2015 Year-End Assessment: Bouncing Off at Different Angles

It is in my nature as a writer to bounce, moreso, it’s in my nature as a storyteller. For as long as I’ve taken this as my role in life even more pronounced than an occupation, I have realized that my bouncing is this nature. I must move about to gather stories, I must move about to tell them. There was a time in my late teens and early twenties when I thought what if I had reached the peak of my creativity. What if I had no new stories to tell? I was on my college’s newspaper, beginning an already impressive journey bouncing about and seeing the pattern in no pattern, and I was amazed at what I was encountering. Every transition I’ve made in life involves some new places to bounce, some new stories to tell and some new ways to tell them. Through all this, I’ve felt cautiously optimistic, glad I’m able to tell these stories and to interact with the people I have bounced into while still cognizant that it’s only though some hustler’s life, fulfilling my resources through inventive, almost fantastical means, that I have the luxury to do so.

This year, I moved into a weird house in the woods, something quite anomalous for an actual city, but such humble weirdness is quite indicative of San Antonio, Texas. The bouncing that I have done here can only be done here, for I either adapt soundly to my surroundings, have found a hearth in my nativism, or continue to thrive as a big fish in an ironically small pond. I caretake a crumbling house and its lot of various rocks, poorly fending off the elements and the various critters that can take refuge there. All the while, this has been my base of operations in 2015 as I bounced throughout the city, and to a certain degree around the country, gathering new stories and finding new places to tell them.

I once again held my annual jazz party during Austin, Texas’ South By SouthWest festival. My travels have brought me at long last to the jazz mecca, New York City to cover Christian Scott. In fact, I ran into him twice this year, as well as Vijay Iyer, hung out with the dudes of BADBADNOTGOOD at Fun Fun Fun Fest, had the folks from Chicago’s Sidewalk Chalk crash at my house, and so many of the usual exploits in jazz, talking up the shows I’ve seen and the albums I’ve heard. As it stands, it has the usual work for the jazz writer that I am, a little older and wiser and still playing the game.

However, the work as a writer took on different angles. I’ve attended a few fancy dinners my chef friend has thrown. I’ve talked at length about glass blowers and marble hunters in a glass blowing trade magazine I’ve never even read. I’ve further enmeshed myself in the contemporary art world and in its stories and characters, even to the point of making art myself. I’m being pushed creatively in ways I never even imagined, trying to greet each new adventure with resilience and ebullience, at least as much as good decorum would allow. I had always taken pride in the various roles I’ve had, though this attribute of mine grows clearer even as my structure has grown fuzzier.

I bounce from story to story, crashing in the waves and hoping I’m not any worse for the wear in all my experiences. My charisma, the currency of my encounters, remains as vibrant as ever, so the stories continue. My sense of direction is just as pointed and just as unsure as always, which some could call stagnancy if they didn’t see all the work beneath the surface. I didn’t lose any ground while making completely new strides this year, so I would say I’m far from stagnant. I liked 2015 and the adventures it gave me. I’d say it was one of my finest years, full of new stories to tell and new characters to encounter. I like what I do, bouncing in pursuit of the interesting. Hopefully, I can continue to do so. It certainly has been quite the luxury that I have been doing it this long.

Still, even this is a piece of what this year has been, in my collection of stories. There’s the book I’ve been tinkering with for a while, the trip to New Orleans with a full account that hasn’t even been published yet and is looking for a home, there are the tales of bike crashes that can only be relayed live, and so many conversations that turn into monologues with extended metaphors as ornate as the essays I write for public consumption. This year has been full, and creative, and productive, and explosive, and in some ways a reconstruction of what kind of storyteller I am. I used to believe I was a mirror to the world around me, but my perplexion on why people found in me a charisma I never thought I possessed eventually made me realized I was a filter through with people could see what came through. However, despite my constant claims that I feel 70% of human emotions (ballpark figure), as dour as I may be at times, I still sense that fiery brilliance that still shines through, that storyteller’s desire to please the audience and be worthy of their attention, that keeps things somehow positive. Something positive keeps people coming back and finding my stories interesting. Something in me reflects the world in a brilliance that I hope to convey. I’m not exactly rose-colored glasses. Maybe I’m more like a kaleidoscope, whirring about, dazzling with the image in front of it through its pattern (my frequent use of appositives, my metatextuality, occasional code switching, introducing and closing each piece with a simple sentence because of its neat rhythm, my use of call and response, witty asides in the midst of sections of great ideological depth so as to help the digestion of the idea presented and as a mnemonic device to present application of said idea, stretching a sentence as long as possible to stress a sentence as far as I can with ideas to show how much stuff is running in my head all the time, committing to a bit at length). It certainly falls in line with the bouncing, and also how tiring it can be at times.

In the day-to-day work spreading jazz to the masses, this is the bulk of my reputation. I’ve been worn down and beaten by it some. I thought about quitting at times but I wouldn’t know what else to do. This year has shown me that there’s a chance I could be doing more, but I also still love Nextbop. It’s my base of operations, the essence of what I do, the soundtrack that propels me through all other storytelling, and, when they’re all on all cylinders, some of the finest damn writers I have the honor of looking over and so glad they’re smarter than me. I want to keep at this and make it what it should be as a publication. 2015 didn’t bring me fulfillment with Nextbop, I have to honestly say, but it kept showing me its potential, and that ain’t bad. This year showed me Nextbop is the tip of the iceberg that is my life as a storyteller. That’s what labors of love are about.

I’m bouncing, still bouncing. I have no idea what I’m doing, and little more idea of what I’m doing next, and I think I’m okay with that. Stories aren’t predetermined.

I’ve been spending a lot of time developing the idea of what it is that I do. To a certain degree, I consume. I take in the world around me and reprocess it again for the consumption of others. In the notion that I worry about everything all the time, my job as storyteller is wholly dependent on what other people think about me. When people say, “hey, don’t worry about what other people think about you,” to sooth loved ones when the chips are down, I realized some time ago when I took on this storyteller’s life that such advice is antithetical to the job. My ability to do what it is that I do is built on ability, reputation, charisma, trustworthiness, and probably so many other unnamable factors. I try to do a good job at what it is that I do and accept the reality in front of me as best I can. Along the way, I get to make entertaining stories. I hope that I keep getting to do so. I hope that people will still listen.

photo by Erik Jon Gustafson
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