Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Back, Looking Forward

It's time once again to take stock of my year and set goals for a new one. I'm exhausted just typing that sentence. Many of you probably do the same thing on New Year's Eve. We torture ourselves needlessly and try to put a smiley face on our accomplishments the way Mrs. Walker did in second grade.

This past year I started a blog, finished a new CD, played about 60 concerts, gave several seminars, became a grandfather, made a couple new friends, wrote only two songs I really like, read a few good books and learned how to grow orchids. I have a friend who bought a few houses for nickels on the dollar and invested a million in bargain stocks. My net worth plummeted, if you can call a nosedive off the low board a "plummet". I have another friend who finally got that college degree she's always wanted. My wife keeps suggesting that I go back to school to get one of those framed pieces of paper but I have ADD when it comes to things like tests and practical knowledge. I'm only able to learn useless skills like orchid growing, and unimportant facts such as: a "jiffy" is the time between alternating current power cycles (1/60 or 1/50 of a second). Try to teach me to prepare a business plan or speak French and I fidget uncontrollably until the chair collapses.

I want to write a book next year. It doesn't have to be a long book, just 120 pages or so. It can be heavily illustrated. When I consider the fact that I put off recording most of my best songs for 20 years, it seems unlikely that I'll write a best seller. Money sees me coming and crosses the street. Fame is like a rented tuxedo that I wore one night and spilled salsa on so I can't rent it again. Not that money and fame bring happiness, they just have certain perks that would make my life more convenient. For example I could pay all my bills and get a new pair of glasses in the same decade, or I could stop getting calls from the NSAI in Nashville asking me if I'd like to have my songs evaluated by one of their professionals.

I chose this life, my wife always reminds me. Yeah, I say, but I was too young to have all that responsibility. Someone should have said, "You don't want to be 54 years old selling songs for nine cents apiece do you?" That might've been a wake up call. They should've stopped me before I spent thousands of hours making steel wires vibrate on a wooden box. How was I supposed to know I'd get paid $150 per night to sing for people in 1972 and $150 to sing for more people in 2008? A migrant orange picker gets a raise. A guitar picker gets permission to park near the dumpster.

This year flew by. I covered a lot of miles on the road and most of them also flew by. I should be a duck. Did you know that a duck's quack doesn't echo? I know things like that. Wish I could get paid better for these things I know. Do you need someone to vibrate wire on a wooden box cheap?

We have much to look forward to in the coming year. I'm very interested in what our president elect will do starting January 21. I'd like to see some people on Wall Street go to jail. I'd like to find out why the CEOs of Ford think the solution to Detroit's problems is cars that park themselves. I want Rush Limbaugh to actually talk to God and get his facts straight. I'd like to wake up one morning and see the headline: Blogojevich Spontaneously Combusts. I'd be thrilled to find out that Arne Duncan has read "Outliers" and wants to reform the entire education system in America. I would like to listen to Ozzie Osborne filibuster in the Senate. I'd like to see Kevin Federline get a bigger hat.

Here are some wonderful things I'll miss in 2009. I won't get to see the Mets and Yankees play baseball in those great old parks. There will be no new Paul Newman or Heath Ledger films, no more Freddie Hubbard solos, or Arthur C. Clarke novels. There will be no more enlightened Sunday Mornings with Tim Russert. George Carlin won't make me laugh at the latest culture craze. And, although this one only matters to me, I won't get to do a show at The Arts Scene with my late compadre Robert Hazard.

But there will be a few improvements in 2009. Bush will be gone, and not a moment too soon. We won't see another haughty young blond drinking Zima at the bar. If you go to Starbucks, you can just get coffee and not feel guilty for passing up the CD bin because it will soon be gone. You won't step in Volcano Taco toppings on the sidewalk. You won't see any more bewildered husbands being dragged into Linens 'N Things.

I take my blessings where I find them. I have a loving family and a roof over my head, and these are not given things anymore. I still live a creative life. I don't need an iphone or a Lexus to make me happy. I have a few intelligent, interesting, funny friends who always say the right thing at the right time. I have reasonably good health. I can cook. And it's no small miracle that I'm still here to wish you the best year of your life in 2009.

copyright 2008 craig bickhardt


Tim Wheeler said...

No small miracle, indeed! It's a humbling thing to look back on last year, and still have a means of employment and a roof overhead.

They say the economy condition is mostly about perspective, and there's a man who inspires hope, set to take the reigns. God's speed to him.

Its been a blast to sift through your blog this year, and I'm looking forward to hearing the fruits of your labors in the studio.

Blessings, Craig!


Anonymous said...

Thank you Craig for a year full of enlightening and intellectually stimulating topics of musical discussion. I must confess that I have verbally plagiarized your ideas to impress my musician friends with the wealth of knowledge and information that you share in your blogs. They think I’m a god and I owe it all to you. Seriously though, I haven’t missed a blog yet and my friends and I intend to remain loyal subscribers. We anxiously await a new year of ninetymilewind. Hopefully I can get this comment posting apparatus to allow one of my comments to make your page just once. Sorry for the duplicates and triplicates by the way. Yes, that was me commenting in multiples. I sincerely apologize for that and promise to leave my comment only once from now on regardless of how much I wish to participate. Thanks for opening our eyes and bringing dignity back to our profession.

Tim McMullen said...

“Well, Mr. Bickhardt, and what exactly have you accomplished this year?”
“…A heck of a lot compared to most other mortals!” would be a modest answer!

Your daughter did most of the work on making you a grandpa, but I think that grandparents should get some kudos for that accomplishment, so congratulations again! (My wife and I just went to see the movie Twilight because our niece worked on the movie—wouldn’t you know that they would misspell her name in the credits…. I mentioned to my wife that we used to identify with the kids in movies; then, a while ago we began to identify with the parents; now, in this movie we don’t identify with anybody because they don’t even show the grandparents— of course, [plot spoiler] the main characters could be grandparents many times over, agewise! How would you like to have to maintain perpetual teen angst? HA!) And you brought a new baby—CD Baby (plug intended)—into the world. How cool is that?!!

Your blog has been one of the highlights of my year, and I thank you greatly for providing the challenges, the insight, and the wit of your prose as well as the continuing joy of your music.

Here’s wishing you and your family and friends an ever better new year,

Anonymous said...

Very funny and feisty commentary. Happy New Year, Craig. Thanks for all that you do.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago I purchased a swag of CD's form The Bluebird Cafe, and in that lot was Craig Bickhardt's 'Easy Fires'.

I knew the name from writers credits from songs I had been hearing over the years, so I went in search of him and others including, Gary Burr, Hugh Prestwood, Don Schlitz, Allen Shamblin.

In part, these writers changed my life a ittle.

I had played guitar in my teens, twenties, then surrendered it to a mis-marriage, kids, depression, and recessions where neither my skills were required nor my personality wanted. (You're too intelligent, too well educated, too experienced and way too handsome to work here...)

I went through hell (I feel a country song coming on!) and came out burned, bruised, battered, and broken.

But I limped along to do do a Post Graduate Degree, I started my own business which I sold a few years ago, I attended a Radio Course, and I finally picked up the guitar again with which I fluffed about. And then Craig Bickhardt started writing his Blog.

Well, all hell broke loose.

The Radio Program has been re-jigged, a song writers group has been started (slowly slowly), a House Concert Circuit is being developed, and I am writing songs.
(Do not fear...I will not inflict any upon the world unless the world calls.)

And in part it's mostly down to the songwriters that have inspired me to use the creative streak that has yearned inside me. I have never felt so alive.

I ain't no Craig Bickhardt, Steven Walters, Hugh Prestwood, Loudon Wainwright 111, nor Cliff Eberhardt, but gee I've never been happier.

I have little money, but I did get some new specs recently though - seeing as I dropped the new one and the old one, and stepped on the really really old one breaking them all within 4 days.

I am thankful to have my sons, a partner that encourages me, some health, and a smile.

So Mr Bickhardt, if it's of any interest: you make a difference. So keep those steel strings a-twanging against that wooden box, buy those specs when you need them, and writer that book.

Keep doing the things that keeps your blood circulating. Cos I'm sure there are a lot of folk out there that respect you, admire you, and need you; not to make that a burden, nor a calling. It's just a fact.

And don't worry about a business plan, nor a marketing plan, your blog is the plan - changed a few words and you'd get that Degree from Harvard.

See, I do ramble on don't I?

Have a good New Year.


Anonymous said...

as always, a very entertaining and edifying epistle! i look forward to your literary pursuits in the coming year! you are an excellent wordsmith and i'm sure your subject matter will find an appreciative readership!
have a safe and happy new year!

Anonymous said...

Brother, you do this well. And just think of how much we enjoy our lives. Cause we do.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure you can really "take" blessings, but I've discovered there's power in dwelling on them.

I'm also in the camp of "pay all the bills, or get new glasses once a decade," but I'm the happiest I've ever been: partly because I get to make music (better music, thanks in part to you) and I have an ever-deepening relationship with the wife and kids; and partly because I frequently realize, specifically, how fortunate I am. The other side of that coin is that I have the daily opportunity to actively pursue worthiness of those blessings.

And so the coin flips brightly through the air, seemingly defying gravity. For much of my life, it wasn't that way. (It's hard to flip a coin underwater -- believe me.) But fortunately, I decided I'd had enough of being an unhappy mud-puppy, and began the struggle up toward the light.

I also wish you the best year of your life.

--Gary Reynolds

Anonymous said...

Oh Craig - you sound JUST like my husband, especially the part about fidgeting till the chair breaks thus exiling you to the kingdom of
"I Only Know Useless Information." (My hubby can do every bar trick every known to a bum). Please pass on my condolences to your wife!

But, your blog is truly a breath of fresh air, so it's not all useless. I find myself passing each and every post on to at least one person I know, songwriter or not. Your insights apply to much more than songwriting.

Thanks for sharing.

chromehead said...

Condolences accepted!