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talking to the trees

Most experiences cannot be discussed. No one wants to hear the ugly truth, and chances are you will be attacked for sharing it. To be able to speak freely means that you need a willing listener, otherwise you are just talking to the trees. Time and again I have come to understand that there is no difference between New York and Moscow, no difference between East and West. They are just cults of personality, built on violence and money and moral quicksand.

The life of an expat evolves from those early, awkward victories to one of assimilation or in cases like mine - eventually understanding that you have no country you can (or want to) call home. I am left with just these four walls and my family. This apartment is the only place I actually belong. This is the only place I do not need to soft-pedal my thoughts, where I do not need to apologize for what I have unearthed. The river of betrayal runs deep whether I look outside, or across the ocean. Willful ignorance, willful indifference…

a borrowed name (the lucky ones)

When the call came so many years ago, I hid after playing that gold guitar in the living room until I got it right. My voice sounded foreign, outside of myself. Throat beyond the old windows banging in the afternoon sun. Names were considered - Son something, after Son House. I don't even remember the particulars except that Tom Waits mentions Martin Eden in Shiver Me Timbers -
          And I know Martin Eden's
          Gonna be proud of me

I saw this name in the credits of that short film and felt right about it. It wasn't me that sang about a child and regret, about love and a soul being saved. That was Martin Ruby, all him. 

Martin went on many adventures, howling at the moon, swinging low, yelling about how the cops stole your flowers. It was a suit I could pull on, look in the mirror and see someone else. And then I could take it off, and listen to the recording at the kitchen table and feel like I was hearing it for the first time. 

We all make fun of those musicians who go by a one word name, or a changed name, a borrowed name. It is all laughable if you look at it from the easy chair. But try to stand up and wear your heart on your sleeve, warbling like a lost chickadee and you will understand far better how these things happen. We all start from somewhere, an awkward, embarrassing nest we fall from, or fly above. It is a very messy business. 

Last summer I got a fresh call, a request to do a cover of a song. All of the proceeds from the project would go to a wonderful cause, the David Shedlrick Wildlife Trust. Helping to save an endangered species is a joyous act. So, I put on Martin's suit and let the muse take the wheel. There is a moment when the song disappears - children laughing and playing take over. There is a weeping harmonica. There were lyrics I wrapped my head around, from the genius of Palaxy Tracks, the band behind all of this. The toys came out of the closet, I tried to channel the dead and the living and the dust settled. 

And then, the idea of a music video was floated. I made one n the middle of the night, after the day's work was done, after the children were sleeping, their hands like angels. 

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