Why you should care
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
Today was the kind of day you want to be over as soon as you wake up. I woke up from a bad dream, remembering a big argument I had with a good friend of mine last night. I came to him seeking advice on the management aspect of my band, David & Lucie. And we came to a disagreement. Friendships can have those moments in them, up and down.
And this was also the first day back with [my son] Manny. He’s 8. Since Valerie [Manny’s mom] and I are divorced, we have shared custody, so I have Manny for a week and then she has Manny for a week. Those first days when I get Manny back are a wake-up call, because all of a sudden I have to be a responsible, mature, loving parent all over again after six days of absolute bliss being able to pretend I’m 20.
I met Lucie and it was like meeting someone from a different galaxy.
Every day I wake up in Paris, I don’t want to be in Paris. I don’t like Paris. I don’t like France. I don’t like cities. I want to be in back in Vermont, where I grew up, partly. Or in South America, where I was born and spent many years studying birds and taking students on summer trips to investigate the workings of tropical ecology. I’m a science geek and a naturalist and a nerd.
I have some mates around the corner who run a recording studio, and I’ve been a dilettante armchair songwriter practically since I owned my first guitar, when I was 13 or 14. I’ve written songs about the jungle. I’ve written songs about heartbreak — that’s a classic. Loss. Planetary ecocide. But I always try to put a dark sense of humor in it.
I met Lucie and it was like meeting someone from a different galaxy. I hang out with a bunch of grungy, hippie punks. She plays classical violin and she’s a tap dancer. She’d never had a glass of Jack Daniel’s. Turned out she’d never heard of David Bowie, she’d never heard of the Rolling Stones. Just jazz and classical music, which I didn’t know anything about.
Being a mismatch has become more than a novelty or a creative hybrid. For me it has become a de facto political act. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a dark song — this will still surprise me — and I’ll catch Lucie out of the corner of my eye and she’s performing with a smile. It’s like she’s a part of the Andrews Sisters. How ironic. How punk.
I made the decision to stop all my professional activities outside of music, and give music all I have, all my time and energy and creativity. So basically I wake up and I write songs and I take guitar lessons online and I learn music theory. I manage the band and I prepare for gigs, and that’s all it is.
I have this nature diary. Paris is very flat and dull, except in spring, when the birds fly back from Africa. That’s when you see the swallows and nightingales. So I take Manny to school and I go for these long walks, and I write as I walk.
There was one year, probably the happiest, most blissful year of my life. For the first time I was able to go home and live for a year in Vermont. Those first six months of my life with Valerie, putting in a garden, watching spring happen, watching Manny grow as the forest came back to life. We spent that July and August in Alaska. We rented a van and we drove Manny, who was only 7 months old at the time, all the way to the Arctic Ocean in the Northwest Territories. We took a plane to Tuktoyaktuk and put his tiny little feet in the water and we called that his baptism.
— As told to Julia Scott