Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I mention leaves a lot in this one.

It's late, I have to work at 6am, and, as usual, I'm trying my best not to go to sleep. My mom said when I was a baby, I would literally slap myself to stay awake. I figured I couldn't sleep unless I blogged, so here it is. I could be reading my Bible or drinking a hot toddy or practicing my bgv's for Lauryn Peacock's CD release party in Philly, but here:

Lately, I've been taking walks and writing my scooter, both of which have made me a lot more aware of the world around me. I feel hot when it's hot. If something's wrong with your catalytic converter, I can smell it. Things that would normally just bounce off my windshield are now hitting me in the face-- like leaves, and wasps.

But lately, what I've noticed most are the trees. I've never given them much thought, except those awkward moments when I tried to be "inspired" and "earthy." This time, it just came naturally (pun intended). I finally understood why artists always painted landscapes: nature is the most perfect blend of spontaneity and form. No shape in nature is predictable. Every human being (or Canadian) knows the look of a leaf or a blade of grass, but no one can predict the shape of a cypress. Everything is built and shaped by slow growth, constant erosion, random accidents, eruptions, splatters, bones, wildfire. Trees knot. Badgers make holes. Leaves fall on the ground and curl up at the edges, surrounded by thousands of similar leaves, all uniquely bent and twisted. Cicadas scream their little heads off. The result is a multimedia presentation that we call "noise" and "underbrush." The end result is home.

This, apparently, is not enough. We know Home is eternal, so we invent our own eternity. We renovate our home and make up new absolutes-- like the Right Angle, the Perfect Circle, iambic pentameter, the "verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-modulate-chorus-end" formula-- like we know what those should look like. But those things aren't native to our planet. God didn't make them. Maybe God's perfect circle is lopsided. Maybe all of Eternity is misshapen, and God says it is good. Maybe He says it in free verse.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Doesn't the bull represent the encroaching industrialization of the North?

cravin ihop.
about an hour ago · ·

    • Jonni Greth At least this time you didn't say it really loud in the middle of Waffle House.
      about an hour ago ·
    • Jenny Marie Perrin hey, that's unfair! those women had ears like vultures!...and they knew i was right.
      about an hour ago ·
    • Jonni Greth Whatever. If you want to eat breakfast like a yankee, you can go do it with the yankees.
      about an hour ago ·
    • Jenny Marie Perrin the yankees clean their grills......
      about an hour ago ·
    • Jonni Greth And that's why their hash browns are so dadgum dry.
      about an hour ago ·
    • Jenny Marie Perrin fine, next time we're going to Greens.
      about an hour ago ·
    • Jonni Greth I don't even know what that is. You're getting too fancy for me.
      about an hour ago ·
    • Jenny Marie Perrin holy crap! you've lived in l**** and you've never eaten at greens!
      jonni....jonni jonni jonni...
      about an hour ago ·
    • Jonni Greth Alright. Will go. But they better not clean their grills.
      about an hour ago ·
    • Jenny Marie Perrin it's dirty, and you get served by old southern women who call you baby and sweetie pie.
      about an hour ago ·

Monday, February 28, 2011

The feeling is mutual, I'm sure.

Dear Nashville,

As turned off as I am by autotune, faux hawks, and the "Nashville sheen," I am thoroughly impressed by your lack of djembes.

I will grow to love you one day.

Tepidly Yours,
Jonni Greth

Friday, February 25, 2011

A short conversation between me and my roommate:

Roommate: Dude, the other day I saw cereal in the toilet. How did it get there?

Me: I didn't finish my Crunch Berries, so I flushed them.

Roommate: That is quite possibly the most bizarre thing I've ever heard.

Me: Um, I don't think it's that uncommon. Some people flush their cereal.

Roommate: I have never heard of that in my life. Dude, that could clog the pipes. We've got a garbage disposal. Come on.

Me: Some people were raised without garbage disposals.

Clog the pipes? Not sure he knows, but turds won't clog the pipes, either.

Meatballs, however, will. Don't ask me how I know.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A post inspired by Deerhoof and off-brand daytime cough syrup:

A few things have been happening in my life lately.

I've found the boldness to tell you because, if you're reading this, it means you actually want to hear what I have to say, which means you have given me permission to shamelessly spill my guts-- and perhaps even tell you how to live your life.

So. New things:

1) I have finally fallen in love with Deerhoof, which is so typical of 20-somethings who have spent any time in Chicago. But don't fear, I have found a way to make my situation into a totally un-typical one: I have fallen in love with them several years too late. Therefore, instead of being totally indie and listening to them when the hip kids did, I have acquired the oh-so-distinguished taste for their awesomeness at exactly the same time as everyone else has. Thus the "I was there before you were born" mentality so typical of hipsters has been thwarted by my new, relatively ingenious tactic: getting WITH the times, if not slightly behind.

I call it being "fashionably late."

2.) Up until about a month ago, at least one of my co-workers was convinced I was gay. Then he found out I wasn't. It went a little something like this:

Me: Hey [Edgar], what's up?

Ed: I'd like to punch whoever put this song on in the face.

Me (foolishly assuming Stevie Nicks' voice was Patti Smith's): Really? I have to admit, I've been enjoying this a lot.

Ed: Man, you're just reinforcing the stereotype.

(pause. I look at him curiously.)

Me: What stereotype is that, Ed?

Ed: You know... gay guys and Fleetwood Mac.


Me: Dude. I'm straight.

He felt bad about it, but he shouldn't have. It's not the first time that's happened, not by a long shot. If there was any part that offended me, it wasn't that he thought I was gay. It was that he called me "typical." Therefore, I felt the need to prove I was a straight guy who liked Fleetwood Mac.

Hello, unpredictability!

These two things have caused me some unrest, some sort of dullness and self-disgust in my heart, a feeling that I have hurt myself somehow. It feels very unhealthy, like my soul caught the flu. Or mono.

Now that I've caught a real flu or cold or mono or something, I've been forced once again to slow down and think about what I'm doing. Mostly, I've been thinking about art, like I always do. And the struggle comes down to two things: creativity and ego. It always does.

How do I know which is which? Do I like Deerhoof because it resonates with something deep inside me, or do I like them because their music is complex and unusual? Do I listen because they speak some truth, or do I listen because they're avant-garde and entertaining?

This also applies to my own art. It makes me wonder why I should even write in the first place, makes me doubt if my creative impulses are pure and Godly.

A friend of mine from Chicago put creativity very plainly:

God is a Creator, and we were made in His image. When we create, we're saying "I want to be just like my Dad."

We're just children drawing pictures and writing stories for our Father. We color outside the lines. We misspell words. We get all the proportions wrong. But God loves what we give Him. The more I think about that, the more I wonder if I'm writing with that in mind.

Do I want to be a brilliant artist, or do I want to be a child of God? Am I writing from my God-given creativity or from my ego? Do I sing so God will hear me, or do I sing to impress myself? Don't ask me. I'm sick and half-delirious, and I won't know the answer until I get well.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rise Up and Walk

"If you wish to save your soul and win eternal life, arise from your lethargy, make the sign of the Cross and say:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

--Tito Colliander, from The Way of the Ascetics

I called a friend of mine yesterday, knowing he'd understand, and I told him I felt horrible for two reasons:

1. I slept through both matins and the Divine Liturgy
2. I ignored G***'s texts, then responded poorly when he demanded a reply.

And no, "G***" doesn't stand for "God." Or does it?

Let me explain:

Some months ago, I received a random phone call.

"Hey Jonni, this is G*** G****. You might recognize my last name; my brother was in Journey. I got your number from X. Back in the 80's my band Y opened for Rez & blah blah blah..."

The Journey thing meant nothing to me. What was their hit? "Double Vision?" "Don't Stop Believin(g)?" Do I care to find out? Here's a hint: I'm on a laptop, and I'm not googling it. However, I was intrigued by the Rez connection. It sounded like he might be one of the old Jesus Rockers I might have seen during my time at Jesus People USA. And I like old Jesus rockers.

So we played phone tag. We finally met for coffee. The shop by my house was packed, and I'd shown up with a greasy, down and out middle-aged man from New York City who ordered his cappuccino "heavy on the cream and sugar." The girl behind the counter gave him a cup of coffee and pointed him to the half and half.

We sat outside and he told me about himself. Not only did he have a brother in Journey, he also had a cousin in Foreigner who taught him how to write. He was looking forward to writing with me-- which apparently was the purpose of our meeting-- and he had a BC Rich Warlock if I was looking into experimenting with some new sounds.

Once, while he was working at Guitar Center in LA, a co-worker, who was a witch, was "stacking up the cards" against him. He warned her, "Listen, ma'am, I'm a Christian, and it's dangerous to be casting spells on me like that," but no. She didn't listen. A few days later he went into the breakroom and saw her with her head down, looking depressed. She'd always been so upbeat, so he asked her what was up. She said earlier that day a pillar of fire came out of the sky and blew up her car.

God blew up her car. For practicing Wicca and working at Guitar Center.

That's when I decided to cut it short. I stated nonchalantly that I "had stuff to do," and moved us back to my parking spot as quickly as I could. He said we should get together and write in about two weeks. I said, "sure, I've been busy, so maybe" or something, got in the damn car, and drove off as quickly as I could.

He texted for weeks, and I didn't respond. Didn't know what to do, and if I did know, I didn't want to deal with it.

About a month later, I received the following message:

"Hey Johnny would u plz give me the courtesy of closure;if ur givin me the silent treatment in hopes that ill just stop contacting u that doesnt work w/ we NY-ers. i would appreciate some type of reply."

I turned red with anger. The kind of red you turn when threatened. My stomach turned. I texted back:

"Take a hint. Welcome to the south."

Then the unexpected happened. He replied in an oddly lucid tone:

"Thank u 4 the reply
i got the hint but just needed confirmation
ive lost all respect for you young man.
if you were really my bro in christ you would've been man enuf to face me sooner on why u didn't want to follow thru on where we left off.
southerner or not communication is key 4 anything.
too bad u didnt know how 2 communicate.
welcome to the real world.

Then later:

"btw i was tryin to spread a little of agape love towards u inspite of yur hint of continually rude silence.

And five seconds after that:

"also i was tryn 2 giv u th benefit of th doubt that u might hav lost ur celphn or had a tragedy in ur life...

Today, reading over the texts, I didn't feel so guilty. But should I have felt bad? I might feel some pangs of regret for the following reasons:

1. He's probably super lonely, suffering from a serious mental illness, and I might have agitated the condition with my "continually rude silence."

2. I'm somewhat co-dependent, and I probably should have told him "no" right away, regardless of how irrational he seemed.

3. He's probably crazy and lonely, as seen above, and I can identify a little. I want to fix that for him, but I have no idea how. If I did know how, I still would have no power over his illness or personal choices.

It's hard to accept that you can't bring hope to a seemingly hopeless case. We can all seem hopeless, and perhaps, at times, all we can do is say we're sorry for our mistakes and pray for the one we've wronged. We can all seem hopeless, and that's why it's so hard to get out of bed sometimes.

Welcome to the real world.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Writers block & other things that don't matter...

So I've been thinking about what art is, what it means, why and if it's important, how and if it benefits us at all.

And I still haven't found a solid answer.

As a recovering charismatic, I come from a world that glorifies art & self-expression. Our whole universe revolved around Christian music, Christian art, praise & worship, aesthetically pleasing stages with good lighting, intriguing videos introducing today's sermon, etc.


But what did we get? Lame bands with lame hair that were obviously trying too hard, all ripping off U2 and singing near-illiterate lyrics. Thomas Kincaid. Light shows. Fog machines. Smoke and mirrors. We got storefronts and warehouses with bare walls, with nothing to look at but the stage, the worship band, the preacher, and maybe a cross. Sometimes the worship leader or preacher pointed to the ceiling, because "It's all for him." And sometimes it was. But we saw the preacher or rock star pointing upwards & thought, "Oh, how humble."

That said, in the protestant world, especially the world of post-modern hipster Christians, artists are the prophets. Even if the music is now more hip, the lyrics more literate, the paintings more abstract, the preacher's glasses more dark-rimmed, the idea is the same:

Emotions = Spirituality.

If we feel comforted, it is God comforting us. If the combination of lights, droning keyboards, emotionally-charged monologues, and the perfume wafting from the cute girl next to us makes us feel happy or peaceful, then the Holy Spirit must be moving.


What happens when the worship band comes from Podunk, MS & only plays Vineyard songs from 1993? What if the speaker keeps stumbling over his words? What if the person seated next to you is-- not a bum, because it's hip to love bums now-- but some random, greasy-haired middle-aged man who hasn't showered in several weeks? What if-- God forbid-- we get bored? What if the whole experience is "dry?"

Then God obviously hasn't visited us today. He's left us for that one church the next block over-- the one with a worship band that covers The Cure.

Here's my problem: As a singer/songwriter, I'm supposed to entertain you. If I don't, then I haven't done my job. But what if I write some song that is good, honest, just, lovely, and of good report, and it bores you to death?

It just might. And both of us have to be okay with that.

Um, I don't know what I'm saying, and I rarely ever do. I think that's the point: Don't look to musicians, writers, or artists for spiritual guidance, because they probably don't have any to offer. They're looking for the same wisdom you are. If they're not looking for wisdom, they're just trying to find ways to tug at your heartstrings, which is extremely dangerous.

Just listen to their songs. Look at their paintings. Read their books. Challenge everything they have to say. Enjoy what's good, and throw away the rest.

But don't think they're going to show you grand visions of the Kingdom. Because they probably won't.