Rendered Fat Content


Frans Hals: Jester With A Lute (c. 1620 - 1625)

" … only I could ever punch the ticket I was holding …"

Little suggests that I possess my superpower. No spandex® suit, thank heavens. No special badge. Like anyone, I appear unremarkable, just another face in the crowd. Yet I believe that I possess a real gift, but one so subtle and unobservable that even I often overlook its presence. It's taken this concerted effort to produce a SetList and preparing to perform a house concert to surface this gift. Real guitar players culture their fingernails until their picking fingers become fingerpicks, darned near indestructible. Not I. Every guitar player develops calloused fingertips on their fretting hand, and often, as in my case, that hand grows a mite larger than its counterpart from constant stretching through the decades. Other than those fingertips and the outsized hand, nothing suggests that I'm a songwriter, and those aren't definitive tells, since not every guitar player writes original songs.

Songwriting's a presumed skill, one that's really only present in any verifiable form after the work's done and the purveyor becomes one who has written, but even then, the evidence of that ability won't be in evidence, not even to the scrupulous eye.
Even accomplished songwriters might not be able to produce a song on demand. Many apparently have no command of when their gift might visit or what it might leave behind. They're more mediums than producers. For them, it's more like some mysterious force works through them, not like they possess a power. Yet, over time, even the medium kind might well produce a literal catalogue of evidence that they might—that they must—possess some part of that very special gift.

My mother would insist that none of this was really worth fretting over, but she was not possessed by the songwriting genie, or whatever it might be that insists upon manifesting original songs through one. These musings seem precisely the sort of thing well worth fretting over, for they constitute the bulk of what I might label Fretwork. It's the odd hours wondering just what I'm doing. The unrequited questioning of what might come next. The deep and abiding uncertainty about just what I've produced. The decades of wondering if I might be good enough when not even "good enough for what?" was ever answered. Presumption resulted.

I happened across some fifty-plus year old paperwork while fretting over lyrics related to my SetList. It was a list of music producers with their addresses, and copies of the letters I'd sent them along with a cassette of questionable parentage. That was the period of my development when I craved outside encouragement. I honestly thought my gifts somehow contingent upon acceptance by some gatekeeper or another, that I might only be judged good if I'd been offered a record contract. I gratefully never received any response to any of the many, many letters like that I sent to Nashville and New York, Sunset Strip and even Texas. Like any aspiring artist, I sought validation not knowing that only I could ever punch the ticket I was holding, and not even I could necessarily appreciate the ticket I already had.


A Calling
The writing week now passing might have exemplified Fretwork. In it, I decomposed three more of my songs, disclosing more than backstory but some front stories about them, too. Some stuff not even I knew until I found myself Fretworking them out. I mentioned my fingers, my voice, and my sacred inadvertencies, each fundamental to what I'm doing, what I'm attempting, what I'm fretting over. I, like everyone, I suppose, presumed a different shape would emerge carrying my calling. I imagined that I might manage a career, a profession, if only as a concession to society's demands, but I never managed to muster one. I apparently dabbled along edges instead, trying on this then that, often philosophically tangled. I never got around to deciding what I'd be once when I grew up. It might be that I forgot to grow up, too, even now that my life's obviously much closer to through. Rather than a profession or a career, I received a calling. A calling's fulfilled by Fretwork.

I began my writing week by decomposing a fool's mission of a love song I composed for The Muse in
SpecialCrazy. "By simply naming crazy as an essential and inescapable element of our lives together, this song cemented our sanity."

I next fretted over my fingers in
Fingerlings. "I must keep trying, however tiring even thinking about trying becomes. I might not have been born to contribute anything beyond trying. Accomplishments seem fleeting. Gains diminish over time, but trying might be the only eternal contribution anyone ever makes. It disappears upon emergence. I might or might not succeed in whatever I'm trying to achieve, but I must only try to actually succeed at trying."

I fretted about my voice in
Pipes. "The systems scientists insist that everything's connected to everything else. Regardless of how one parses their universe into individual sets, the set of all sets remains intact and meta to whatever configuration's constructed within it."

I decomposed another of my songs into the Fretwork underlying the performance in
MyWives. "I'm free, and always have been free, to interpret whatever happens to me however I want. This freedom might change nothing. The belief that life's improving becomes self-fulfilling, just like the belief that it's constantly devolving. Both beliefs are provably fiction."

I interrupted my Fretwork to report on The Muse's progress through her cancer treatment in *
Exemplary, the most popular piece this period. "I might suggest, as the witnessing Emotional Support Animal, that The Muse's treatment has become a bed of roses, but an actual rather than the usual idyllic metaphorical one. In her bed, the thorns remain intact and sleep's still prescribed. The accommodations would be absolutely unacceptable under most conditions, but qualify as four star for this unique situation."

I decomposed yet another song, still fretting, in
PaintMeAPicture. "It almost seems a betrayal, one of those forbidden fruits, to tell one's self the truth as it's experienced. That part of life becomes an unmentionable. There's nothing like the presence of an unmentionable to create an object of obsession. It's almost as impossible to not fret over an unmentionable as it is to not think of a rhinoceros when asked."

I ended my writing week recognizing that I'd been inadvertently
Journaling all the time I'd thought that I'd just been intermittently writing songs. "It might be that only an unintentional autobiography could ever sidestep the usual vanity found within the more deliberate kind."

And so ends another week engaging in Fretwork. I sometimes wonder after the value all my internal fussing provides, but I probably only wonder this because I've been conditioned to expect effort to produce discernible value, a tenaciously capitalist perspective. Apparently useless effort, Fretwork, comprises much more than half of any calling, but appearances can be notoriously misleading. Reviewing my SetList, I'm freshly astounded by what I've produced. I produced it all rather indirectly, not in hourly increments. Had this been my job, my career, my profession, it would have certainly starved me into remission. Thankfully, it came as a calling, at least ninety percent of which, has traditionally been Fretwork. It's a SpecialCrazy occupation employing fingers and voice, producing ex-wives, painting vivid pictures while producing inadvertent autobiography. What an excursion! What a trip! Thanks for following along!

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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