many of you have something similar to my Box. Something of enormous sentimental value that you haul from apartment to apartment, from house to house – rarely interacting with it, but knowing deeply that it is something that can’t be discarded. In my case the Box contained much of the writing I did when I was in high school and college – the daily journals, the songs, the poems, the short stories, the essays, the articles I did for the high school and college newspapers and magazines I wrote for. When I was younger, I was convinced I would be a writer or a musician – I’d do something creative for a living – but shortly after graduating from college, I put those dreams on the shelf and became a lifelong employee of corporate America. I did so for many reasons, not the least of which was for the damn money, since upon graduation my new wife Debbie and I moved to New York City, not the cheapest city in the world to live in at the time (or ever). We had just gotten married, and we arrived there in the late summer of 1985 absolutely penniless, having spent all our savings and wedding gifts on a six week car and camping odyssey across the country. I attempted to apply for jobs as a journalist, but nothing happened for me – although I did get an offer to join the typing pool for the New York Times for $10k a year, hardly enough to support us at the time. So I went to work for a big Wall Street bank as an apprentice computer programmer as a result of a score on a aptitude test. Surprising to me, I then ended up working in corporate Information Technology (IT) for 35 years. I did this because I was good at my job, it paid well, and I truly enjoyed working with computers and networks, and got to sit on the front row of the revolutions in personal computers and the Internet. But, alas, taking that job marked my transition from dreamer to realist, captured so starkly in the song ”Onward and Onward” –

child of the stars
your flight is over
you can’t go on
seeking forever
one day
you must fall to earth
and accept
there are no meanings
there are no reasons
just the ebb of your heartbeat and the seasons of your soul pushing you onward
and onward

– “Onward and Onward”

Meanwhile, the Box sat dormant in the closet, in the attic, in an outdoor storage shed…waiting for the moment when we would be reunited. That happened in January of 2022 when I was looking for my next art project. Just to recap: since I retired in 2018, I have happily gone down the path of honing and practicing my skills in multimedia – video, animation, photography, and so on. I created a company called P&D Studios, and have done lots of pro bono work for friends, family, and non-profit organizations. One area I had never focused on was music, which is surprising given I was a guitar wielding Rock Star when I was young (ha!), and an enthusiastic party DJ for many, many years. So, in January of 2022, I sat down with my iPad and composed a short, goofy ditty called “Betty and the Bear” in GarageBand while watching a Netflix documentary on the late, great Betty White. It was so much fun to put that song together that I spent the next 6 months writing, polishing, mixing, and recording 32 other songs. In a frantic attempt to find suitable lyrics for all the groovy music I was composing, I reached out to…the Box. And friends, it did not disappoint. Very few of the 33 songs that I recorded were completely original – they were either completely written back in the day and I merely recorded them based on the journal entries in the Box (“Conversations With My Teenage Self“), or I took bits and pieces of songs and attitudes from the journals and used them to write songs representing who I am today (“Still Looking for Jesus After All These Years“).

Here are few photos of the Box and its contents to give you a feel for the sources I drew upon while putting this collection of songs together. I’m sure I’ll be spending more time with the Box in the future, since it contains so many short stories, poems, essays, and articles that I might just have to inflict another round of its magic contents upon the world one day…

The Box
2022 - Album - Photos - Journals - 02 - The Box
The Box contains a motley array of folders, notebooks, newspapers, magazines, dot matrix computer printouts, etc.
2022 - Album - Photos - Journals - 07 - Berchetsgaden
The first draft lyrics to Berchetsgaden, written in the hostel during that summer trip to Bavaria
2022 - Album - Photos - Journals - 10 - Songs - Destiny 2
An early version of the song Destiny. It went through many, many incarnations.
2022 - Album - Photos - Journals - 11 - The Velvet Midnight
The first incarnation of the song that became The Velvet Midnight, including the notes for what the music was supposed to sound like and the words were supposed to mean
2022 - Album - Photos - Journals - 13 - Song - I Went to See the President
The final handwritten version of I Went to See the President, my “Bob Dylan Song” I wrote after seeing Jimmy Carter speak
2022 - Album - Photos - Journals - 12 - Song - Havoc in my Blood
The first appearance of Havoc in My Blood, written when I was trying to put together a setlist for the first (and last) concert for my “band” Destiny
2022 - Album - Photos - Journals - 17 - Song - The God of Noise
First page of the piece I submitted in a high school Creative Writing class that I turned into The God of Noise, my tribute to Jimi Hendrix. I replaced the words in verse 5 with a Hendrix inspired guitar solo, which fit the song better.
2022 - Album - Photos - Journals - 16 - Song - The Girl with the Ruby Lips
The first draft of the lyrics to The Girl with the Ruby Lips, probably written in the bathroom of the nightclub Angles we frequented regularly
2022 - Album - Photos - Journals - 03 - Utmost Magazine
An article I wrote for UTMost Magazine at UT in 1984. I wasn’t just pumping out songs, and the Box contains it all. Look closely and you will see some of the perverse snark that is characteristic of the songs from that era.