Onward and upward: In search of punk-rock perseverance
I WAS watching "Citizen Kane" — the scene where his second wife leaves him — when my editor e-mailed and asked me to call. I paused the movie, called her up, and heard her say she was sorry, but my column was canceled. Maybe I should have watched one of those screwball comedies instead.
The company that owns this paper has been merging and reorganizing, and it makes more sense to print slice-of-life columns by folks who live on your coast. Very reasonable and a little sad. So this is the last MC Masala column.
I moved to New York City in the winter of last year. I moved to start a new job, and my editors surprised me by keeping my column on anyway. Now I've parted ways with both the new job and the column. Since I moved, I have two fewer gigs, one extra husband and 20 months of experience, and I think I'm ahead. New freedom and new opportunities, for what that's worth.
My longtime mentor John Morearty, 68, talks about the importance of creating a vacuum: not being afraid to say no to something that hurts, leaving an unproductive path without knowing what's next. He should know; he's been a philosophy professor, carpenter, peace activist and father. Now he's a memoirist. This year he finished his book and published it via the print-on-demand Web site Lulu.com. It's wonderful. (I show up on page 355.)
I read "Walking To Omega" late at night on the farm, at 9 or 9:30 p.m., tired and fulfilled from a day of bent-over work. The book and the ache were exactly what I needed. Here's another thoughtful person who's changed careers and thrived. Here's proof that I can get things done — the peppers I mulched grew two inches overnight! Here's proof it will all make sense, that this break in the road is just a dogleg.
Faith of that sort either translates as faith in myself (the sort of enterprise I've always distrusted) or in a benevolent universe. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'd rather take odds on myself. Like John, I'm going to work like hell to turn out all right.
I'll miss my column. With the end of MC Masala, another connection to the Bay Area fades. Plus I'll miss that $300 every month. But we'll be fine. My husband's getting a wage slave job, I'm finishing my master's in tech management and archive.org hosts free, legal bootlegs of The Mountain Goats concerts. I'll be all right.
The Mountain Goats are a folk/punk rock band. I think. I always hesitate when labeling something "punk rock" for fear a more authentic person will jump out from behind a tree and say, "That's not punk rock!" In fact, I envision a film or book where two such persons cite bands, musicians, stories and concepts to each other, only to hear, "That's not punk rock! What's punk rock is..."
The final anecdote, the one the debaters would agree on as the pinnacle of punk rock, would be the story of Cole Porter's riding accident in 1937. While waiting for help to arrive, both his legs broken, Cole Porter — so the story goes — composed song lyrics. In tremendous pain, he composed!
In May of 2003, on Blake Street in Berkeley, I saw a woman in full graduation regalia. I shouted, "Congratulations!" She responded, fist raised, "Perseverance!"
I'll be all right. Giving up isn't punk rock.
Will you miss my column? Will its demise create any sort of vacuum in your life? If you'd like, you can keep up with me online; a quick search for my name will find my blog. Thanks for reading.
I thank editors who have encouraged and improved the work you've read: Cathy Schutz, Chad Jones and especially Kari Hulac. Kari saw me come in for an interview in 2005 when I applied for a proofreading job, and instead she offered me this column. Her gentle guidance has stopped me from inserting full-length Indian folktales into this space. Thanks for protecting the readers, Kari.
Kari helped me choose the "MC Masala" name for this column. Some rejected alternatives:
-Gandhi Built The Taj
-I Took Your Job
That last one wouldn't have worked out.
This is Sumana Harihareswara's last column for Bay Area Living. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It will all make sense; this break in the road is just a dogleg. Faith of that sort either translates as faith in myself (the sort of enterprise I've always distrusted) or in a benevolent universe. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'd rather take odds on myself. I'm going to work like hell to turn out all right.